Exploring Boughton Farm, Copley’s 150-year-old pick-your-own property

words and photos by Colleen Carroll

While digging for some fresh veggies at Boughton Farm, you may unearth some rich history as well.

The year was 1853. The buggy business was booming. In France, Vincent Van Gogh was born. Uncle Tom’s Cabin stirred tension along the Mason-Dixon line and cholera was Public Enemy No. 1. 

And in what would become Copley, off a dead-end road, Boughton Farm was founded.

“[The farm] has gone through many, many changes,” says Richard Boughton, current family patriarch and farmer. “There have been many generations through here.”

Richard recounted an illustrious history of the land and family. Boughton Farm quickly became a staple of the young Copley Township. In the 1860s, Truman Boughton served as the superintendent of the local school, when class was held in one room and the only teacher made $27 a month. The farm predates the city of Fairlawn and the Pony Express.

Richard’s tales include archeologists finding Erie arrowheads, an ancestor’s fatal carriage accident at a William McKinley campaign rally and a mysterious fratricide in the family. The farm paints something of an A&E special. 

The current location of the farm on Boughton Drive has passed through four generations of family and has experienced an ever-evolving business strategy. Richard explains that between the 1950s and the 1980s, Boughton Farm cycled through harvesting mass amounts of celery, radishes and potatoes. The farm distributed to grocery chains in the area including Acme, Schaffer’s and A&P. 

But farming wholesale became difficult because agriculture standards were fit to conform to large industrialized sized farms and put strains on the small family business.

“You are under the pressure of deadlines. You may have a flooded field, but [the store] is wondering why you don’t have product,” Richard says. “They’re expecting a product for a major store.”

The farm stopped producing commercially and became a pick-your-own farm several years ago.

“Basically, I plant [according to] what our customers want and how much work I want to do,” says Richard.  

Pick-your-own farms are exactly what they sound like: Customers are given baskets and left to pick as they please among the 25 acres. A map of the farm’s layout is used to pinpoint specific plants. Farm employees (many of whom are Boughton relatives) are available for further assistance in the fields. 

“Sometimes people aren’t sure what they are picking or are not sure what is actually ready to be picked,” says Kathy Nelson, a farm employee and Richard’s daughter. “Especially the hot peppers. I usually have a sample so [customers] know, OK, this is really hot.”

Kathy describes a diverse customer pool. Visitors include a large Nepali and Bhutanese crowd drawn by the impressive variety of those hot peppers and parents who bring kids as an ecological learning experience. And sometimes, people are just looking for a little quiet. 

“It’s like a big giant garden,” Kathy says. “A number of our customers come out because they know it’s peaceful and relaxing.”

Boughton Farm also runs a market in the later summer months where customers can grab already picked items from shelves. The most productive seasons tend to fall in the late summer, running late July through late fall. Shoppers may pick a variety of produce, including peppers, corn, tomatoes, and a variety of beans. The farm also grows melons, but Kathy says they discourage visitors from picking them because most people don’t know how. 

Picking and availability is always dependent on the seasonal climate, and it’s best to look at the farm’s website for updates on inventory of certain fruits and vegetables. 

“We really are at the mercy of the environment here,” explains Kathy. “You have so many variables involved. You think you do everything to the best of your ability and then leave it up to Mother Nature.”

The 166-year-old land has plenty to offer. Whether you’re looking for a new experience, a history lesson or some fresh veggies, you’re bound to dig up something exciting at Boughton Farm. 

Boughton Farm operating hours are dependent on the availability of produce. Updates can be found on the Boughton Farm Facebook page or by calling 330-864-6102.

Colleen Carroll is a journalism student at Kent State University.