An Interview with Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International
On this week’s episode of Serenbe Stories, resident Pierre Ferrari shares his experience of discovering Serenbe and making the move full-time, while discussing his role as President and CEO of Heifer International, an organization on a mission to end hunger and poverty by supporting and investing alongside local farmers and their communities.
Pierre has worked at or had board roles at Coca-Cola, Ben & Jerry's and the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund, he has a Master’s degree in economics from Cambridge and an MBA from Harvard. Pierre's 40 years of business experience are being put into his passion for social issues at Heifer. You can find his recent opinion pieces in Time Magazine with Chef Tom Coliccio about the fixes we need to make to the food system and in Fast Company on promoting ethical meat standards. Pierre and his wife Kim have been fans of Serenbe for years and recently made the move full time. He says that his favorite part about Serenbe, and a big reason why he and his wife moved, is having the forest right outside their back door. We think that’s a pretty good reason to find your way here.
His journey with Heifer began while he was working for Coca-Cola and decided that he wanted “to do something more interesting in a way than just peddling a lot of carbonated soft drinks”, as he says. This move eventually led him to Heifer, a development organization working mostly overseas but with growing work in U.S. such as a regenerative farming community in Arkansas; with mostly livestock but some vegetables as well. The farm and ranch utilize biophilic practices, such as organic and non-gmo.
Other than practicing biophilia, Heifer also has the very special goal to “end poverty and hunger while caring for the Earth”. They work to reach this goal by supporting, investing and working with local farmers and their communities. Their work is spread across 21 countries around the world, strengthening economies and building livelihoods that allow farmers to making a living income, because “ending poverty begins with agriculture” and we couldn’t agree more. Economic development, environmental sustainability, food security and nutrition, risk mitigation and resilience and women’s empowerment and social impact are their main work areas.
Heifer also works with farmers to organize them into co-ops and connect them to value chains, such as the e-commerce operation called Grass Roots Farmer’s Cooperative. This co-op is very community-oriented and is a great place to get high-quality meats. Pierre explains how income is primarily generated on the retail or processing distribution side of the value-chain, so it’s important to connect local farmers with that side of the business. Heifer’s model for working with farmers includes providing community mobilization, training and lastly, connecting them to markets. They raise the questions, what is living income for farmers in other countries? How do we get them to a living income?
Pierre says their approach is “climate-smart agriculture”. What does that mean, exactly? Regenerative farming is one of those approaches, and they operate with three “miracles” as Pierre called them. One is photosynthesis, the conversion of sunlight through chlorophyll into food that can be eaten for humans or animals. Second is digestion - livestock can convert inedible food for us into food for humans. And third is reproduction. These animals then reproduce, which is most major source of profit for livestock farmers. All of these “miracles” make it possible to take farmers out of poverty.
April 7, 2021