234: Ruth and Grace Pepler on Agritourism.
Experiencing life on the farm as a vacation destination.
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Ruth has been a registered nurse, private chef, and caterer, and has taught cooking classes, managed a farm, and homeschooled her daughter. She and her husband Thomas started their homestead near the Buffalo National River in Arkansas ten years ago. Shortly after moving there, they bought the adjoining property and opened Dogwood Hills Bed & Breakfast; Which they call a “guest farm” offering their guests a chance to experience life on the farm in a relaxing atmosphere.
At sixteen, and having grown up on the homestead, her daughter Grace has taken a lead role in the daily functioning, guest relations, and marketing of Dogwood Hills Guest Farm. She is a wonderful agri-tourism ambassador speaking about Dogwood Hills and how it functions, with everyone from the local & county 4H, county chambers, multiple tourism conferences and she even did a personal tour for the Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture.
Since opening they’ve added many more cows, goats and chickens, a fodder room of hydroponically grown barley, a “high tunnel” hoop house, a visitor friendly milking room, and they are currently adding a new certified kitchen. With a complete farm to table operation, Dogwood Hills Guest Farm helps people from all over the world experience life on a family-owned dairy farm.
In This Podcast:
We meet two very special ladies in this mother-daughter team with Ruth and Grace Pepler who are helping us understand the concepts of Agritourism and Guest Farms. Ruth is inspiring with her story of transforming their small homestead into a very active community building resource and agriculture education resource in the guise of something akin to a bed and breakfast vacation spot. Her daughter Grace is a delight as she shares her knowledge and passion of teaching kids of all backgrounds the joys of farm life.
Listen in and learn about:
- The early time on the homestead with a goal for something basic with a space for church activities
- Having people ask to participate and help with the farm duties
- Online research into having guests on a farm
- Finding Farm Stay USA and getting some ideas and suggestions
- The early plans and initial activities teaching people about homesteading skills
- Giving urbanites a chance to learn farming and gardening skills
- Transitioning to a Farm-to-table event
- Guest farming and what a guest can expect during their stay
- Awesome projects and daily activities
- Sitting down at the table for family meals
- The capacity at their farm for guests
- Dairy farm duties that need to be done
- Some of the stories for families with kids that were afraid of animals
- The hydroponic system that grows fodder for the farm animals in 7 days
Producer’s Note – CORRECTION: Nutrition is in the spout as well. The root mat is full of digestive enzymes that help get the most out of the sprouts. (From the Peplers after this podcast was recorded).
- Grace’s day on the farm
- Their flock of 90 chickens and how they manage all the eggs
- How the community is responding to the guest farm activities
- The community interaction with all the activities
- Agritourism and what possibilities that could offer to a farm
- The agritourism association that they started for their local area and is growing into a state agritourism group for the State of Arkansas
- How FarmStay has helped and what they do to help with agritourism
- Tips on how to get another perspective so that guests can get the best experience
- The internship program that they are beginning just now
- The benefits of their new kitchen and what they can now offer to their guests
- An EPIC community event that they do on a couple Sundays a month
- Why they made the move to the country several states away from home
As well as:
- Their failure – not being prepared for some of the hardships of the farm, and how they turned them into learning opportunities
- Their success – building a community and bringing new experiences to a whole new group of people
- Their drive – For Ruth: the response they are getting from people, and an awesome quote from Grace;
For Grace: helping the kids and watching them have new learning experiences
- Their advice – From Grace: Bring your families out and get to experience a different kind of life:
From Ruth: If you are looking to do anything like this, start slowly and get a handle on it before starting the next bit.
Ruth and Grace’s Book recommendations:
Farmer Boy (Little House) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
How to reach Ruth and Grace:
AirBNB or Trip Advisor
Facebook: Dogwood Hills Guest Farm