Dogwood Hills Guest Farm
Ruth Pepler at Dogwood Hills has capitalized on the opportunity of building community around her using agriculture as the focus. After moving to Arkansas from New Jersey with her husband and daughter around 10 years ago, Ruth saw a great opportunity to build a network with local farmers and also to teach others about agriculture and where their food comes from.
“Everything has been built on community; it’s not about us,” said Ruth. “It’s a gift to move here from across the country and find family in our community.”
Ruth has built Dogwood Hills Guest Farm out of absolutely nothing. Ruth said when they first arrived on the property there was nothing but the gravel road which is now their driveway. From that, they have built their home, a barn with a loft holding their certified kitchen and gathering area, hydroponics shed (an enviromentally controlled area with trays to grow barley using water rather than soil), a high tunnel (greenhouse to grow vegetable varieties), a guest house and staff quarters to house the interns. They have cows, alpacas, dairy goats, chickens, a donkey, vegetables, herbs and grains and a barn cat.
The entire purpose of the Guest Farm is to help local growers and makers display their products. However, Ruth capitalizes on the opportunity to use the farming culture to teach others where their food comes from.
“We don’t have a product; we are just displaying local products,” said Ruth. “It’s not about producing something. It’s about bringing it all together and putting it on the table.”
The Peplers host any size group from a family of four to an entire school bus of children. Each farm experience is different and tailors to the needs of the group. Smaller groups are welcome to stay overnight in the guest house.
“It’s a farm to table… but to the extreme,” said Ruth. “We want them to have the full experience.”
The farm experience can be anything from milking the cows, picking veggies in the high tunnel, collecting eggs or even sitting down for a farm fresh meal prepared from scratch in the certified kitchen.
“Kids get a squirt of milk on their leg and freak out because it’s warm or they lift up the hen like wow,” said Ruth.
Children today are twice removed from the farm. This is a huge problem that Ruth, her family and community are working to solve by providing a fun, educational agritourism venue for parents and teachers to bring their children to learn. If you are interested in visiting the Guest Farm, please see the Dogwood Hills website below.