When I finally purchased my own travel trailer (a pre-loved 23’ Airstream) I suddenly became interested in all the lifestyle had to offer. I’d heard of Harvest Hosts and their mission to promote local entrepreneurs across the country. So when planning my first solo trip (from Southwestern Ontario to southern Saskatchewan) I decided to learn what it was all about.
Harvest Hosts is a network of more than 1,500 wineries, farms, breweries & distilleries, golf courses and attractions across Canada and the United States that invite RVers to stay on their properties overnight free-of-charge in return for purchasing a local product with each stay. (While there is no hard-and-fast rule, Harvest Hosts suggests a $20 purchase would be appropriate.)
In order to participate in the program, you must have a self-contained RV with a toilet, water tank and inside cooking facilities. You are expected to camp without any hookups (although some sites do offer electricity for a nominal fee).
I paid the annual $79 membership and had immediate access to their online portal and handy map with icons identifying the types and locations of hosts. While there is no limit on the number stays you can book, each stay is to be a maximum of one night and out of respect for your hosts, should always be booked in advance with your arrival planned during business hours.
What makes Harvest Hosts so exciting to me is that I am able to discover places and people I would never otherwise encounter. During my research, I logged a number of Hosts close to home that are on my lists for visits this spring: a winery, a cidery and a cheese farm—none of which I had heard of before!
Thus far, my most memorable stay has been at a trout farm located north of Winnipeg. Because Water Song Farms sounded so intriguing (fish on the prairie?), I made a detour from the TransCanada highway in order to visit them. It was well worth it.
My hosts, Leslie and Rudy Reimer, were welcoming from the first email to the final goodbye. During non-Covid years they tour guests through their facility and invite them to share wine in the gazebo. While I didn’t get a chance to do that, I did wander Leslie’s gorgeous gardens, enjoy a perfectly level and entirely private campsite with electricity, and get to partake of their amazing steelhead trout delicacies. My favourites: the smoked and the candied trout, which made perfect hostess gifts for other stops en route (and I stocked my freezer too!). In fact, just this month, one of my Saskatoon friends asked if Water Song Farms had an online business because she wanted to order in some more of the great smoked trout! (watersongfarms.com)
The spirit of the Hosts is what makes this program so special. On morning, I made a last-minute call to a Saskatchewan brewery to book a site, While they had shut down their retail operation because of Covid, they assured me that if I needed a place to stay for the night I was more than welcome to park my trailer on their property. I didn’t act on the offer but greatly appreciated the spirit of hospitality.
If you’re looking for a people-first way to learn about and support small craft and farm businesses across our beautiful continent, Harvest Hosts is your answer. If you’re a habitual boondocker looking for new locations, Harvest Hosts can work for you too.