I love living in these Arkansas Ozark Hills. We have many scenic drives and so much to see and do. I have lived here all of my life — 56 years so far — and I am still amazed at the beauty and variety of attractions within a stone's throw of my childhood home. I hope to share many of the wonders of my world with you from time to time.
One such wonder I just discovered is down scenic HWY 14, nestled in a beautiful hollow. Dogwood Hills Guest Farm is open for business and well worth the stay.
Owned and operated by Ruth, Thomas, and Grace Pepler, this unique place offers a lovely guest house for a variety of package stays, and hands-on experience of everyday farm life. Guests are free (but not required) to join the owners for daily chores, such as milk goats and cows, groom Pollywog (the mini horse), collect fresh eggs from the hens, feed the animals, and even check in on newborn animal babies as they arrive. Animals on the farm include cows, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, ducks and, of course, dogs and cats. Hiking among the goats free-ranging in 40 acres of fenced-in wooded trails is also available.
There are even several demonstrations and classes based on availability in season. The certified teaching kitchen opens in the near future to further enhance the experience.
The guests also have the ability to set up additional farms to visit during their stay. Near by is the Ratchford Buffalo Farm, which contains not only buffalo, but llama, emu, and domesticated deer. Additional attractions are the Ozark Folk Center, Hurricane River Cave, canoeing on the Buffalo River, and a variety of Farmer's Markets.
In the fall, they host a Cast Iron Cook-off, where people from all over come to set up camp and cook on an outdoor fire in a variety of cast iron skillets. The local PBS station covered the event last year.
I sat down for a visit with Ruth in the barn loft. It has been turned into a cozy living area next to the teaching kitchen. Ruth told me that they purchased their 75 acres about ten years ago. They are originally from New Jersey, where Ruth operated a catering business. They first wanted to establish a minister's retreat and began to look for somewhere in a lovely out-of-the-way place so their visitors could have total peace and quiet. After purchasing the land and guest house, building their own house, and beginning their farm, the plans changed.
Their daughter Grace (age 16) is home-schooled and very much a working member of the farm. At age 12, she took out her first youth farm loan and purchased two cows. The loan was for four years, but Grace paid it off in just two. As the barn was still in the building stage, the cows were tethered by the road so they could graze, and Ruth simply milked them there. People driving by began to stop to talk to her, and they would sometimes ask if they could "have a go" at milking the cows. Ruth always declined, but it made her think about all of the interest. Slowly the Guest Retreat became a Guest Farm for all of those who would love to experience farm life, but not necessarily live it every day.
The farm is about 80 percent self-sufficient. They grow most of their own food, and make butter, cheeses, jams, and other goodies, but do not butcher at this time. They have a hydroponic system for growing fodder, which will be expanded later this summer into a larger facility allowing them to produce 300 pounds a week in barley. They currently feed approximately 125 pounds daily. Nearby is a hydroponic farm that will soon be supplying them with 500 heads of lettuce weekly. It is the owner who has taught them the skills they use for producing their fodder, and helps them maintain the system.
In addition to the family, there is a couple living on the farm helping with the building and renovation. The Peplers are interested in hiring another person (or couple) to help full-time with the farm chores. They cannot pay a salary at this time, but a room will be provided, as well as all meals. If interested in this opportunity to learn about farm management, skills and homesteading, please contact them using the information below.
Dogwood Hills Farm is very much a part of their community. They promote and encourage all attractions and businesses in their area. They also have a community potluck supper every second and fourth Sunday of the month, which is held in the living area next to the kitchen. This has developed into a real "family" atmosphere, and has led to much social interaction in between times. Ruth says it is a very special bond that most people seem to lack in our society today.
Dogwood Hills Guest Farm is one of the many treasures I am finding in my travels around the area. For 20 years I worked in a factory; now that I am at my leisure, I am rediscovering the land of my birth. And what a pleasure it is! If you are interested in this lovely unique get-away, please contact them. I guarantee you will enjoy it!
Dogwood Hills Guest Farm
544 Cozahome Road
Harriet, Arkansas 72639
Ruth's blog: https://farmtotableandbackagain.com/