July 14 marked the 70th anniversary for sustainable development nonprofit Heifer International, a recognized leader in smallholder agriculture.

Heifer International is proud to celebrate its 70th Anniversary during the United Nations-recognized International Year of Family Farming, a time designated to honor the importance of family farming in reducing poverty and improving global food security.

It was on this date that 17 heifers bound for Castañer, Puerto Rico, and tended to by men and women nicknamed the ‘seagoing cowboys’ set sail from Mobile, Alabama. It was the first shipment of the newly formed Heifer Project (now Heifer International). The animals were distributed to farming families and helped curb severe milk shortages on the small island.

The idea for Heifer was planted in the mind of Dan West in the late 1930s. West, a relief worker with the Church of the Brethren, had seen the horrors of war and believed that peace would begin when the hungry were fed. It was the "not a cup, but a cow" concept that he pitched to a group of Indiana farmers in the late 1930s that blossomed into the international development organization now headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Since that first shipment, gifts of cattle, pigs, goats and other livestock have gone on to change the lives of 105.1 million people in more than 125 countries.

Heifer has grown and evolved over the last 70 years. By 1967, Heifer had shipped 1 million chicks to hungry families, many of which ended up in Korea after that war. It wasn’t long after when Heifer transitioned away from shipping animals in the sourcing animals in country. What has remained consistent, however, is a solid foundation of values rooted in the tradition of Passing on the Gift. To this day, a gift of livestock from Heifer is passed on an average of nine times. 

Heifer International has also committed to helping more people, faster. Our programs have gone from an average size of about 150 families to more than 1,000 and up to 10,000. Heifer works in 30 countries—from Nepal to the United States—to empower family farmers, especially women, to learn sustainable agriculture practices, increase their family’s nutrition and income, and contribute to community and economic development.

"This is the year the rest of the world takes notice of the 600 million smallholder farmers and herders, and the timing couldn’t be more critical—there are currently 870 million people around the world struggling with hunger and we know smallholder farmers are the solution," said Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International. "We are proud of Heifer International’s success over the last 70 years, but there’s still much more work to do—with Beyond Hunger: Communities of Change, our aim is to actively engage Americans to become part of the social change that can help us end hunger and poverty once and for all."

Heifer International invites you to join Beyond Hunger events celebrating 70 years of family farming. Learn more about these events here.

About Heifer International:

Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. For more information, visit www.heifer.org, read our blog, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or call 1-800-696-1918.