An Alternative to Conventional Campgrounds: Interview with Joel Holland of Harvest Hosts

You’ve chosen to travel the country via camper because of the opportunities it affords you to view new places from the comfort of your “home on wheels.”

And when it’s time to call it a day and find a place to park your RV, you’re don’t want to settle for a conventional campground. Well, by becoming part of the Harvest Hosts family, you don’t have to! Membership in Harvest Hosts opens the door to a diverse array of places where you can stay for evening and continue the camping experience. From vineyards to museums, golf courses to ranches and farms, there is plenty to do and see. And best of all, no campsite charge!

We interviewed Joel Holland, who with his wife Mary Ashley, are the new owners of Harvest Hosts, to get more details on the unique opportunities the program has in store for RV-ers!

Q: What led you into the RV lifestyle?

We were living in Washington DC, and I had been running another company for years. I had a lot of fun doing it, but eventually I felt burned out. After I sold part of that company, Mary Ashley and I looked at each other and said, “Hey we don’t have to stay in Washington. Why don’t we just hit the road?”

I had romanticized the idea of the great American road trip for a long time, so in 2013 we bought a truck and a fifth-wheel and took off.

Q: How did the Harvest Hosts purchase come about?

After we bought our fifth-wheel, we spent the next two years RV-ing through all the lower 48 states to see if we would get tired of RV-ing, and we didn’t. Instead, we fell in love with it more and more. It was true, unbridled freedom, the ability to make your own schedule every single day. And the people in the community that we would meet on the road were phenomenal.

The only complaint we had was that, after seeing all these wonderful things during the day, the campgrounds we’d park out were just not that interesting. And we’d have neighbors just five feet away from us on either side— a brutal contrast to the day we spent out on the open road. We would feel so free while on the road, and then we’d get to a parking lot filled with other people, and it just crushed that illusion of freedom.

By now, we had moved to Vail, Colorado and I was antsy to start the next business. Since I loved RV-ing, I decided I would run a business in the industry. I started thinking what would be interesting to do, and what I kept coming back to was seeing all these beautiful farms and vineyards and wanting to stop and stay. They could give us a place to park for the night and we would buy their products in return. I thought it was a novel idea, but when I researched it, I learned about Don and Kim Greene who had started Harvest Hosts back in 2009.

After meeting with them several times, we ultimately purchased the company from them in May 2018. Then we went to work, growing the network.

Q: For those who don’t know about Harvest Hosts, how does the program work?

For an annual fee of $79—about the same as a night or two at a campground—members have access to a listing of all the sites where they can boondock for free for a maximum of 24 hours. Recently we added 329 golf courses to our list of sites. So now Harvest Hosts has over 1,000 locations throughout North America, including the lower 48 states and Baja California in Mexico, Alaska, and every Canadian province.

Q: What are the benefits to the host sites?

The hosts benefit because our members buy the products. Part of our code of conduct is to give back, to think of the incredible experience that you’re having, and then take a portion of the money that you would spend at a conventional campground and give it back: buy the wine, buy the produce, buy the products.

The hosts love being able to share their products, which they are usually quite passionate about. But they also love meeting the members. They always say, “We’ve met some of the nicest people and actually have friends because of this program.”

Q: Why should someone become a Harvest Host member?

Of course, there is the cost savings and the availability of host locations. But the primary benefit above all else is the great experiences you’ll have staying at Harvest Hosts locations. We’ve stayed at Harvest Hosts locations, and every time it is something unique. It’s all about the experiences and the stories that our members will be able to share.

I like to say that when you’re RV-ing, you’re not getting to vacation, you’re always on vacation, The moment you step into it, the experience has begun. And by staying at a Harvest Hosts location, the vacation continues even when you’re off the road.


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