There are few industries that get you up before first light. Most mornings, by the time many folks roll over and turn off the alarms on their nightstands with tired eyes and stretch into the new day, those in fresh produce are up. Under the mask of darkness, they are checking the market reports, reading the weather like fortune tellers read tea leaves, and improvising a day that begins long before the sun stretches over the horizon.
They are the supply-side of our industry.
They are a band of steady and unyielding individuals who forecast, wager, and risk—again and again.
There must be something in the connective tissue of teams and companies like this that allow them a superhuman quality—tirelessly sowing the future ahead. As the team at LIV Organic Produce might tell me, it’s like training inside the fire—a melding of minds and intentions, all leading to the possibility of growth, of building a muscle to compete, of working long into the night till that horizon line becomes morning.
Expansion is the reward for such desire and drive.
“We live and breathe as a team, and that reality has allowed us to achieve growth head-on in a rather short amount of time. When we speak of being a team, we mean it with the greatest of intention,” Carrie Briones tells me. Having joined LIV Organic in late 2018, she pauses to make sure she chooses the right words to speak of the dynamic group the team has built. “We invest in everyone on a personal and professional level, and I can speak for myself when I say that this is one of the main reasons I gravitated toward the company. That level of investment in our people is strongly mirrored by their belief in what we do as a company. I think this belief system is what has allowed us to grow so rapidly. It has permitted us to grow our team and, now, our operations.”
That growth comes in the form of expansion—a multitiered approach for LIV Organic Produce, with Carrie, Head of Sales and Grower Relations, leading the charge on the company’s latest endeavor to build a higher value program for its customers. With the acquisition and upgrading of a packing house nestled in the advantageous locale of Oceanside, California, the company is setting itself up for a future of unlimited potential.
As a long-term investment, this recent move positions LIV Organic’s operations and its vision for indefinite expansion, and the individual’s inclusion is a part of that vision.
“From the beginning, when we founded the company in 2018, our team knew we needed a family-like foundation built on consistent, premium supplies from several family-run farms. This, combined with strategic packing facilities, would allow us to bring the finest organic fruit and vegetables in California and Mexico to the market,” Anthony Innocenti, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, reflects when I ask him what this latest move by the team means for the company, and for him personally.
Since acquiring the facility and the land it sits on, LIV Organic has made several upgrades to its packing line and bagging equipment.
“We live and breathe as a team, and that reality has allowed us to achieve growth head-on...”
Carrie Briones, Head of Sales and Grower Relations, LIV Organic Produce
“We are also expanding the cold storage square-footage and have additional bagging machines and packing lines in the works,” Carrie shares. “We are already looking into adding a wider range of commodities as the demand for organics continues to grow. Since we are only using about a third of the total acreage for the property, our team has the capabilities to expand the lines and cold storage operations even more. Additionally, we are in the process of helping co-invest with growers on adding more acreage across our core commodities.”
Kicking off with citrus packing, followed by potatoes and onions in the near future, the facility sets up the LIV Organic program for growth in key categories in more ways than one. A majority of the growers LIV Organic partners with are within Riverside and San Diego County, California, which is what makes the proximity of the packing house such a perfect spot. Located near major growing operations, freeways, and markets, the packing house is an extension of LIV Organic’s approach to differentiation among an evermore competitive organic space.
And it fuels a unique value proposition not held by many in the industry.
“Many companies co-pack and don’t actually own their facilities or land with room to expand in their growing regions,” Carrie emphasizes. “Their attempts at growth can be quite limited in this respect. By growing, packing, and shipping the fruit ourselves, we have the control needed to be able to react quickly and make the best decisions for the health of the company and our customers.”
This control over so many pieces of the puzzle in the supply chain is an area of extreme value for customers. Those who want the transparency of product and sourcing and a direct line of sight into how the well-oiled machine that is LIV Organic functions amidst its day-to-day operations can find it in spades. Each interaction in the supply chain creates an opportunity to excel and elevate Carrie and Anthony’s vision for excellence, and this is something that retailers know well when it comes to LIV Organic.
Additionally, this transparency and far-reaching ability to control and pivot the program has provided more support for LIV Organic’s grower partners, who are the lifeblood of the operation. Being able to address challenges from a boots-on-the-ground approach means that grower returns are at an all-time high for the essential network of farmers.
“By providing all services to the grower—harvesting, packing, and sales—at one place, it allows us to control costs. We are able to cut out additional expenses and pass on the savings to the grower in order to provide them a fair cost. We have a great team that is dedicated to providing great service to our growers,” Carrie expresses.
As Anthony tells me, one of the team’s biggest successes has been in representing smaller- to medium-sized growers and helping their products reach the mainstream audience, as well as local stores, in a way that makes them shine.
“Being able to bring our program to market at sustainable prices is another goal and point of differentiation for us,” Anthony adds. “The value has to extend from the ground to the shelf.”
This sound investment carries the weight and potential of future opportunities and, as Anthony puts it, has been led from vision to execution by Carrie’s unrivaled passion and precision for aligning all the pieces of the puzzle together just right.
“Carrie has been key in this task, and our new packing house is one more step in what is a lifetime endeavor to continually achieve excellence. We have no desire to sit on our laurels and we never will,” Anthony says.
“By growing, packing, and shipping the fruit ourselves, we have the control needed to be able to react quickly and make the best decisions for the health of the company and our customers.”
At the helm, Carrie is the rallying cry for growth at LIV Organic—the type of person we refer to when we speak of those salt-of-the-earth people. You can find her sipping a glass of champagne at a trade show dinner or you can discover her in a citrus orchard checking the health of the crop in the midday sun, measuring the productivity of yields with team members working diligently in the field. Carrie’s mind, actions, passion, and charisma tell me she has the stuff of great leaders—a unique and rare human who sees the sky as the limit when it comes to LIV.
“Carrie’s ability to bring everyone into lockstep is what has always made her an amazing team member from the start. Her knack for managing and cultivating those around her while braving all the elements of change are incredible attributes she has worked to fine-tune and grow over her years in the industry,” Anthony says.
Eighteen to be exact.
At only 20 years old, Carrie found her way to the citrus category and discovered right away that her passion was in sync with this industry’s ingenuity, stamina, and intensity.
“I dipped my toe in the water as a Coordinator at Riverside Arlington Height Fruit Exchange in California—a Sunkist-affiliated company, doing office administration tasks and answering phones. It gave me a taste of how dynamic the fresh produce game was and the energy of working in such a vital space. I was in from the get-go,” she reflects.
Having garnered the foundational elements of the citrus world from an office perspective, Carrie then took a step further into the industry toward the soil as Sales Coordinator for Coachella Valley Citrus in the Golden State. Here, she further expanded her experience and cut her teeth on export sales and documentation. The company was eventually bought by Richard Bagdasarian, Inc., and she stayed on coordinating both of its citrus packing houses for orders and began to do sales for sister company Pasha Marketing, selling both organic and conventional row crops, along with grapes.
With a growing love and familiarity in the fresh produce space, it was an easy and—I dare say—organic move for her to join LIV.
“Having my hands in every part of the process across the supply chain has been so rewarding to me. Sales and grower relations have allowed me to connect with the people and the land that are essential to our success as a company,” Carrie remarks. “We wake up every day on the same side of the line, working to bring a better organic product to market. That ‘same team’ mentality is incredibly strong here at LIV Organic. I truly believe that the customer and the end consumer can taste it and experience that passion in our products.”
As night falls, shadows grow longer, and morning rises across the land. There are those, like Carrie and Anthony, that not only set their clocks by the sun and the moon, but by the needs of the land. And the land needs them. Come rain, come shine, and come that 4:30 a.m. alarm.