Now’s your opportunity to own an iconic Whatcom County berry farm

Strawberries ripe for picking at Boxx Berry Farm

Families enjoy the first day of u-picking strawberries at Boxx Berry Farm on Northwest Road north of Bellingham in 2017.
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Families enjoy the first day of u-picking strawberries at Boxx Berry Farm on Northwest Road north of Bellingham in 2017.

As much as they enjoy showing children and grownups what life is like on a family farm, Mike Boxx and his brother, Roger, have come to the realization that they can’t do it forever.

After talking to other family members, they recently decided to put Boxx Berry Farm up for sale and prepare for retirement. About 25 acres of land at 6211 Northwest Drive has an asking price of $2.1 million. The property includes the store, two homes and several other buildings on property that regularly produces strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, vegetables and flowers. There is also some extra acreage nearby that the Boxx family would also consider selling, Mike Boxx said in an interview.

While the property is up for sale, the business is not changing this year’s day-to-day business operations: U-pick for strawberries are expected to get rolling in early June, followed by the raspberries and blueberries. Festivals and other events are also being scheduled while orders for wedding flowers are being taken.

Boxx, 59, said it is their hope to sell the business to someone who will keep it going as a u-pick farm; they are even offering to let the new owners keep the name. The property is zoned for agriculture, so it would take a significant regulatory change to put in something else.

“It takes a lot of energy to run this,” Boxx said, adding that they are hoping to find someone with the energy needed to take it to that next level. Boxx said that over the years they realized that the extra work, like organizing festivals, is key to keeping the farm connected to the community.

When Mike and Rogers’ parents, Bill and Charlene, purchased the property in 1960, it was a place for family. Bill Boxx had a job at a plywood mill, but it eventually turned into a commercial operation.

In the 1980s the commercial berry prices were fluctuating, creating income uncertainty. The Boxx family saw an opportunity to go into the local fresh berry market, selling them through local farm stands. The u-pick idea also developed, creating some agriculture tourism in the area. By 2006 they added the store, which became popular for its shortcake, ice cream and shakes.

Looking back, Mike Boxx said the u-pick idea gathered momentum as society began moving away from farming.

“As we starting getting more distant from farming, more people wanted to come back and visit,” Boxx said.

Mike Boxx shows off a unripe strawberry at Boxx Berry Farm east of Ferndale in 2014. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

The farm is known for staying connected to the community in a variety of other ways, including its participation in the Bellingham Food Bank’s Small Potatoes Gleaning program. It’s also the place where some land their first job; during the harvest season the farm hires around 30 teenagers.

But for Mike Boxx, the best part has been seeing people visit the farm.

“We have fantastic, loyal customers who keep us motivated with the nice things they say,” he said.

For updates about the farm, including the start of u-pick season, visit the company’s Facebook page.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.