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Central OR Ranch Aims to Grow Healthy Veterans and Crops

Plans are well under way for a sustainable farm and ranch operation to be run by veterans. The nonprofit Central Oregon Veterans Ranch purchased the land near Bend in 2013. Credit: Howard Gorman.
Plans are well under way for a sustainable farm and ranch operation to be run by veterans. The nonprofit Central Oregon Veterans Ranch purchased the land near Bend in 2013. Credit: Howard Gorman.
July 13, 2015

BEND, Ore. – Veterans and community members in the Bend area are meeting this week to make plans for a sustainable farming operation as part of the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch.

Since 2013, the nonprofit group has worked to create a combination farm and ranch on land purchased outside of Bend, and a four-bedroom home on the property is being converted into a hospice for veterans needing end-of-life care.

The idea is to staff it with veterans. Now it's time to decide which types of crops to grow and animals to raise.

Founder Alison Perry says the group pondering those questions is a good mix.

"There's kind of this blending of the old guard and more conservative and then, there also are people who have tried innovative things and have learned by trial and error,” she explains. “And then, there are people like me – complete idealists who say, 'Let's do it, regardless of how hard it is.'"

Options being considered for the ranch include the Navajo-Churro, a hardy breed of rare sheep, as well as well as raising lavender, hops and bees on the land.

Perry says a greenhouse is on the wish list to allow for growing vegetables. The planning meeting takes place this Friday.

Perry notes it would be easier to use conventional farming methods, but that isn't what the group has in mind. Instead, it has decided on permaculture – working with the land instead of changing it to create certain growing conditions.

As a trauma therapist who worked for the Veterans Administration for six years, Perry says for veterans recovering from trauma, the approach is a learning experience on several levels.

"There's a very interesting mindfulness in permaculture or sustainable agriculture practices that requires taking your time,” she points out. “It's a much more relational process. It's systems-based, so you're looking at how systems work together."

Perry adds the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch would like to put a tiny house on the property for a foreman as finances permit and the farm and ranch operations get up and running.

The hospice facility should be open by year's end.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR