– Elena Doucette, Greely Class of 2011, is “at The University of Maine at Orono, studying animal sciences with a pre-vet concentration and loving it!”
At the Heifer Project International Ranch in Arkansas this past spring, I was part of a community that took very seriously its commitment to environmental responsibility. Due to extensive composting and recycling programs at the volunteer house in which I lived, we really only emptied the house trash once a week. As one of five ranch hands responsible for animal husbandry at the ranch, I helped to manage rotational grazing, a systematic method of rotating the animal’s grazing areas so pastures are never over-used. Ranchers are definitely recyclers – nothing is thrown away that might be used later. One day we repaired a fence with a dog leash! Another day, when the sheep had gotten out of their pasture, we used a can and some rocks to herd them back into a fenced area. The materialistic mindset that’s prevalent in our community here (having expensive jeans, going to the tanning booth, having a shiny car, having your hair and nails done) was completely nonexistent on the ranch. The people were so wonderfully “real.” I also fell in love with all the animals (except maybe the chickens). It was a thrill to observe the miracle of birth or help diagnose the problem with a baby goat who was experiencing failure-to-thrive (don’t worry – it wasn’t Diane the goat).
The ranch models the lessons of self-reliance and sustainability to the recipients of its livestock around the world by providing food for the ranch employees and volunteers for the ranch animals. We had fresh goat’s milk, fresh turkey, chicken, and duck eggs – I was really eating local! I came home with so much enthusiasm about the Heifer commitment to self-reliance that I even got my family composting this summer. My days on the ranch were long and the work was hard, but it was so rewarding I would do it again in a Heifer heartbeat!