Heifer Ranch Tour

IMG_6952Arkansas is smack in the middle of our annual epic road trip.  In order for us to survive this trip, I’ve found it helpful to take a day and explore Arkansas.  One year we went to Hot Springs, and another year we took our time through Little Rock.

I’ve been fascinated with Heifer Project for years.  Their corporate center is in Little Rock, but I was more interested in visiting the educational ranch they have in Perrysburg.  It was maybe an hour out of our way–and so worth it!

What Is Heifer Project?

Heifer Project’s purpose is to eradicate poverty and hunger worldwide.

Does that sound like a pretty hefty goal?

Yes it is.  But they don’t believe in handouts.  They believe in education, sustainability, and strengthening local communities.

How do they do this?

Largely, by livestock.

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Raising livestock (be it cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, geese . . . you get the idea) not only improves the nutritional needs of families living in poverty, but also provides a solid means of economically supporting families–either by selling livestock for meat, or eggs, milk, cheese, wool, honey, etc.

Families affiliated with Heifer Project are trained to properly–and sustainably–care for their animals and market their products.  Then those families who receive animals from Heifer Project pledge to pass on their animals’ offspring to other families in need.

It’s a pretty great program, and if you’d like to learn more about it, visit heifer.org.

Or, visit the Ranch in Perrysberg, Arkansas!

What’s at Heifer Ranch?  Read on!

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The Ranch

IMG_6903Heifer Ranch is an educational facility, teaching visitors about global poverty and sustainable agriculture.  School groups and church groups (or individuals) can visit for a day or longer.  The Ranch is mainly run by full-time volunteer help, so for those looking for a fulfilling gap year program, living and working at the Ranch could be a great opportunity!

Heifer Ranch has a acres and acres of beautiful pasture and woodlands, nestled in the Arkansas hills.  Visitors are welcome to explore on their own (maps loaned out in the Welcome Center).  A number of buildings and barns are open for visitors to wander through, and volunteers will happily talk about the animals and Heifer’s work around the world.

Visitors shouldn’t get too close to the animals, of course, unless someone from the Ranch is facilitating the encounter.

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Welcome Center

Parking is right in front of the Welcome Center.  It’s a small building, but it quickly gives visitors an overview of Heifer Project’s work and history.  Those staffing the Welcome Center will run a very short movie for visitors, and there’s a photo-timeline that dominates one long wall.

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As we were relaxing from a LOT of time in the car, my kids were thrilled to play in their kids’ corner, which boasts a wooden farm set, trucks, puzzles, and books.

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The Welcome Center is connected to the gift shop, which sells an assortment of unique crafts from around the world, books, and toys.  For those who don’t have quite so far to drive, they also have a freezer with locally-raised meat.  If we didn’t have 4 more states to conquer, we would have brought some home with us!

When I was researching our visit to the Ranch, I was under the impression that we might be able to find something to eat while we were visiting.  However, meals in the Ranch’s cafeteria are for the full-time volunteers and any groups have arranged meals in advance (like those staying overnight).

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Accomodations at the Heifer Hilton!

We did buy some ice cream in the gift shop, though!

 

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Global Village

Heifer Ranch not only educates about sustainable farming to relieve poverty, but also about the countries and cultures they serve.  For well-off kids visiting from suburbia, it’s hard to imagine life in a slum in China or a village in Guatemala, so part of the Heifer Ranch self-guided tour takes visitors through the Global Village.

The Global Village is settled around a lake on the edge of Heifer Ranch’s property.  Walking around the lake, visitors experience a small farm in Guatemala, village life in Thailand, countryside living in Tanzania, a slum in China, and the backwoods of Appalachia.  At least, these scenes are recreated as much as possible from the middle of Arkansas.

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Tanzania in Arkansas

Houses modeled after those from each of the regions above are open to visitors, with information told from the viewpoint of an adolescent living there.  It may be eye-opening to visitors to see geese living under the Thai house, or the outdoor kitchens in most of the villages.  The slum house was representative of slums anywhere in the world, with 4 major challenges being:

  • little access to water
  • Not owning the land (so lots of uncertainty about being kicked out)
  • Overcrowded
  • lack of sanitation (sewage, garbage removal, etc.)

 

There is so much potential for learning here, both in the Global Village and in the Ranch itself!  I’m so glad we stopped by–and that I brought my kids.

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A little bit of rural Thailand–in rural Arkansas!

How To Get There

Visiting Heifer Ranch was a great break in our road trip, and I recommend it to anyone driving through the middle of Arkansas.  The views were spectacular, and it gave my kids plenty of space to run around.  (One of them may have complained about too much space while we were walking around the Global Village!)

To get to Heifer Ranch from Little Rock, go north on Interstate 40.  Turn west on Highway 60. Then turn south on Highway 10 (CR 125) at Perrysburg.  You’ll go down Highway 10 (also known as County Road 125) through a very small town or two, and Heifer Ranch will be pretty well marked on your right.

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I believe there was a small fee for the self-guided tour.  It either wasn’t much (around $10) or they recommended donations for visiting the Ranch.  Given that we kept ourselves very entertained at the Ranch for the better part of the day, I was happy to give a donation above that self-guided tour fee.

(This isn’t to toot my own horn, but merely serving as a recommendation for others visiting Heifer Ranch.)

Heifer Project is a wonderful program, and I was thrilled to finally get a chance to see it up close!

For those who have a hard-to-shop for person on their Christmas list, may I suggest getting them a goat?  Well, OK–a goat given in their name.  Donated livestock makes great Christmas presents!  Heifer also has a gift shop here, for those looking for unique, sustainably-sourced ideas!

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