September 24, 2019 • 7 min read • 6 comments
Lynch Creek Farm began in 1980 and has been a smooth, easy ride to where we are today. Just kidding about the smooth and easy part, but it has been a ride! A wild, fun, and challenging ride, and worth it all. The big magic started small as a hobby farm in Shelton, Washington. My family grew organic vegetables before organic was trendy and sold our produce at the Shelton Farmers Market on the weekends. In 1983, the farm broadened to include flowers, allowing our family to go “big time” by moving to the larger Olympia Farmers Market and including flower bouquets in the seasonal offerings. I remember getting up at 5 am on Saturdays to harvest the veggies and flowers for the weekend market. And I especially remember the deprivation and cruelty of missing out on Saturday morning cartoons! Occasionally my two brothers and I would resist the early morning summons hoping for a few more minutes of sleep only to be dragged by our ankles from our warm beds by our dad. Time and radishes wait for no man, and those fields had to be harvested.
As the farm grew, we introduced our first evergreen Christmas wreaths, which allowed us to stay at the market through the winter season. This was the first time I had ever made a Christmas wreath by hand. I don’t think I initially took to wreath-making like a duck to water but did learn fairly quickly. I enjoyed the creative process so much that even when I was busy in college, I’d come home on my winter breaks to make wreaths. Our business was still very part-time, but with all of us kids still in school and the farm growing, more help was needed. And so the farm became a job opportunity for our friends and extended family. In 1992, my mom opened up a flower shop called Lynch Creek Floral on the family property and began selling fresh flower bouquets out of a small house, originally built for our Gramma Hunter. We kids went off to college and had other adventures while Mom and Dad continued to run the floral business and maintain the farm activities, eventually moving the floral shop to a storefront in town.
Throughout the 1990s the floral business took priority over the veggies, allowing Dad to retire from his job at the Forest Service and start his second career as a full-time flower delivery driver. During the winter, Dad had a couple of part-time helpers to keep up with Christmas evergreen orders. The offerings in the early days were very traditional and very limited compared with the current selection, with a total of only five holiday evergreen products. Orders were taken in only two ways, mail order and phone calls. Mail would be eagerly awaited in hopes of finding a couple of orders with checks attached!
In 1998, I returned home from college and jumped back into the family business. I remember the first year back working for my dad as being the most challenging. It hurts a little more when you’re 20-something and getting dragged out of bed by your ankles! By the end of 1998, Dad had officially retired from the farm and wreath activities and turned it over to me. Unsure what the future of the farm would hold, I made a five-year goal: to be able to support myself on the overgrown hobby and, with any luck, turn that hobby into a real business.
The early 2000s were a busy time at the farm! Both Christmas products in the winter months and flowers, specifically dahlias, in the spring and summer months, were growing in popularity. Lynch Creek Farm now offered dahlia tubers for sale online and at the Olympia Farmers Market. With the sale of tubers, along with the introduction of decorated wreaths during the winter, the farm was keeping me incredibly busy. The business could now support my short-term goal of moving out of my parents’ house! Shortly after I moved out, I got married. Making amazing products and growing the business had always been my focus and now, with many decorated wreath designs to choose from, the sky seemed to be the limit. The addition of online sales and a color catalog each year helped promote the business to new levels. The garage that had been used for years was now surrounded by two huge circus tents in the winter. It worked for a time, but changes were coming. Mostly because Henry the potbelly pig, who had been displaced by the wreath operation, wanted his garage back, and he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer!
We were certainly growing up as a business. Not only did we sell fresh handmade wreaths and garland, but we were also now selling fresh centerpieces as well. It was time the farm had a place of its own. The year was 2009, and we found an unused airplane hangar at the Port of Shelton to lease and convert into a place where we could make all the wreaths that our fledgling business demanded. I’d never dreamed that eventually we’d use all 13,000 square feet of that place! But we did, and more, and eventually acquired an additional building to use totaling 30,000 square feet. We learned how to drive forklifts, bought conveyors, computers, a phone system, and started a customer service team. Bow makers (who hand-tied all of our bows) worked full time year-round to keep up with the bow tying needed for the business. The farm was also supporting a number of families by employing individuals to help out during the shipping season. What began as a hobby to keep us kids out of trouble in the 1980s had turned into a thriving business with the potential to support a lot of people and do a lot of good in the community. And if you’re wondering... yes, I did reach my five-year goal of supporting the Hunter Family, and I didn’t have to go out and find a “real” job!
In 2016, our lease at the Port of Shelton was up and we were forced to make tough decisions with regard to our location. The business was growing at a steady clip year after year and we needed a facility that could fit our needs well into the future. Fortunately, there was an old mothballed sawmill that became available, but it was in serious disrepair. Boy, did we take on a massive project that year! It was a little nuts. Many able hands didn’t exactly make the work light, but they did make it possible for us to get the mill converted into a usable space for the fast approaching wreath season. The warehouses were piled ceiling-high with milling equipment (no joke!), so when the scrap metal team was done, we had to clear concrete footings and then start from scratch. With no power to the building and no walls, we had our hands full. We had to pull new power lines, bring in internet, construct new walls, build a cooler, install heating and cooling, insulation, doors, windows, the works! It was a difficult space to work with, but with ingenuity and plenty of blood, sweat, and (a few?) tears, we saw the mill transformed into a fantastic place for wreath-making. Whew! It was a close call but we did it and we were, and still are, so grateful to the community and staff for all the help along the way.
For the last couple of years, we’ve been settling into our new space and continuing to adapt the place to meet our ever-growing needs. We are now operating from a total of 100,000 square feet on 10 acres of land with the help of almost 400 employees and many more support staff. We have 8 bow makers now hand-tying our bows all year long to get ready for the next Christmas season. It blows our minds thinking about how it all started. But even as we continue to grow and expand, our priorities remain the same. We are committed to making and shipping beautiful, high-quality evergreen Christmas products every single time. We love what we do, which makes the farm a fun place to work. I love knowing that our product is as beautiful and fresh as it can be when it’s delivered to people. Our customers have really learned to expect the best from us.
You might be wondering what the future holds for Lynch Creek Farm... Only time can tell, but there are a few things we are committed to. We will continue to produce amazing products, employ only the best people who care for the company and its values, and along the way, we will, as always, have fun. This is Andy by the way and as I’m writing this, it’s the early morning and I need to wrap up our story. My wife and I have two girls, as you might have seen in one of the catalogs showing off our wreaths. Our girls are now 12 and 14 and it’s about that time of day that I make sure they’re awake, just like my dad used to do for me. Someday they will look back, as I do, and appreciate these early morning wake up call by the ankles! :)
Thank you to all of our customers who have supported the farm for so many years. It truly means the world to me. Cheers to you.
~ Andy Hunter, Owner
See a video of the journey of a wreath at the farm