"Farming the Community" - Good Roots

25 Apr 2023 in

Located in the rocky terrain of Searcy County, Arkansas, Dogwood Hills Guest Farm is a charming retreat that offers visitors an educational farm experience. Owned and operated by Ruth and Grace Pepler, the farm is self-described as “extreme homesteading.”

Established in 2012 after the Peplers moved from rural New Jersey to Harriet, Arkansas, Dogwood Hills gives guests a hands-on homesteading experience, including a sense of community and shared purpose, culminating in incredible meals prepared by Ruth and Grace using fresh ingredients from their operation. However, the culinary delights don’t stop with the Guest Farm, as the Peplers host a regular weekly potluck with fellow local farmers and growers.

“Gracie started showing cows,” Ruth explains about the origins of Dogwood Hills. “She went from meat goats to dairy goats, a couple sheep and then a beef cow… and then a dairy cow. It was the first time somebody had shown dairy in over 16 years in Searcy County. Nothing like trying to step into totally new territory. It just kind of grew from there.”

Guests can immerse themselves in the daily activities of a working farm, from raising barley, milking cows, producing cheese and enjoying farm-to-table meals. This type of engagement is particularly important in the current food landscape, where consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced.

“All of this really started with my grandmother when I was little,” Ruth said. “She would take me strawberry picking. We would stop at her friend’s house who had a milk cow, and we would get a pint of cream to go take home and have oatmeal and strawberries. And there’s just nothing better than that. Cows have always fascinated me, but when we moved out here, it was kind of like, OK, we have an option for cows.”

“4-H was that big starting point for me,” Grace said. “Learning about the implementation of how it can be turned from a hobby into a career was a big thing.”

Dogwood Hills Guest Farms also offers visitors a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and connect with nature. Whether picking fresh herbs, petting the goats or taking a leisurely stroll through the farm with the friendly, fluffy white canines standing guard over the dairy cows, guests are able to disconnect and immerse themselves in the beauty of Searcy County.

Friday, April 28, 2023

"Good Roots" inside "Arkansas Week," 7:30 p.m.

"Good Roots" is produced in partnership with Farm Ranch Stress Grant.

Watch social extras, full episodes and more on YouTube at youtube.com/ArkansasPBS.