When it comes to unique and memorable stays, we fondly remember our night at Giusti Farm in Robbins, California. If you read last week’s blog post which introduced you to our Thousand Trails campground membership, you’d have learned a bit about how we manage to travel and live so affordably. Another program we recognized the value in joining was Harvest Hosts, which we enjoyed the benefits of for the first time in July.
What is Harvest Hosts?
Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries, farms and agri-tourism sites that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight for free. We loved the idea of being able to have unique experiences and enjoy supporting local business by purchasing the locally grown and produced products during our travels. And, with a Harvest Host membership costing just $40 for a year, we felt it was a bargain that would pay for itself in just 1 or 2 stays.
Leaving Sacramento on a Friday afternoon, we thought it would be a great opportunity to stay at a Harvest Host property in the California country en route to our next destination. As co-pilot/ navigator, it is my (Julie’s) job to do the research and find a suitable location. Liking the idea of staying at a farm instead of a winery so that we could purchase some local produce, I reached out to Giusti Farms (a grower of rice, tomatoes, beans, safflower and corn, according to the HH directory) to ask if we could spend the night.
The owner, Sandy Giusti, called me back – she’d be delighted to host us. “Ignore the GPS directions, they will take you to the wrong place” she advised, before giving me very specific directions to find their property. We overshot our mark slightly and had to turn around, but arrived in the early evening and pulled up in the driveway between two houses.
We were greeted by Sandy Giusti as she walked out of the main house. A simply lovely woman, a youthful 70 something, warm and very friendly – just as one might expect from California farm folk. Sandy explained that her husband Richard was out of town, so unfortunately wouldn’t be able to meet us, and showed us where to park our coach. She introduced us to her son Alex, who lived in the second house on the property. A solidly built, ruggedly handsome guy in his 50s, Alex was a gregarious fellow, and as warm and friendly as his mother. A farmer all his life, he was also a vintage car collector, which was of great interest to Marc, a fellow car lover! Alex took pride as he showed us his car collection in the barn, sharing stories about how he came to own and restore each of them.We asked Sandy about buying their produce, but she explained they were retired now and didn’t farm anymore, so there was none for us to buy! We were disappointed, as we wanted to support them and their business. As it turned out, the Giusti’s had joined the Harvest Hosts program because they saw it as a great opportunity to meet all kinds of interesting people who were traveling in their RVs. Their property had full RV hookups as their farm manager used to live onsite in his trailer – now they are happy to put that space to good use by accommodating RVers like us for a night, here and there.
Sandy and Alex invited us to join them for a glass of wine after dinner, so we took along a bottle of our favorite Argentinian Malbec. After the scorching hot Sacramento Valley temps of the previous week, it was a relief to set foot inside their beautifully kept home and the air conditioning! The kitchen was enormous and we sat down at the large round table and poured a few glasses of red. What a wonderful conversation – so down to earth and real! We covered a lot of topics and enjoyed the depth of conversation as much as the breadth. Sandy shared some stories of their early years, the opportunities provided to their ancestors as new immigrants to the United States, their farming life, her now grown children and her philosophies on life. She admitted she’d always been a bit of a “hippie” and sent us home with a copy of Mother Earth Magazine. Rather than a “hippie”, we’d actually call Sandy a very progressive thinker for her time, and her views made a whole lot of sense to us!
The bottle of wine empty, it was time to head back to our coach, looking forward to a good, quiet night’s sleep. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case. We were awoken in the middle of the night several times by a loud wailing siren, to alert locals of a fire that had broken out on a neighbor’s property. Because they all help each other out in the country, the siren is how they summon the call for assistance. It seemed very few were responding that night, so the siren continued until they had enough hands on deck! Next came the crowing rooster at the crack of dawn, the clucking chickens, and their barking dog which was fresh out of neuter surgery and housed right beside our coach! So while our night on the farm didn’t end up being quiet at all, we were grateful for the wonderful company and conversation, as well as the early morning views at sunrise. After all, we could catch up on our sleep the next night!
We took a walk around the farm and the neighboring property which housed a number of silos and a rice mill. As a lover of heavy equipment, Farmer Marc couldn’t resist jumping up on the tractor for a photo op. Across the road we discovered thousands, or more likely millions, of gorgeous yellow sunflowers! Sunflowers against a bright blue sky make me so happy! Soon enough, it was time to hit the road and head our next destination, Lake Minden, CA, just half an hour away.
We said our goodbyes to Sandy and Alex, who had left very early that morning to help a neighbor, but made a special trip back just to say goodbye to us. Honestly, we both think Alex had the firmest handshake we’d ever experienced! Sandy mentioned more than once how disappointed her husband Richard would be that he had missed the opportunity to meet and chat us. Truly, we were so blessed to meet such warm hearted, generous people. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with them and our enriching conversation and hope to be back again another time to share another bottle of wine or two and great conversation, this time with Sandy’s husband Richard as well.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Harvest Hosts, please check out their website and tell them we sent you! It’s a great program that we hope to use and enjoy more as we continue our travels.