Farm Escape: Dogwood Hills Guest Farm in Harriet


Dogwood Hills Guest Farm sits on the side of a rocky slope in Searcy County, a few miles north of the intersection of Arkansas 14 and 27 in Harriet, Arkansas. The working dairy farm boasts cows, chickens, ducks, geese, a lemur, working dogs, and a mother and daughter team that are spearheading a budding new industry in Arkansas — agritourism.

Ruth, Thomas and Grace Pepler created Dogwood Hills Guest Farm, allowing guests to have an authentic farm experience. Dana Treat Photography.

Any given morning, you can find Ruth and Grace Pepler performing the acts that keep this farm going — milking cows, gathering eggs, feeding the fowl, and taking care of the myriad of tasks you’ll find on any farm. The difference is they’re often accompanied by guests — who arrive throughout the year from throughout the United States and from as far away as Europe and Australia — who have visited for the hands-on experience.

“From the moment they arrive they begin the adventure,” says Ruth, who started the farm along with her husband Thomas when Grace was young.

When guests arrive, usually in the afternoon, the Peplers and their sweet, fluffy Great Pyrenees dogs greet them and show them around. The farmstay visits are limited to just one family at a time, and they stay in a spacious three bedroom, two bath guest house with country touches and extraordinary Buffalo National River Valley views. But this is much more than a standard vacation.

“After they are settled into the guest house, many of them come to the barn loft for dinner their first night,” Ruth continues. “Afterward, there is an orientation, and they can finish their evening on the deck watching the beautiful sunsets and enjoying the starry skies from the hot tub.”

Grace Pepler demonstrates milking a cow, a popular activity for farm guests. Photo by Kat Robinson.

Guests aren’t required to get up early, but many are compelled to arise and join Ruth and Grace in the milk stand in the morning, where they’re shown how to properly milk a cow —  an experience that’s surprisingly hard to find for folks who live in urban settings today. Once the cows are milked, guests come upstairs, where Grace expertly flips omelets and serves a breakfast that includes fresh vegetables, fruits, mushrooms and meats, most of which are sourced right in Searcy County.

The day is often spent fulfilling “bucket list” experiences, such as hand-feeding the cows barley fodder hydroponically grown in a special facility Grace originally designed as a 4-H project when she was a teenager. The facility means Dogwood Hills cows are fed clean, fresh food every day, that doesn’t have to travel from long distances since it’s grown on an eight-day rotating schedule right on the farm.

Kids in particular love the hands-on nature of life here. “When you hand a child an egg from under a chicken and it’s still warm, they’re like ‘whoa!’” Ruth shares. “They’re surprised when they milk a cow, and the milk is warm.” With supervision, children and adults alike are allowed to cuddle chickens and hold baby goats, too.

The working dairy farm also has goats, chickens, ducks, geese and even a lemur. Photo by Kat Robinson.

The farm’s hillside location allows for opportunities to follow the goat herd down rugged paths. Photographers delight in the availability and variety of animals to photograph. The Peplers also offer hands-on demonstrations and classes, such as wool felting and making pizza or gnocchi. Guests can also choose instead to dial it back and relax around a campfire or play board games.

For many who come, Dogwood Hills offers a marvelous location to act as a homebase as they explore Searcy County, float the Buffalo National River, and take in attractions.

It may be surprising to some how far people will come. “People travel from all over the country to come to the farm for the variety of experiences,” Ruth shares, noting that milking a cow is the most searched for activity for people seeking farm stays. “Some come because everything we make here on the farm is gluten-free and prepared in our dedicated gluten-free kitchen. There isn’t much in the way of gluten-free in our area so it’s great for them to be able to get breakfast and dinner here on the farm.”

Located in Searcy County, Dogwood Hills Guest Farm is near the Buffalo National River and other attractions. Photo by Kat Robinson.

It’s common for guests coming in from out of state to drive up to 12 hours or even fly into Arkansas for the visit.

“Many have never been to Arkansas and are pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the area,” Ruth continues. “They also enjoy the exclusive attention they receive from Grace and I. We are able to custom tailor the experience to each guest to help them have the best experience on the farm and take away memories that will be like none other.”

Dogwood Hills offers several events throughout the year, from farm-to-table dinners and take-aways to the State Youth Cast-Iron Cookoff, which happens the first Saturday of each November. A vibrant store on site offers all-local products from quilts to spoons, locally grown produce and meat, and products from Dew Line Dairy, Grace Pepler’s micro-dairy. The farm also offers take-and-bake lasagnas and pizzas, along with seasonally available cookies, all gluten-free, by appointment. To learn more or to book your stay, visit or call 870-448-4870.