Watch your step as you pull into the parking area of Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. You’ll want to avoid the extra large meadow muffins that are the product of the two giant water buffaloes grazing in an adjacent pasture.
Created by Heifer International, an organization that has given millions of “livestock gifts” worldwide, the ranch offers visitors a trip through a virtual Noah’s Ark of creatures, a Thai village, a Zambian hut and an Andean yurt as they search for information on the causes and solutions of world hunger and meet the volunteers and staff.
Beth Newman is one of the tour guides, and as she approaches she points to the meadow-muffin makers. “Briggs and Stratton are their names,” she says. Newman says the bovine pair represents a Thai rice farmer’s invaluable stock and is a living example for visitors to the 1,200-acre ranch. “Briggs and Stratton are here to illustrate how an animal can save a family from starvation by providing income, fertilizer and even milk,” she says.
Newman leads the way to the “Global Village,” which depicts housing in various nations. Groups often stay overnight in the lodgings and study resolutions to poverty and hunger. The production of biogas is one such solution – at the Thai huts, there are two pigs in a pen. “The pig waste can make enough biogas for a family’s daily cooking needs,” she says. “Where space and resources are limited, a small farm can rescue a community.”
Newman heads up the hill as a school group gathers for a goat milking demonstration. They have finished a discussion on the causes of hunger and are about to meet one of its solutions. The children listen intently to the ranch volunteer and appear excited to milk the nanny goat. Each child takes a turn at milking, and, when liquid is heard splashing inside the bucket, everyone smiles.
The enthusiasm of the volunteers is evident at every turn, and they return year after year. Emily English is one such volunteer; she has returned to oversee the organic gardens and to tend the livestock medicinal garden. The ranch is studying treatments for to intestinal parasites in sheep. “Emily’s garden, along with pasture management and culling, are possible remedies,” says staff member Paul Casey. He says sheep can become anemic from parasites, and a volunteer group of adults are in the process of examining and paint-branding a flock.
The group has come from all over the country, at their own expense, to participate in Livestock Healthcare Week. Linda Pinkerton from New York is wrangling a sheep to be paint-branded. Linda’s curiosity about life and animals is what brings her to the ranch. The brander, Suzie Soave from Georgia, says one of her reasons for being here is to decide what animals she would like to raise on her recently purchased farm.
Despite diverse backgrounds, all the volunteers are here to accomplish a central goal: to keep the ranch in excellent condition for visitors to learn how farming and the gift of livestock can save lives.
Leaving Heifer Ranch, visitors see a sign that reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers – go in peace.” And they do.