On Thursdays or Fridays I do my locavore shopping, looking for ingredients to inspire these weekly recipes. I usually start at Terra Organica, because all their produce is organic. Next I go to the Community Food Co-op. Both stores label produce sources prominently so local food is easy to find.
Inspiration didn’t strike, though, until I got to Boxx Berry Farm. I stopped there last because it was a warm afternoon, my daughter and grandson were with me, and I had strawberry shortcake in mind. Boxx has outdoor picnic tables and a Shortcake Shack in their farm store where you can get Edaleen ice cream, strawberry sundaes, and strawberry shortcake–delicious!
A couple of fellows were working on an electrical outlet near our table. We started talking, joking about duct tape and so on, and I told them how much I’d enjoyed their luscious strawberries a week earlier. Within minutes we’d been invited for an impromptu tour of the farm, hosted by Mike Boxx, one of the owners (and electrical fixture fixer).
We hopped into a small ATV and headed out to the fields. Mike explained that the Boxx family has been farming this spot for fifty years. They own 80 acres and lease another 30. They obviously take pride in their work, because the farm is meticulously tended.
We first passed the extensive flower gardens Mike’s mother manages. She sells lush, colorful arrangements in the store, as well as taking orders for weddings and special events. Boxx also has an outdoor covered venue located in a lovely, park-like setting where they can host events for up to 200 people.
Next we stopped to talk to Dan Coyne, who is in his second year of operating Half Acre Farm, an organic u-pick operation located on Boxx property. Some of Dan’s produce is available in the Boxx farm store for people who don’t want to pick their own. Dan recently started growing herbs, too, and raises tomatoes in a greenhouse. Peas, both snow and sugar snap, are currently ready for picking in Dan’s patch.
Highlight of the tour for me was our stop in the berry fields, where we tasted the season’s first fresh raspberries–my favorite! Boxx raises strawberries, raspberries, marionberries, and more. Boxx also allows u-picking in their berry rows. Check at their store for details, and pick up the handout with expected harvest dates for each Boxx crop.
Mike talked about some of the challenges of making a living on a family farm in Whatcom County. “We pick our berries when they are ripe and at the peak of flavor,” he says, “and because of that they have a short shelf life. That can be a problem.” Their ideal scenario is to pick and pack early in the morning, transport immediately to the stores, have the store staff get the products onto the rack for purchase right away, and have the consumer purchase and prepare the berries the same day. Needless to say, that’s sometimes difficult to achieve, but the resulting food quality is worth the effort. Are their berries organic? “Unless you can afford to lose a whole year’s berry crop,” Mike says,”in this climate you have to control for mold.” They use one fungicide, applied mostly during the flowering stage.
Located about eight miles from Bellingham at 6211 Northwest Road (Ferndale), Boxx’s farm store is well worth a visit. Besides produce and berries, they also sell jams, syrup, pickles, cheesecakes, and much more. Watch for Boxx’s annual Raspberry Festival in July, which includes free raspberry sundaes, wagon rides, kiddie train rides, face painting and more.
So what was the recipe inspiration I found at Boxx’s farm store for this week’s recipe? Cherries–but raised in Chelan, not Whatcom County. Let me explain.
“Terroir,” or “taste of a place,” is a term most often used to describe wine or cheese, where the same variety has a different flavor simply because it was grown or raised on different soil. It’s part of what makes a burgundy from France different than a burgundy from the same grapes grown elsewhere. When I can’t find a locally produced ingredient, I try to buy from regional areas known for excellence in producing that ingredient, and buy from family farms in that area, if possible. The Chelan cherries sold by Boxx are a perfect example of “terroir.”
Here’s the menu for this week:
- Cherry Corn Pancakes
- Scrambled Eggs
Note: I’ve since seen Whatcom-grown cherries in the Community Food Co-op, and Cloud Mountain Farm in Everson produces cherries, too.