Monterey County, California is known for its picturesque rugged coastlines, but if you travel inland from Big Sur, over the mountains and into the valley, you might come across a farm sporting acres upon acres of fresh herbs, flowers, regional greenery, and other beautiful plants. (Its wonderful scents might even lead you to it!) Through the year, these plants are grown, harvested, and dried, all leading up to when they’re transformed into unique wreaths that are shipped around the country to adorn the homes of thousands of customers.
This is Creekside Farms. The family-owned business was started in 1988 by two parents, and today, more than 30 years later, the company is going strong with 30 employees, 20 acres of farmland, and dozens of designs for every season.
It All Started With Pepperberries
While wreaths are now their bread and butter, Creekside Farms actually started out as a flower company. Carol and Larry Umbarger were looking for a way to make a bit of extra income when their kids went off to college, so they started selling flowers. However, the market was competitive, and Carol knew they needed to find a niche if they were going to thrive.
“Carol was in Santa Barbara one time and noticed there were pepperberries hanging in an antique shop that were $15 for a little bunch,” explains Teri Umbarger, Carol’s daughter-in-law and the current designer and marketing and sales director for Creekside Farms. “She thought, ‘There are pepperberries all over our valley—This is what I’m going to do!’”
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The family started collecting and selling dried pepperberries, which eventually helped them connect with the upscale garden lifestyle brand, Smith and Hawken. In a stroke of fate, the company asked if Carol would assist one of its vendors in making wreaths, as they were struggling to keep up with demand. With no wreath-making experience to speak of, the family accepted the challenge.
“They learned how to make a wreath on a pool table,” says Umbarger. “They put plywood over it, and made 3,000 wreaths in three weeks.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Inside the World of Farm-to-Door Wreaths
In a world where nearly everything we buy is manufactured in unmarked factories far, far away, it’s always refreshing to find a product that’s entirely made by hand from start to finish. At Creekside Farms, every step of wreath creation takes place on their farm in Greenfield, California, from planting and growing the ingredients to packing and shipping out the finished product.
Locally Grown Ingredients
If you browse the Creekside Farms website, you’ll see they offer an array of wreaths using all types of materials, colors, and patterns. That makes it hard to believe the family actually grows most of their supplies on their two farms—their newer 15-acre main facility, and the original five-acre family ranch.
“We grow the majority of our wreath supplies,” says Umbarger. “We grow lots of herbs—culinary herbs and others that dry well and hold their color. We also have eucalyptus trees, olive trees, and pepperberry trees.” They use the smaller of the two farms to grow the sweetest-smelling lavender, as well.
For ingredients that aren’t conducive to California weather, they purchase from other farms. “During the fall and holiday season, we bring in greenery like cedar and fir, which doesn’t grow here, but still try to incorporate something to make the wreaths unique to us—usually a California green.”
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Natural Designs and Natural Ingredients
In addition to serving as the company’s marketing and sales director, Teri Umbarger is also the creative force behind the company’s beautiful designs.
“I design all our wreaths,” she says. “I look at what’s out on the internet, in magazines, in catalogs, and something will catch my eye. I’ll use that as inspiration and tweak it to match our look, which is pretty distinct.”
Fans of the brand could probably pick Creekside Farms wreaths out of a lineup in, like, five seconds, but what exactly is it that makes the wreaths unique? Umbarger says it’s because they pride themselves on valuing imperfection. “We use elements that are natural, and we like our wreaths to be natural-looking,” says Umbarger. “I like them to be a little more wild and realistic—not like a doughnut in a perfect circle!” She also explains that they keep things as natural throughout the manufacturing process, avoiding the use of pesticides and other harmful treatments as much as possible.
The end result? Stunning wreaths that are eye-catching, fragrant, and absolutely adored by customers.