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Mentors in the Making

Born into produce” is not a phrase taken lightly around here. In fact, it is a badge of honor worn by many in the fresh sphere: a symbol of those willing, ever-ambitiously, to take hold of a destiny bound to them at birth.

Such is the story of Auna Lundberg, whose family operated a Washington fruit stand for 26 years—long before she secured her current role as Stemilt’s Marketing Manager.

“My dad was a grower for our family fruit stand, and my grandfather, Larry Lundberg, was the General Manager of Trout Blue Chelan back in the ’80s and ’90s,” Auna shares with me when I ask about her younger years. “My dad produced specialty stonefruit and grew 20 different types of peaches. We always had something coming off the tree, and I grew up helping my parents at the fruit stand from an early age.”

Like many fathers, John Lundberg was the first to take on the “mentor” title in his daughter’s life.

“My dad has been a huge mentor for me because I’ve witnessed firsthand what it means to have pride in your work. Even during the most challenging times, he’s shown me how to have perseverance and passion,” Auna says proudly. “A big part of what drives me is my family and their legacy. Even though it is small, it means a lot to me and what I aim to put forward in my work.”

Years later, when Auna began pursuing a Creative Writing and Business degree at the University of Puget Sound, she truly didn’t believe she’d find her way back into the fresh produce arena.

“I fell in love with bowling in college, so I worked at a bowling alley for a few months before working in public services for the Washington State school system,” Auna recalls. “Then, I moved back home, where I spent a couple of years working out in the orchards with my parents in the summer.”

"A big part of what drives me is my family and their legacy. Even though it is small, it means a lot to me and what I aim to put forward in my work."

Auna Lundberg, Marketing Manager, Stemilt

 

As Auna returned to her roots at her parents’ Washington farm, an opportunity arose. One that would pave the path to her current title as both a Marketing Manager and a Mentor in the Making.

“I remember running around town dropping my resume off when I applied for a Customer Service Representative position at Stemilt,” Auna reflects. “I didn’t know a ton about apples, but I did know a lot about peaches. I remember leaving and saying to myself, ‘They probably think I’m just some crazy fruit person.’”

Luckily for Auna, crazy—combined with determination, passion, and love for produce—takes you far in this industry.

“I started at Stemilt on the 20th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing,” Auna shares. “For me and my family, it was a sign that I’d made it.”

After several months in the Customer Service Representative role, Auna was promoted to Sales and Operations Coordinator, where she was tasked with overseeing order allocations and internal warehouse transfers. A couple of years later, a position opened up in the marketing department. This is where the industry pro’s affinity for creative writing, business, and fresh produce merged, landing her the title of Marketing Manager.

"Bring your passion, and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. This industry not only pushes you to evolve as a person and in your career but also allows for creativity and innovations that can bring joy to people you might never even meet."

It was in this role Auna crossed paths with two of her most integral mentors. First was Brianna Shales, Stemilt’s Director of Marketing.

“Knowing I needed to learn a lot about marketing, Brianna gave me support right off the bat, which was very refreshing. To this day, her door is open, and she is always willing to help if I have questions or hesitations,” Auna explains. “She has been incredibly encouraging and continues to challenge me to think outside of the box and broaden my skills.”

Also playing a vital role in Auna’s personal and professional growth is Miriam Wolk, International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA) Chief Membership Officer.

“I first met Miriam through the IFPA Women’s Conference mentorship program,” she tells me. “Having never participated in a mentorship program before, it’s been nice to connect with her, share experiences, and gain a perspective that is a little bit different from my world. It’s great to see someone so passionate about their job and the relationships they’ve built within it.”

As Auna steps into the mentor role, it’s only fitting to pick her brain for advice for the industry’s next generation.

“Bring your passion, and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. This industry not only pushes you to evolve as a person and in your career but also allows for creativity and innovations that can bring joy to people you might never even meet,” she advises. “I think it’s crucial people don’t lose sight of that within themselves. Don’t just think of it as ‘another job,’ because the produce industry is what we make it.”

One thing my conversations with produce experts like Auna have made clear is the value of passion and perseverance.

Whether it be blood or the road of life that brings you to produce’s doorstep, love for the business is what makes us all “crazy fruit people.”The Snack Endstop


The Mentors

Here is what they have to say about Auna...

 

John Lundberg,

Father and Industry Veteran

“Auna has been immersed in the fruit business all her life. Her great-grandfather grew pears, and we owned and operated multiple orchards along with Trader John’s Fruitstand. We taught Auna that early rising, planning well in advance, being prepared, following through, and serving the customer were the skills needed for success. She has used these building blocks all her life. As her parents, we are proud of what she has accomplished and the legacy she is carrying on.”

 

Brianna Shales,

Marketing Director, Stemilt

“Auna comes from a fruit-growing family and has an incredible work ethic and tenacity because of that life experience. She is intelligent, creative, detail-oriented, and if she is going to do something, she will give it her all. What I admire most about Auna is how passionate she is about everything in her life—her work, hobbies like bowling, and her people. She is selfless in every sense of the word. I’ve seen so much growth in Auna over the past few years. Her confidence has soared, and she never hesitates when facing a challenge or problem to solve. I see so much potential in Auna’s ability to lead others because she is open to learning and evolving herself, and because of the deep care she exhibits for others. She will flourish as she steps into a role of mentoring others because of her great listening abilities, wisdom beyond her years, and how much time and energy she will invest in that relationship. I’m so proud to be her teammate and part of her journey! Watch out for Auna, produce world!”

 

Miriam Wolk,

Chief Membership Officer, International Fresh Produce Association

“I met Auna through the International Fresh Produce Association’s Women’s Fresh Perspectives mentoring program. Auna immediately impressed me with the diligence with which she approached our partnership. She has an amazing background, and I loved hearing about how she applies the elements of her personal interests of creative writing and bowling to how she looks to achieve success in her professional career. She asks incredibly thoughtful questions, and our dialogue is always inspiring to me—I’ve learned things from her as well that have enhanced how I look at work. Over the past year we have been working with each other, Auna has had some exciting professional growth opportunities and also celebrated some new experiences. I’m so excited to see what’s next for her!”