Russ and Lori Walk own Quest Haven Lodge in the Appalachian Mountains of central Pennsylvania.
Through the many challenges they’ve faced, Russ and Lori have found great success as business owners and whitetail deer breeders.
In the beginning…
Russ and Lori were high school sweethearts who married shortly after graduation. Lori worked a minimum wage job in a department store. Russ worked seven days a week in a factory and, after his eight hours/day, he worked an additional eight hours logging to supplement the new family’s income.
In his limited spare time, Russ was avid about hunting and trapping. These were his passions; and trapping became a way to provide a few extra dollars around the holidays. Lori tried her hand at home sales, dreaming of making a successful home business to help supplement all Russ’ hard work. All the while, the family dreamed of raising their growing family on a farm out in the country.
A chance encounter
The years passed. As Lori prepared to graduate from college, Russ was seriously injured in a logging accident, nearly costing his life. After a slow recovery, the Walks dream of a living on a farm became a reality. It was a day like any other. The Walks were at home when a man came to the front door to ask if Russ would haul a load of logs. They were located on a neighboring farmer’s property, a property the farmer was looking to sell.
It took Russ one visit to fall in love with the land. He came home so excited, telling Lori that it was exactly the kind of place they had always dreamed of purchasing. However, Russ’ excitement soon turned to disappointment. He walked the property with the farm and realized that it was much larger than he imagined, much larger than he and Lori could afford.
Making it happen, despite the odds
Russ and Lori thought long and hard about their finances and how much money they could make from selling everything: their home, property, cows. Then came the math to determine how much could they afford to borrow, all in hopes of making an offer on their dream farm.
The numbers didn’t add up, even with support from Farm Credit. Despite having less than the asking price, they were so in love with the property that they decided to make an offer anyway. To everyone’s surprise, twenty-four hours later, the two bachelors who owned the property accepted the Walks’ offer, saying their mom would have wanted to see children on their family homestead again. Lori and Russ could hardly believe it.
Creative ways to turn a profit
Within a month of purchasing the property, Russ was permanently laid off. However, never being a man to give up or lose site of the future, he set up a sawmill. In so doing, he transformed the family business from logging to lumber, which was much more lucrative. Lori went to work at her first teaching job and, even at a young age, the Walk boys all worked alongside their dad.
Russ’s next entrepreneurial idea was to breed whitetail deer. He traveled the country to learn all he could from the top breeders in the nation and bought the top genetics from across the country to develop a doe herd. The first breeder buck the Walks purchased cost more than they spent to build their home, but that decision put them in the spotlight of the industry. Soon, the business was flourishing.
The Walks used the revenue from breeding the whitetail to build Quest Haven Lodge, a hunting lodge that doubles as a retreat center. As the number of hunters increased and the genetic foundation grew stronger each year, Quest Haven expanded to include two additional properties spanning more than 2,200 acres.
Farm Credit, a relationship through the ages
“What I really like about Horizon Farm Credit are the loan officers that we've dealt with. They get to know you personally and also our business,” Lori said. “Our interest is their interest, and it's not like you have a different person every time you need to do business. We have one person that we work with all the time.”
Russ agrees, “We know that they're more than just a loan officer. They’ve become friends and that’s the key.”
Thinking towards the next generation, Lori and Russ are excited to see their children intimately involved with the family business, as well as carrying on the tradition with Farm Credit. “I think the fact that our children now are stepping up, and they're also going with Farm Credit, is a great testament to Farm Credit for the amazing job they've done with our business and helping us to make it prosper,” Lori said.