Alison Perry’s experience as a trauma therapist for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) inspired her to develop a new model for veteran services: a post-traumatic growth approach to healing that employs peer support and agriculture to engage veterans, all at a beautiful 19-acre working farm outside Bend.
"Two years after her brother deployed as an Apache helicopter pilot for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Alison embarked upon a six-year career as a trauma therapist at the Portland VA Medical Center. She worked with veterans of all ages and eras, developing a passion for combat trauma across the lifespan. An Iraq veteran who had particularly retraumatizing experience in the psychiatric ward of the Medical Center was the inspiration for Alison’s vision: “I wish we had a sheep ranch out east where we could send these vets when they got home, where they could work on the land, sleep under the stars, and be in a community of other veterans.
In 2012, Alison left the VA and began working on the concept that would become the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch. She approached Craft3 as she was starting the nonprofit and shared her vision. But at that time debt was not the answer.
Central Oregon Veterans Ranch (COVR) was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2014 and began operations on a leased ranch property outside of Bend in 2015. Since then, COVR has made a series of improvements, including remodeling the 4-bedroom ranch home, building a high tunnel hoop house in the pasture, and launching a greenhouse and hydroponics business that supplies lettuce to local markets. “The Ranch,” as it is commonly called, has found success in engaging an otherwise skeptical and isolated population of veterans with its non-stigmatizing model of peer support and agriculture-related activities.
“Community is what heals,” states Alison, “and helps bring veterans home fully.”
For years she and her Board of Directors considered ways to purchase the ranch property as a means of creating long-term stability for the organization and preserving the equity from the improvements they’d made. In 2021 when a small group of community members came out for a tour of the Ranch, Alison met a Craft3 lender. Soon after that Alison reached out to discuss financing, and by the end of the year Craft3 had approved a 20-year loan to purchase the property even though COVR had not yet launched a capital campaign and did not have significant cash to contribute for a down payment.
For veterans who suffer from trauma, security and certainty are critical to a sense of safety, and safety is critical to the ability to heal. Securing the ranch property as a permanent home is a legacy of healing for Central Oregon veterans, and another step towards the organization’s ambition to scale and bring their impactful model to other states."