It’s going to be tough this Inter-Dependence Day, going through the dinner line and having to choose between Link Lab Brats made from Chimacum Tamworths or the flavor-packed beef burgers made from Chuck and Julie Boggs’ Westbrook Angus.
Chuck and Julie have been breeding high-end registered Black Angus on their pristine 90 acre spread of West Valley bottomland since 1970. The bulk of their business consists of breeding stock sales to east-of-the-mountains ranchers who are willing to pay premium prices for the finely pedigreed Westbrook bulls and heifers. As a sideline, the Boggs butcher a few of their Angus for local beef consumption (using the “Puget Sound Meat Producer Cooperative” USDA facility and Bremerton’s old time butcher shop,”Minders Meats”). LUCKY US!!!
But let’s get back to the looming brat vs. burger decision July 6th… Let’s say after much deliberation, you decide on a burger. How is this finely pedigreed patty going to taste as you sip Heidi’s lemonade and tap your foot to the Crow Quill Night Owls? MIGHTY FINE! Although The Boggs will “grain finish” their cows on request (gives beef a mellower flavor), the beef they sell through the Corner has been 100% grass-finished. All of their cattle have been given some supplemental grain when they are first weaned. Besides breeding their beef for temperament, health, and body build (i.e. more rib eye!), they also breed for muscle and marbling, which gives the meat a fine, less course texture.
Currently the Boggs graze a little over 60 head of cattle on their property about a mile south of Chimacum Corner. During the warmer weather (May through September), the bigger cattle get to head to the lush wooded hills and grassy dells of Elkhorn Ranch, the original 160 acre Van Trojan homestead at the end of Van Trojen Rd (officially misspelled). Due to cougar and bear, the calves and brood cows stay behind in the valley where they’re safe under Julie’s vigilant eye. If Julie isn’t in the field with them, chances are she’s at one of her West Valley home’s big picture windows, peering down at them through binos.
Although Chuck and Julie are both livestock pros, it’s obvious Julie is really the heart and brains of the breeding operation. Walking the pasture with her, she recognizes everyone of the herd by name, describes who begat who, where each is in their cycle, and on and on if you let her. Despite the presence of several bulls on the farm, Julie does all her breeding with artificial insemination as she wants strict control over the calves’ genetics and time of birth.
Now as long as we’re talking pedigree, let’s talk Julie — Chimacum and cows both run deep in her blood. Her great grandfathers, H. L. Blanchard and James McClelland, were the first in her family to settle in Chimacum and pretty much everyone has stuck around since. Julie and her 5 sibs were raised on West Valley by Wally Westergaard and May Christie, who milked cows, raised beef cattle and managed the Cenex store. Goes without saying Julie was active in 4-H. When she married Chuck in 1970, they bought their first Angus from Julie’s parent’s business, West Acres Angus.
But enough about Julie, Chuck has plenty of his own chores about the farm. Besides tending to the fields and infrastructure, he does all the haying — necessary if the cows are to eat grass year round. And like Julie, Chuck has pedigree – old family roots and Chimacum dairy experience growing up. His maternal great uncle was William Furlong who jumped ship in the mid 1850s, settling in Port Townsend. Chuck grew up in PT, but frequently ventured out to Chimacum to work for his uncle, Doug McConaghy, who ran a dairy on Beaver Valley near Egg and I Road.
We asked Chuck and Julie how they met. In 1967, a couple years out of high school,Chuck Boggs was a little bit bored. See, Port Townsend back then didn’t offer a whole lot of fun for a single guy of his age, especially on the weekends. That summer word got out there was a place a few miles down the road in Chimacum that featured live music and plenty of free parking. Since no alcohol was served (at least inside), you didn’t have to be 21 to get in. It was called the “Country Corners Dancehall” and it stood on the same spot that Chimacum Corner Farmstand stands today.
One night he ran into a local gal he had heard about named Julie Westergaard. After a couple of dances it was clear the two of them were on to something. It didn’t take long before they got serious, married in 1970 and started raising beef cattle at Julie’s family’s place on West Valley road. Two kids and six grandkids later they’re still at it. They did other things to support the farming (Julie drove a school bus for the Chimacum School District for 28 years and Chuck worked as the fire chief), but we know where their hearts lie — with the cattle and each other. Chimacum is far luckier for it.
Oh, one last thing… Judging from Chuck’s hat, we think we know what he’s choosing for dinner on Inter-Dependence Day. And it’s not Brats. But that is if he can even make it – hope so, but it’s haying season.