Dairy farmers with roots in Holland establish North County campus legacy
Written by Rhonda Morin
Growing up on dairy farms instilled a lifelong passion for Hank Boschma and his future wife, Bernice. Early morning milking, feeding, calving, mucking the stalls and moving the cows to pasture was physically demanding. However, the work was also rewarding and it shaped their future while living in the province of Friesland, in the northwest of the Netherlands.
Graphic by Wei Zhuang, Clark College
One of eight children, Boschma grew up in the village of Oppenhuizen and Bernice in the even smaller village of Tjalhuizen with her 10 brothers and sisters. Farming was a necessity and their family’s way of life, while education was secondary. Bernice attended elementary school through the 6th grade, than transitioned to a girls-only school for two years to learn mathematics, sewing, housecleaning and cooking. Boschma finished a year of farm school following graduation from 7th grade.
Boschma intended to be a dairy farmer. There were multiple boys in his family and traditionally an older brother would take ownership of the family farm. In order to achieve his dream of being a small business owner, Boschma decided to try his luck in the United States. He contacted a brother who already lived in the U.S., immigrated to Southern California in 1955 and remained there for the next five years.
It was on return trips home that he reconnected with Bernice and they fell in love. She was 23 when he asked her to leave the life she knew and move to California for an opportunity to start their own dairy business. She accepted. The couple married in the U.S. and a year later—in 1962—they moved to Woodland, Wash., to rent farmland.
The Boschmas relocated to Ridgefield in 1965, renting land northeast of the Interstate 5 junction at Pioneer Street. They bought 110 acres from Thelma Lund in 1968, added another 75 acres later and farmed the land until 1979. Starting with 44 Holsteins, by the time they rented the land in 1979 to move to Ferndale, Wash., there were 200 head.Fast forward to 2014 and the same land that sustained the Boschma family in the early years is now the future home of Clark College. In May, Clark College Foundation received a $3.12 million gift of land from the family, in addition to paying $5.67 million, for 59.24 acres.
Furthermore, the foundation announced a second land donation in June from Ridgefield East 1 Associates LLC. The 10 acres is adjacent to the Boschma tract and a roundabout, thereby serving as a gateway to the new campus. The Ridgefield East transaction consisted of a $731,550 land donation, accompanied by a $1.99 million purchase price.
Clark College at Boschma Farms—as the campus will be known—is expected to be a boon for the region and represents a long-term visionary chapter for the growth anticipated at Clark College. The college’s 2007 Facilities Master Plan identified North County as an area where the college could fulfill its mission of providing access to an underserved area of the service district. The Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges has prioritized building projects for the upcoming biennium. Depending on the state-funding process, construction of the first building could occur in 2020.
Photo by Jenny Shadley, Clark College
Boschma, 80, and Bernice, 76, now live on a 20-acre tract of land in Lynden, Wash., where Boschma continues to drive his tractor and grow grass for cattle. “He loves to farm,” said his daughter, Shirley Rubbert, adding, “He’ll never be done with farming.”
The Boschmas are excited about the opportunities the Ridgefield land will offer the community. They themselves benefited from a Clark experience early in their lives: each took a citizenship course in preparation for the national exam. Boschma became a U.S. citizen in 1967; Bernice in 1978. Also, their daughter Gerry attended Clark.
“My parents are pleased that there will be many benefits for the residents who will have higher education nearby and for the revenue that will be generated for the city of Ridgefield,” said Rubbert.