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story.lead_photo.caption Flags lead the way into the Heifer Ranch near Perryville. The ranch is closing to the public after Oct. 3. - Photo by File photo

Heifer Ranch in Perryville will no longer offer public educational programs, a spokesman said Thursday, as Heifer International shifts its focus to providing farmer education and training.

The ranch, a popular field trip destination, will be open to the public until Oct. 3.

Chris Coxon, director of public relations, said the ranch and its global village experience are costly to maintain, and Heifer International believes funds can be used more strategically toward its goal of ending hunger and poverty through sustainable farming.

“Our focus is really on equipping farmers with the tools and expertise they need to make farms successful and build a sustainable business,” Coxon said.

The ranch facility will not close or shrink, Coxon said, but instead be repurposed for more “live classroom” experiences for farmers.

He said educational programming for the public will continue at Little Rock’s Heifer Village, which features interactive exhibits, and at the organization's urban farm.

The ranch will also open to the public for certain occasions, Coxon said, including the popular “lambing” weekends where people learn about the birthing process for and care of lambs.

“It’s been a difficult decision,” Coxon said, “but one everyone believes is important to the support we’re providing to farmers.”

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