A family that wants to increase awareness of agriculture and how food gets to our tables recently became co-owners of Whatcom County’s Bellewood Acres.
Eric and Julie Abel, plus their son and daughter-in-law Blake and Janelle Abel, recently acquired Bellewood Acres with founders John and Dorie Belisle. Bellewood Acres includes 62 acres with apple and pear orchards and a 14,000-square-foot building containing a store, café, bakery and distillery. The property is located at 6140 Guide Meridian, about halfway between Bellingham and Lynden.
“We admire the legacy of Bellewood in our community and combined with our love for agriculture it became an obvious fit for our family,” said Eric Abel, now president of Bellewood Acres. “We also sought an environment where we could grow together as a family and now we have three generations right here on the farm.”
All four family members have key leadership roles now in Bellewood Acres. Julie Abel serves as store and café manager. Blake Abel is vice president and oversees farm operations and the 21 varieties of apples and six varieties of pears grown in the orchards. Janelle Abel is the marketing and community relations director, responsible for promoting in-store sales and sales to other retailers, including Haggen Northwest Fresh, two Community Food Co-op stores and seven Metropolitan Market stores in the Greater Seattle area.
There’s plenty for everyone to do since Bellewood Acres harvested 1.7 million pounds of apples this year and is visited by more than 50,000 people annually.
The Abel family first heard about Bellewood Acres being placed for sale a year ago from childhood friends Wes and Diane Herman, founders of the Woods Coffee chain in Northwest Washington and British Columbia. After much consideration, the Abel family reached an agreement with the Belisle family, who are currently helping the new team transition into the ownership role.
The Abel family doesn’t plan any major changes immediately, but it does plan to become involved with community and agricultural organizations. The distillery will add a hard cider next year to its eight existing types of spirits.
Eric Abel’s professional background is in marketing and product development, which will come into play as Bellewood Acres reaches out to include younger customers. But his appreciation of agriculture started as a child at his grandfather’s citrus orchard, which grew oranges and grapefruits. He wants people to share his appreciation of farmland and the food it produces.
“How can we get people interested in where food comes from and how things grow?” Abel asked. “How can we show the importance of foods in relationship to family time and the impact on community? Those are the questions that I want to join others locally in answering.”
Bellewood Acres began in 1996 when John and Dorie Belisle and their family started planting apple trees on the former Van Kooten dairy at 231 Ten Mile Road.
“By 2000, we began selling apples to our local schools and Haggen Northwest Fresh,” Dorie Belisle said. “In 2002, we opened our farm to the public and have enjoyed the support of our community ever since. Now it is time for us to retire to spend more time with our children and grandchildren. We are so proud to leave our farm in such great hands. Please help us welcome the Abel family.”
The Bellewood Acres store, café and distillery will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through the end of the year. For more information, call (360) 318-7720 or visit www.bellewoodfarms.com.
MEDIA NOTE: The “w” in Bellewood Acres is no longer being capitalized.
The photo includes, from left: Julie, Eric, Raylee, Blake, Janelle and Rowe Abel. Raylee and Rowe Abel are the children of Blake and Janelle Abel.