Categories: CampingGuides & hacks

Ways to Embrace a Farm-to-Table Lifestyle on the Road

We’re exploring how farm-to-table living can actually translate to farm-to-RV practices for traveling families.

Camping trips and RV travel allow us to step away from the busyness of home life and enjoy time for exploration. And among the many ways we can fill our time on the road, it’s possible to even turn the procurement of food into an intentional and educational activity—so you can go beyond hot dogs and so-called “easy” camp food more often than not.

We’ve found abundant local, healthy, and adventure-rich opportunities to elevate our meals while traveling in a van or RV, which have led to a new way of thinking about the farm-to-table movement. We’re talking about farm to RV: Connecting with local food systems while on the road.

Farm-to-RV living turns the ordinary tasks of food shopping and preparation into a delicious educational adventure—one that directly supports the land and the local communities we pass through. Simply knowing where to look and some questions to ask can open up a world of opportunity for hungry campers, so here are nine farm-to-RV lifestyle suggestions to inspire you on your next road trip.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Aimee Haas at Sandiwood Farm Stay, Vermont

1. Look for farmers’ markets, farm stands, and local fairs wherever you travel.

Purchasing directly from local growers, producers, and vendors supports their livelihood and ensures your dollars go directly to the local economy you’re passing through. If you find a great farm, just get what you need each day—you don’t have to stock up on too much. And you might even have the luxury to eat what was freshly picked today! If you want to stick around for a while and live closer to the land, maybe inquire about doing volunteer work or a work exchange.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Hope Fiser at Driftless Dane Farm, Wisconsin
Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Lisse Lundin at TreeBird Farm & Ranch, California

2. Book sustainable or regenerative farmstays along your road trip route on Hipcamp.

As a sector, agriculture has a significant footprint—food production is linked to greenhouse gas emissions, land-use impacts, and biodiversity loss. But sustainable and regenerative farms seek to reverse those negative effects and instead improve soil health, sequester carbon, and contribute to conservation. At many Hipcamps, you can stay the night and learn firsthand about agricultural practices producing positive environmental and social impacts. Talk to your farm host and see what you can learn.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Ezequiel Gonzalez at Big Head Farm, Michigan

3. Pick your own!

At the height of a harvest month, many farms invite the whole family to pick their own apples, berries, cherries, peaches, pistachios, tomatoes—or whatever crop is ready to be harvested. Talk about farm-to-mouth! You’ll be connected to your food and pay less than you would for imported items. Plus, food, of course, always tastes better when you pick it yourself.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Eva Laurent at Cherry Top Farmstay, Tasmania

4. Research which fruits, veggies, and herbs are in season in your location.

The growing seasons at your next stop may differ from what you are used to at home, so it can be fun to compare. Maybe you can prepare a local dish using seasonal ingredients, or perhaps you can take this a step further by connecting with locals and paying to experience or learn about traditional or Indigenous methods of food preparation, such as using earth ovens, slow roasting, or fermentation.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Virginia Pitts at Humboldt Experience Farmstay, California

5. Think about shelf life and storage.

When in an RV, it can be nice to save space by taking only what you need for a particular recipe. Two tablespoons of allspice? No need to purchase a jar. And buying from bulk bins at the grocery store reduces both waste and packaging while typically featuring locally sourced items. Other ways to reduce waste include reusing produce bags or sewing your own with a drawstring.

Also, knowing which fruits, veggies, and eggs have no need for refrigeration can free up space and be a great lesson in safe food handling. (Cauliflower, for example, has a longer shelf life than chard.) Another bonus of buying in bulk is the fun that the scales bring—if traveling with little ones, you could let your kids do the weighing. Figuring out the tare weight of a reusable container is a great exercise in subtraction, making a trip to the grocery store a ready-to-go math lesson.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Virginia Pitts at Humboldt Experience Farmstay, California

6. Discover the history of agriculture in the region you’re visiting.

What climatic or seasonal conditions influenced farming and domestication here? Is there a seed bank you can visit to learn how plant diversity is being safeguarded for the future? Maybe you are traveling through Indigenous lands in North America and can learn about the Three Sisters: corn, beans, squash. Discover why they’re planted together and what makes up their nutritional profile. With the kids, consider an art project featuring corn, beans, and squash, or learn an Indigenous recipe that uses the Three Sisters. You might even deepen your experience by staying with an Indigenous Hipcamp Host.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Virginia Pitts at Humboldt Experience Farmstay, California

7. Learn to can, preserve, smoke, dry, freeze, or otherwise make yummy food last longer.

Maybe you can take a class or learn from a local expert about food preservation techniques, then stock your RV with jams, sauces, pickles, teas, and more. Many CSAs (community-supported agriculture farms) also offer these items for convenience in the off-season or sell them at their in-season stands. Depending on the size of your rig, you may have to get creative about where to store your canned items, but when you open that boysenberry jam in March, it will surely be worth it!

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Felix Collier at Camp Couture, England

8. Source local meat.

For the omnivores in motion, consider purchasing venison or bison from a local producer, or even spending a day with a subsistence fisher. Buying directly from within the community supports the local economy and is more likely to supply your family with a cleaner, fresher, more humane, and healthier protein. Ask the farmer about their practices, the feed the animals receive, and the stewardship practices on the ranch or farm. LocalHarvest is a reputable, community-sourced US directory of family farms and farmers’ markets, where you can filter to find meat processors with specific nutrition and food preparation practices.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Shayna Frankenfield in Texas

9. Break bread with a new friend or two!

Hipcamp Hosts and fellow Hipcampers are, more often than not, some of the nicest people you can meet on the road. See if you can organize even just a simple community meal to slow down, celebrate togetherness, and create shared memories for everyone around a festive table. It’s also a great way to discover new traditions, new recipes, and new stories.

The key to farm-to-RV living is one of the keys to travel in general—being deliberate about your choices while maintaining an openness to serendipity. You never know who you’ll meet around the next corner or what opportunity will present itself over the next hill. This goes beyond getting healthy, local food on your camp plate (though we love that too)—it’s about being curious, striving to connect with your location, and making space to improvise meaningful and fun culinary experiences.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Andrea Spidell at Rusty’s Roost River Glamping, North Carolina

Bonus: Farm-to-RV Essentials for Campers

To help you bring farm-to-RV practices right into your home on wheels, here are a few must-have items to keep in your rig.

  1. Work gloves for the whole family. You will be ready to help build a fence, dig a trench, harvest zucchini, or brush a goat—and you never know when the opportunity will present itself.
  2. A salad sack. A drawstring terry cloth sack for spinning lettuce after it’s washed, a salad sack packs up way smaller than a regular salad spinner and works great. Make this yourself or buy one. It’s also fun to lasso it overhead, we have to say.
  3. Reusable produce bags and food storage containers. These are great for shopping and storage.
  4. A tablecloth with clips. These come in handy on those windy days, as will bandanas or cloth napkins and a clothesline to air-dry your reusable linens.
  5. A portable kitchen setup. Start with a portable grill, camp stove, cast iron skillet, utility knife, cutting board, potholder, and maybe an ax.
  6. Waterproof boots. Super handy for your feet! A proper pair of boots is liberating and allows you to get out into all kinds of weather to muck about a farm.
  7. A ukulele, mini guitar, or other small instrument. Who doesn’t love a jam session with a bunch of friends sitting around a festive table for a community meal?
Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Kassidy Paige at The Farm at Heirloomista, Minnesota

Julie Frieder is an innovator, problem solver, and environmental professional. She stepped away from a career in sustainable investing to travel for 13 months with her partner and son in a 24-foot rig equipped with 4 bikes, 3 kayaks, a 72-watt solar system, and an 85-pound dog. Based in Colorado, Julie loves four-season outdoor adventures and festive meals with family and friends. She is co-author of Wonder Year: A Guide to Long-Term Family Travel and Worldschooling.

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