Family operates lone dairy in county
Area offers good weather for cows, farmer says
By ERICK PETERSON
For the Capital Press
Though widely considered a cowboy town, Ellensburg, Wash., does not have many milking cows. All of Kittitas County has only a single dairy, and the family that operates it is not quite sure why it is the only one.
Mike and Kenny Scott are the primary operators of Scott's Dairy, taking over their father's operation in 1999. Their father, Kenneth, started the dairy in 1959 in Enumclaw, Wash., and then moved to Ellensburg, a small town in Central Washington, in 1971.
A small dairy with 160 milking cows, it has five employees -- the two brothers, Mike's wife and son, and the semi-retired Kenneth.
"He's 79," Mike said about his father. "But he can't quit. It's an old-school thing."
According to Mike, it is typical for people in his industry to continue working, doing whatever they can around the farm to help.
Mike is 51, and he thinks that his fate is the same.
"I'll be doing this for a while," he said. "I don't know anything else."
In this way, he said, he is a lot like his father.
His condition is not exactly the same, however, as succession is not as clearly set in stone. It is still too early to say whether his son will continue dairying as a career.
Larger dairies have an advantage, he said.
One reason, according to Mike, is that there are more regulations now than in the past. He does not complain about this, and he thinks that environmental protection is necessary and good, but it seems to him that larger dairies are better equipped to comply with the regulations than smaller dairies. Small dairies -- those that have less than 1,000 cows -- have a small profit margin, he said.
Sometimes he thinks about what the potential closure of his dairy would mean. For instance, it would leave his county without a single dairy. Mike wonders about this. Why is there only one dairy in Kittitas County, while there are many dairies in neighboring Yakima County?
"I honestly don't know," he said. He thinks that it might have something to do with its location. He has heard of many dairies leaving the west side of the state and relocating in the Columbia Basin. They move to Yakima County or Benton County.
It may have to do with warmer weather farther east, but he cannot be certain, he said. What makes it particularly strange is that his area is fine for cows, he said.
"What I like about Ellensburg, the wind blows and it cools off the cows in the summer. They don't have that in the Lower Valley," he said.
Location: Ellensburg, Wash.
Owners: Kenneth Scott, Mike Scott and Kenny Scott
Years operating: Since 1999 (as Scott's Dairy)
Cooperative membership: Darigold
Total cows: 160 (milking)
Quote: "I'll be doing this for a while. I don't know anything else." -- Mike Scott