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Growing Toward the Sun: A Q&A With Carrie Briones

Growing Toward the Sun: A Q&A With Carrie Briones

When I first heard of Carrie Briones, I had just entered the industry. To me, this world seemed analogous with sensations reminiscent of a summer day: light dappling on greens, the zip of citrus floating on the breeze. But these images came to equal the figure of Carrie as well, for her indomitable industry spirit was conveyed through the warmth of her smile.

It seems fitting that my two-and-a-half year anniversary in fresh would coincide with writing about the maven in charge of LIV Organic Produce’s Sales and Grower Relations. Carrie, too, is aware that we each come to fresh in our own ways—whether it’s with dirt-under-your-nails experience or through the breeze of chance. Either way, whetting the produce appetite is akin to a flower turning toward the sun: inescapable and beautiful.

Charting her course has helped me realize the potential surging through every produce hopeful, whether we see it there or not. Carrie began her career 18 years ago; at the time, she was only 20 years old. Since then, she has become a formidable player, infusing those radiant images I associate with produce with those similar to connectivity: the handshake to symbolize a deal well struck, a bowed head bent forward in concentration.

But pretty images, as everyone in this industry knows, need to have magnitude and strength behind them to ensure that even the brightest minds have what it takes to conquer this ever-changing produce arena. Sitting down with Carrie, I was able to uncover just what makes her a tour de force, and how she’s going to use that power she harnesses to take LIV Organic’s operations to the next level.

Anne Allen: Carrie, you’ve become a well-known name in the produce industry now, but can you trace your produce beginnings for us?

Carrie Briones: I started working as a Coordinator at Riverside Arlington Heights Fruit Exchange—a Sunkist-affiliated company—which is where I got my start in citrus. I was doing office work and answering phones. I had no industry experience prior to that, so it opened my eyes to a whole new world I hadn’t known existed.

I moved to California’s Coachella Valley and took a position as a Sales Coordinator for Coachella Valley Citrus, where I got involved with export sales and documentation. The company was bought by Richard Bagdasarian, Inc., another Sunkist packing house. I coordinated both of their citrus packing houses for orders and began to do sales for their sister company, Pasha Marketing, selling row crops, both organic and conventional, as well as grapes. It was here that I discovered how much I loved the sales side of the industry. I also learned a tremendous amount on the grower-side.

After that, I wanted to branch out and learn some other commodities and expand the growing area for selling.

“It may be crazy, but I love the fact that this produce world is always changing. I also love working with people who share the same passion that I do about the produce we provide.”

Carrie Briones, Sales and Grower Relations, LIV Organic Produce

AA: You’ve traversed this produce path through the sales and growing sides, all while building a strong career along the way. Which industry members have helped build up your skills?

CB: While I was working for Richard Bagdasarian, I gained a lot of experience in both sales and organic commodities. During my time there, I met Franz DeKlotz, as well as Craig Armstrong, both of whom taught me invaluable lessons about the industry.

Franz taught me so much, I don’t even know where to start. From diving into growing costs to maximizing sales, Franz was constantly teaching me the lay of the land. And Craig was instrumental in teaching me about harvest and field practices. We actually still work very closely together on certain projects!

AA: When you made the leap to LIV Organic Produce, what first drew you to the team?

CB: LIV’s business model was very exciting to me, given that we work directly with growers to help them plan crops and better maximize returns. This way, we can provide retailers with fruit from high-quality growers, and that’s become a huge part of my ethos as a saleswoman. In my position here, I’m responsible for an already hefty citrus program, as well as making sure that all of our family farmers feel supported.

It may be crazy, but I love the fact that this produce world is always changing. I also love working with people who share the same passion that I do about the produce we provide. It is so rewarding to see the process from the dirt to the store and knowing we are providing food for people.

“It is so rewarding to see the process from the dirt to the store and knowing we are providing food for people.”

AA: As you’ve become more acquainted with the operations at LIV, where do you see the future of the company headed?

CB: Having our relationships with many families and multi-generational growers, over decades of service, has given us a tremendous start in achieving our goal—to continue to help them establish, maintain, and leverage a stable spot in the supply chain. We are here to be long-term partners, but we also understand we need to show results sooner than later. There’s an immediate need for these established family farms to have a presence and some level of security in the changing marketplace.

The LIV organic team and I work with our core group of growers to expand acreage and explore new commodities. What allows us to be so nimble is that LIV Organic is a tight, teamwork-oriented company where our work ethic and our commitment are transparent to our customers. Our values also allow us to be able to provide our growers with fair and sustainable returns on top of providing a premium product to our customers.

As LIV Organic Produce continues to develop its organic programs and fine-tune its approach to supply-side excellence, I hope that my career in fresh will run the length of Carrie’s—so I can watch the continued evolution of this produce star.