Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Reneker.
Katie, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
We discovered the power of elderberries when our children were preschoolers bringing home all kinds of yucky germs. I began researching natural immune boosters and discovered Elderberry Syrup–elderberries have more antioxidants than nearly every other fruit and are also anti-viral and anti-inflammatory as well. But the syrups we could get from our local health food stores tasted awful, came all the way from Europe, and often contained dubious ingredients.
When I learned that not only are elderberries a native plant to California but they were growing wild all around Carmel Valley where I live, I couldn’t believe it! A Super Fruit growing right under our noses! We planted about 70 plants right out our back door and found friends and neighbors who would let us pick berries growing on their properties in exchange for making Elderberry Syrup for them. The feedback we got for our syrup (we cold-press our juice to keep it light and delicious) was so enthusiastic we decided to go for it and created Carmel Berry Company in 2015.
Three years later, we have partnered with farmers to plant certified organic elderberries and organic meyer lemons. In addition to our Elderberry Syrup we now make an Elderflower Cordial. I kid you not, it tastes like summer sunshine! Our customers use it in cocktail, mocktail and dessert recipes and it’s absolutely delicious!
We’ve grown from being in 2 shops to 40 and sell online as well at CarmelBerry.com! Our boys have learned about the hard work that goes into creating a business and have participated in every step from planting and harvesting to labeling and packing orders.
In addition to sustainability, another one of our core values is giving back to our community. I’m so thankful that we can support local schools and non-profits throughout the year. Creating this business has deepened our ties to our community and created such wonderful relationships with other small business owners, and that perhaps is the best gift of all!
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I make Elderberry Syrup and Elderflower Cordial. All of our batches are made by hand with utmost care given to our ingredients and the cooking process. We go to great pains to source sustainably and locally whenever possible–not only our ingredients (we take pride in our dedication to small sustainable farmers), but also our packaging, labels, displays, everything! Commitment to being a green company will always cost more and take more time and perseverance, but in our minds it’s not up for negotiation.
In a way, it’s like I’m a paint-maker who then turns over the paint to artists who then utilize the paint to make their own creations. Chefs and mixologists, both at home and in restaurants, take our syrup and cordial and make the most amazing things! From homemade sodas and mocktails, to fabulous artisan cocktails, to glazed vegetables and salad dressings and desserts–I am continually amazed with what people create with our goodies.
And then there’s a good portion of our customers that simply take a shot of our Elderberry Syrup every day as a health boost because of the outrageously high antioxidants and elderberry’s ability to fight flus and colds.
The sterotype of a starving artist scares away many potentially talented artists from pursuing art – any advice or thoughts about how to deal with the financial concerns an aspiring artist might be concerned about?
Talk to others you see are on your same path, just farther along it. I’ve learned so much from not being afraid to ask questions and seek advice from other small business owners and food artisans. We are all much stronger together and I’m so thankful for the network of support and wisdom that result from the relationships created since this journey began.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Online at CarmelBerry.com, we have free shipping for orders within the contiguous United States. We’re also in retail stores in Central and Northern California and this year will be expanding down into Southern California. Stay tuned for that via our newsletter (signup on our website)–or email me your recommendations of your favorite specialty food store at Katie@carmelberry.com!
By supporting our work, you are in turn supporting small organic farmers, the good folks who help us in the kitchen, and the myriad of other small independent businesses on whom we rely for support behind the scenes. Thank you for choosing local small business!!
- Address: P.O. Box 1662
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
- Website: CarmelBerry.com
- Phone: 831-238-9973
- Email: Katie@carmelberry.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carmelberryco/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carmelberrycompany/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/carmelberryco
Laura Friesen & Aga Simpson