ST. GEORGE — Imagine sipping a drink, watching red desert cliffs ablaze at sunset and spending the night at a quiet winery. Or you may wake with the rooster’s shrill crow at a small farm. These unusual experiences fuel the booming app Harvest Hosts. 

Visitors to Zion Vineyards pick grapes, Leeds, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Patrick Hayes, Amazing Visual Nuggets, St. George News

Small businesses like Finney Farm in Hilldale and Zion Vineyards near Leeds also benefit from their side hustles with Harvest Hosts by letting RVers overnight on their property.

The community of Harvest Hosts is a network of farms, breweries, vineyards, golf courses, historical landmarks and more across America that host RVers overnight. According to their website, guests may purchase an item from the business before departing for their next destination. This commerce helps RVers discover Southern Utah’s best-kept secrets and support small businesses throughout their travels.

“Both sides win with the program,” Harvest Hosts Chief Marketing Officer Wes Clark told St. George News. “For small businesses, there’s no cost to join. We don’t charge to be on the program. We don’t take any percentage of sales, anything like that. In exchange, you get cost-free marketing and a nice steady flow of traffic to your location.”

Locations accepted into the program provide a space to park. Clark said the hosts don’t need to provide any electric hookups or facilities.

In Southern Utah, Zion Vineyards is part of the Harvest Hosts program. Chief Tasting Officer Patrick Hayes runs the Tasting Room. He interacts daily with the Harvest Hosts’ visitors. 

“They are a great group of friendly people from all over the country and Canada. They come in for a tasting and most of the time also buy a few bottles of wine,” Hayes told St. George News. “That’s tax money for the county and state. This is fantastic for our type of business.”

Visitors to Zion Vineyards may park for one evening per year through the Harvest Hosts app, Leeds, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Patrick Hayes, Amazing Visual Nuggets, St. George News

Hayes said visitors spend upward of an hour or more tasting the Zion Vineyard wines. They often sit outside and enjoy a stunning sunset and starry night.

The Tasting Room opened in May 2023, but the winemaking has been ongoing since 2012. Hayes said the wine crafted became so delicious they decided to sell it.

“The wine got so good come about 2019 when Winemaker Robert Cec started making it, they all felt it was good enough to sell. So they put that in motion,” Hayes said. 

The pandemic was challenging and delayed the Tasting Room, but it’s now going strong. Hayes said they hope to expand their operations in the future. 

Zion Vineyards owner and vintner Michael B. Jackson told St. George News he researched wine-tasting rooms in the Snake River, Idaho, area. He noticed most of the vineyards there were Harvest Hosts members, so he decided to join. 

Jackson found that 70% of wine drinkers were women. He had been focusing on his red wines but saw that many women were interested in white wines. 

Finney Farm, a Hildale business specializing in raw milk and dairy products, uses Brown Swiss cows. This cream-colored calf will turn brown as she gets older, Hildale, Utah, Nov. 9, 2021 | Photo by Sarah Torribio, St. George News

“I was centering my attack on red wines because they were doing so well here. It’s one of the best wine secrets in America, I think is right here,” Jackson said. 

Creating a white win that could handle the summer heat was challenging. Jackson said there was a lot of trial and error, but they now have wonderful white wines available. 

Jackson added that although he enjoys the Harvest Hosts visitors, he tries to keep the number of people staying to a minimum so the impact remains small on the area.

Harvest Hosts members usually spend $40 to $50 when staying with a host. Clark said the company doesn’t take any part of it. 

“That all goes back into the host’s pockets. We don’t take a penny of that. And it’s a nice secondary revenue stream,” Clark said. “It’s a great way to have this nice passive marketing angle going on. And on top of that, it’s a fun way to meet interesting folks. We hear time and time again that our hosts love the interesting travelers that come through.”

Over time, those connections become essential. Clark said that is what hosts love most about the program. 

“It’s what drives repeat visitors year after year. And so it’s a win-win in exchange for that place to stay. The visitors are not paying any sort of camping fees,” Clark said. “It’s just that social contract where they’ll patronize local businesses, support these small businesses and help them grow. It’s quite a win-win on both sides.”

Guests can stay at each location 24 hours each year. They must also have a self-contained rig, as the hosts do not provide any electricity or restrooms. Travelers are also asked not to dump any waste while visiting. Clark said the locations are businesses, farms and nonprofits and are not set up as campgrounds. He added that visitors get a safe, quiet and unique place.

Another one-of-a-kind experience for RVers in Southern Utah is Finney Farm, located in Hildale. It is on land adjacent to the backside of Zion National Park, showcasing red cliffs and a vast sky. 

Joseph and his son Taylor Barlow bought Finney Farm in September 2020. The farm produces raw milk and other dairy products. The farm offers raw milk, raw butter, raw cream, raw milk cheese, cream-top yogurt, small-batch frozen yogurt and grass-fed beef. The farm is named after the original owner, Winford “Finney” Barlow and has 41 milking cows.

The founders of Harvest Hosts, Don and Kim Greene, learned of agritourism while in France touring the countryside. After 12 years, they sold the business in 2018 to Joel Holland, the current CEO. Holland is a tech entrepreneur and an avid RVer. The company’s network expanded from 500 to 5,000 businesses and a quarter million members. 

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.