Winrock International, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), traces its roots to a research endeavor that Governor Winthrop Rockefeller established at his home and ranch on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton (Conway County). Winrock International works in the United States and around the world to increase economic opportunity, sustain natural resources, and protect the environment. It has active projects in an average of sixty-five countries each year with a focus on agriculture and enterprise development, clean energy, ecosystem services, forestry and natural resource management, leadership development, volunteer technical assistance, and agricultural and environmental policy. It is one of the few international development organizations that has an active domestic program.
Winrock International Livestock Research and Training Center was created in 1973, the same years as Rockefeller’s death, to improve animal agriculture, in part utilizing expertise developed in raising Santa Gertrudis cattle at the mountaintop Winrock ranch. In 1985, that institution merged with the Agricultural Development Council and the International Agricultural Development Service, both founded by John D. Rockefeller III (Winthrop Rockefeller’s brother) to form Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development. Winthrop Rockefeller was interested in rural development and agriculture in Arkansas, while his brother was focused upon international developments; the merger of the organizations resulted in a merger of foci.
Winrock International has expanded its worldwide mission of increasing agricultural productivity and rural employment while protecting the environment and promoting sustainable use of resources. Winrock uses innovative approaches in agriculture, renewable energy, leadership development, and policy to further its goals by linking local individuals and communities with new ideas and technology.
In Arkansas and across the nation, Winrock looks for innovative opportunities to assist rural communities and small enterprises, without duplicating services provided by other organizations. In the 1990s, Winrock identified the challenges small wood manufacturers faced with growing global markets. It formed the Arkansas Wood Manufacturers Association, bringing together for the first time hundreds of small and medium-sized firms to pool resources and address common problems. As a result, wood manufacturers were able to lobby for improved insurance options, identify local suppliers, and develop marketing strategies. Training programs introduced new cost- and labor-saving technologies, and consultants analyzed operations and processes to improve product quality.
A recent Winrock project in the Mississippi River Delta region of Arkansas enabled resource-poor farmers to earn greater income by identifying market niches for high-value products. Sweet potato growers worked together and, with Winrock’s help, were able to establish a climate-controlled storage facility. Being able to store large quantities of sweet potatoes enabled them to attract the attention of national food processors interested in buying potatoes for specialty snacks.
Arkansas welcomes thousands of new Hispanic immigrants each year. To make their transition into communities and jobs more successful, Winrock organized the Hispanic Connection Forum. The forum brought together business and industry, health, education, and social service organizations to share information and successful approaches. This was the first effort to coordinate the varied activities going on statewide, and it resulted in collaborative initiatives that ranged from specialized workforce education to bilingual signage at hospitals to education programs targeting Hispanic youth.
In other initiatives, Winrock trains representatives from small nonprofit organizations in management, planning, and fundraising. It is exploring the feasibility of bio-fuels as part of Arkansas’s agricultural industry and is addressing global climate change through forestry projects designed to remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Winrock employs nearly 200 people in the United States and an additional 700 working in sixty-five countries around the world. Many of these staff members are out in the field in areas of need, able to observe ways in which resources can be applied to best effect, using their expertise and local knowledge to find practical ways to make positive changes.
In June 2016, it was announced that the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, located in North Little Rock, was becoming part of Winrock. The organization was located in Little Rock (Pulaski County) until 2021, when it relocated to the Innovation Hub building across the river.
For additional information:
Winrock International. http://www.winrock.org/ (accessed August 26, 2023).
“Winrock International: From Arkansas Roots, A Global Mission.” Special insert. Arkansas Times. April 28, 2005.
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