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How Arkansas Livestock Became Ambassadors

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Dog Protecting Sheep at Heifer Ranch

More than 65 million people have been touched by the giving that continues today through Heifer International.  Founder Dan West helped organize the first shipment of heifers to Puerto Rico in 1944, after he’d been inspired doing relief work in the Spanish Civil War.  The Midwestern farm boy thought it made more sense to give families cows than to keep supplying milk rations to their hungry children. West’s idea inspired the process where families and communities receive gifts of livestock, grain and seeds and eventually pass along those gifts.  Today offspring of poultry, sheep or camels might go on to a neighboring family in Malawi, Nicaragua or the Ukraine.

Camel at Heifer Ranch

When Heifer International was given 1,100 acres in rural Arkansas, the headquarters moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Little Rock.  A donated herd of cattle filled a portion of the land, and this became a base for shipping livestock abroad.  Eventually, Heifer leaders learned that shipping animals was not the answer.  Instead, the focus shifted toward sourcing animals regionally throughout the world. So, the Arkansas ranch remained as a conference and demonstration center.  ow all of the animals spread throughout approximately 300 acres of the property serve as global ambassadors.

“They do so much for these families and they provide hope,” said Diane Gunvalson about the special role the animals play in helping fight hunger and poverty. Gunvalson is Operations and Volunteer Manager for the ranch that houses 30 to 50 volunteers on site to help run things day to day.  They care for the animals, train visiting groups who want to learn about Heifer’s mission, and even run an organic produce farm that supplies vegetables for the Little Rock market.

Heifer Ranch Director Keisha Patterson said, “It gives the opportunity for us to somewhat show what our projects are doing in the field.”  Ranch experiences are offered just an hour away from the Heifer Village filled with interactive exhibits in downtown Little Rock.

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Volunteers Sarah Strohmeyer and Hannah Lepsch
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