Happy Birthday, Heifer Ranch

By Brooke Edwards

October 3, 2019

Last Updated: October 31, 2011

This past Saturday we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Heifer Ranch.

A Brief History of Heifer Ranch

Abu, a 5-year-old male camel, was presented to
Heifer Ranch as a birthday gift from Overlook Farm
in Rutland, Massachusetts.

Heifer International dates back to 1944, with an inaugural shipment of 17 pregnant heifers to Puerto Rico. In 1971, Heifer was offered 1,100 acres near Perryville, Arkansas, to raise and house animals being shipped overseas to those in need. The model of shipping animals fromt he United States, however, turned out to be very costly and inefficient and was later discontinued in favor of purchasing livestock from within the project countries. Through the years, Heifer Ranch has evolved into an education and research center, a model farm and ranch, a conference center and a volunteer experience. The farm is now home to water buffalo, camels, pigs and goats, as well as gardens that help feed volunteers and the public. School groups, youth groups, families and individuals have come to the Ranch to experience what it really means to live in a poverty-stricken village with scarce resources. Visitors are introduced to Heifer's sustainable solutions and learn more about what they can do to help.

The Celebration
Friday night held a Homecoming Tour and Reception for Past Ranchers (staff and volunteers). Three of the past Ranch directors were on hand to help celebrate. It was great to see old friends, but hard to see how the landscape has changed since the tornado this spring.

Jacob Sheatsley leads a drum circle in the Global Village

Saturday was an all-day party. There were crafts and activities for the kids, demonstrations along the Global Village trail, a picnic lunch, hayride tours, birthday cake and a special gift from Overlook Farm, one of Heifer's other Learning Centers. Visitors had the opportunity to meet some of Heifer's country directors, who have been in town for meetings.

My Brief History at Heifer Ranch
Heifer Ranch is how I first came to know and love Heifer International. I participated in the Global Village program (now called Global Gateway) when I was 14 years old. Growing up in Little Rock and attending college in Conway, Arkansas, I went to the Ranch several more times as a participant before deciding to become a volunteer. During college summers and after graduating, I spent a total of about 12 months as a live-in volunteer. I became impassioned with Heifer's mission of ending hunger and poverty and caring for the Earth as I led field trips, facilitated group team-building activities, milked goats, taught cheese classes and became a part of the Ranch community. I met my husband and a great many of my friends at Heifer Ranch.

A volunteer shows how farming on terraced slopes
 helps prevent erosion

Heifer Ranch holds a special place in my heart, so I was excited to take my daughter to Perryville this past weekend to join in the celebrations. She loved the animals, of course. Petting the pigs, lambs and goats in the showbarn was certainly a highlight. But it's Abu the camel she'll go on talking about. And the cupcakes and candy (she is a kid, after all). I'm so glad my daughter will grow up learning about Heifer's work in the world and knowing that she has a place in making the world a better place for everyone to live. And I'm thankful we have Heifer Ranch just down the road where her learning will be hands-on and exciting, not to mention a piece of her family's history.