ROBBINS, N.C. — Those traveling in a recreational vehicle this year can skip the campground and instead, stay overnight at a local winery or farm. It’s thanks to a program called Harvest Hosts.
Ryan Olufs moved from California to start Misty Morning Ranch in 2016. They wanted to escape the city life and instead, focus on farm production. The biggest attraction on their farm are the ostriches.
“We have about 70 ostriches,” Olufs says. “Most of them we got from a farm that was going out of business.”
Olufs lives on the farm with his wife Gaby and their two-year-old son Donovan. The farm manager and his son also live on the farm. The two families struggled during the height of the pandemic last year.
They’re a meat processing farm and usually sell to local restaurants.
“Every restaurant canceled all of their orders,” Olufs says. “Essentially, once those executive orders came out our revenue went zero.”
Luckily, the influx of RV tourism kept them afloat. Misty Morning Ranch allowed those with an RV to camp out right on the farm through the program Harvest Hosts.
Joel Holland is the CEO of the company. He says they keep membership prices low to encourage people to spend more when they visit the host location. Last year, memberships doubled.
“We say 'take the money you would spend at a campground and support the local winery or agritourism operator and you get to come away with a really cool experience,'” Holland says.
The ostrich eggs at Misty Morning Ranch are one of many unique experiences visitors can walk away with. The eggs are edible, similar to chicken eggs, and cost $40 each.
“It has a different micro-nutrient profile than chicken eggs do,” Olufs says. “It’s a similar flavor, but the yolk is richer than even duck eggs.”
He says people have made omelets and desserts from the eggs. But the eggs take some work to crack open.
“You take the round side here and hit it with a hammer,” Olufs says. “It does take more force than most people are ready for.”
Olufs says his revenue is still down overall for the past year, but he hopes the new customers visiting the farm will help out in the long run.
“Farms are the ultimate small business because it makes our community run, but it also produces our food,” Olufs says.