“Perfect hay is exactly like a perfect marriage.
You may not ever find it but there’s a lot of fun in trying to create it.”
Scott and Jackie Waltner both started their lives as farm kids. He on a row crop and dairy farm here in the Skagit Valley and she on a family farm with beef cattle on the Kitsap Peninsula. Their first jobs were on the farm doing all the chores that life requires. Jackie and her two sisters worked alongside their parents and she was driving the family tractor by age twelve. Scott remembers his dad as an impeccable record-keeper, studying his farm ledger for hours each evening. His dad encouraged him to make sure he was always paid for his work, so by age eight, Scott was making $3 per month cleaning stalls.
From a young age Scott and Jackie knew they wanted to work with animals, so when the time came they got to work pursuing their veterinary degrees. Jackie thought she would probably live on a farm again one day but she definitely didn’t expect to be farming 400 acres.
After completing their schooling, Jackie served as the veterinarian for Alpacas of America and later began her own mobile practice treating llamas and alpacas. Scott worked as a large animal veterinarian in Burlington, Washington then taught for a couple years at WSU in Pullman. In 2006 they formed Puget Sound Veterinary Group out of their home and later grew and relocated to their current location on Highway 99 in Mount Vernon.
While working on all of this, Scott and Jackie were chipping away at their hay and seed crop business in the Skagit Valley and over in Oroville, Washington. Scott’s veterinary focus is in nutrition so for him, the hay business is about creating the most nutritious product possible. He commented that he and Jackie share an addiction to seeing things go right, so for them their hay business is geared toward a boutique market of customers who are just as obsessed with nutrition as they are. As the story goes, back before they were together, Scott asked Jackie (the llama and alpaca vet) if she knew anyone who needed hay. Jackie remarked wryly that he hasn’t had trouble selling hay since.
The paths described above may seem neat and tidy now but the Waltners have certainly faced their challenges. In 2009, the year they launched their vet practice in its current location the recession hit and the bottom fell out of the llama and alpaca business. In 2018 their farm ground in Eastern Washington flooded and their 200+ planted acres of orchard grass were under water for nearly a month. Oddly enough, the 12 acres that did survive were those under the deepest water, over twenty feet. Scott remarked that he doesn’t wish hard times on anyone but it sure does give you great perspective and makes you tough.
When we asked Scott and Jackie if they had any advice for people wishing to enter the farming world they said that you can have all the passion in the world but without a plan (based in financial realities) you won’t survive. They followed that advice up quickly with their second recommendation which is to not be afraid to adapt your plan when it doesn’t work out. They also attribute a large part of their success to surrounding themselves with the right people. They both agree that success for them means being able to treat those they work with well.
Scott and Jackie both agree that beyond its great soil, the Skagit Valley is special to them because of the people. They have found an incredible and collaborative community of farmers here – the Skagit Valley is full of great neighbors! Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland wants to extend a big thank you to Scott and Jackie for taking the time to share their story with us! Want to learn more about the Waltners? You can visit them on Facebook or at Puget Sound Veterinary Group.