In Their Words: The Pura "Soil" Sisters
Audra, Alli and Adri Pura are a terrific trio of talent, each taking the organic produce community by storm in their own way. The girls' father, Stan Pura, is widely recognized as one of the country's most progressive and respected organic growers, spearheading Earthbound Farm organic vegetable program.
OPN’s Tonya Antle, caught up with the busy threesome to talk about their passion; and their dedication to improving the organic landscape for the better, while paying homage to the past.
OPN: Let’s get the identification straight for the readers first. Who’s the oldest, middle and youngest and would each of you share a little about yourself?
Audra Pura: I’m the oldest and graduated from San Diego State University. I started working at Earthbound Farm in the marketing department, before moving to San Francisco to work for Hill+ Knowlton Strategies, a global communications organization. But the organic produce industry called me back and I’m resuming my produce career in new products development for Earthbound Farm.
Alli Pura Elliott: I am the middle sister also known as “Jan Brady.” I would say I am definitely the most creative sister who has always been passionate about expressing myself through my art. Growing up in between the oldest and youngest I feel I have had the best of both worlds. I was able to watch and learn from an older role model as well as become one for my younger sister.
Adri Pura Crawford: I am the youngest, even though everyone automatically assumed I was the oldest. I grew up in Salinas and went to Chico State where I majored in business. I graduated and moved back home to work at Laguna Seca Raceway in the marketing department. Then I took off to Denver, CO, to enter the tech world which eventually led me back to California working in the Silicon Valley. I'm recently married and living in Salinas.
OPN: Growing up in the ag community, what was it like having your father as one of the nation's largest organic farmers?
Audra: In retrospect, I knew that my dad was a successful farmer, but I don’t think I realized the path that he was paving as an organic farmer. When I was growing up organic farming was still relatively new, especially on that kind of scale, and to be honest I think they were still hoping it was something they would eventually make some money on!
Alli: I don’t think we knew that dad was a pioneer in this industry until we grew older and actually started working in the industry ourselves. Our dad however, was constantly teaching us about organics whether we realized it or not. Sunday’s were our days we went to work with him. He would let each of us get a turn to drive on his lap in his Ford Blazer and he would then drive us up and down the dirt fields quizzing us on each field we would drive by. We also had very good science projects in school - he would always set us up with a greenhouse experiment whether it was testing different seeds, soil or method of growing. Needless to say, farming was in our blood.
Adri: I would say our upbringing was pretty normal and a lot of fun. We all learned how to drive on the ranches and dad would take us to work and always quiz us on what’s growing in the field. I’ve definitely always looked up to him and his work ethic. I know deep down he always wanted us to have a career in the produce industry, but never pushed it. I knew the day I was ready to get out of the tech industry and go home to my roots, my dad was going to happy to have the three of us in the industry.
OPN: What was the impact of your dad partnering with the Goodman’s of Earthbound on the organic industry?
Audra: It’s really profound and almost emotional when you look back on it today. They had such different backgrounds, which is obvious when you put them all in a conference room together just looking at them. I admire the tenacity they all had at such a young age and in an industry that was in its infancy. And they were really purposeful about it. I mean you walked in to Earthbound in the early 2000’s and there was this sense of people authentically living out the mission of the company. I remember plenty of years when my dad would say I can’t wait for Earthbound to make some money. But I think that’s what it was all about, the partners built it together truly from the ground up.
Alli: Dad came from a generation of farmers that were constantly evolving themselves and their practice. Always were willing to teach others their methods in making farming the best it could be to provide for others. They were able to combine forces and work through the difficulties to come up with an end product that was good for consumers and the environment.
OPN: What is your current job in the produce industry and what has been a high point so far?
Audra: Earthbound Farm, Sr. Product Innovation Manager. In the early years, I learned from the best, and you have no idea how invaluable it was to have worked for some of the most badass women in Organic Produce.
Alli: Photography; Owner of Alli Pura Photography. I am a photographer who specializes in shooting organic farming, food and products. My passion for photographing produce comes from my fond memories of walking with my father in his organic fields and taking in all of the colorful sights and sounds during a bustling harvest. This memory is what drives the love I have for my job.
Adri: I currently work for Taylor Farms in the marketing department for our retail division. The high point has been working with amazing people and such an innovative company. I have always known so much on the growing side of the industry so it’s been incredible to learn the other side of the business.
OPN: How were you able to obtain credibility so early in your career?
Audra: The best way to obtain credibility is to simply earn it – I was never handed any of it – I listened, I learned, I made mistakes and worked my way up.
But truly, I don’t enjoy being the center of attention and I think that’s how I really found my niche in product development. I love nothing more than to make an amazing product and then hand it off to the sales team and marketers to get to the retail shelf!
Alli: I studied photography in my undergrad then continued to follow my passion. I was able to work at Earthbound Farm in the marketing department as well as their in-house photographer. I was able to not only learn about each product but also being able to shoot the men and women that dedicated their lives in making Earthbound the company it is today.
Adri: I think we all have instilled hard work ethic from our parents. We’ve never expected things to be given to us. It’s important to learn from the ground up and that’s what we’ve done.
OPN: What’s something you never expected would happened?
Audra: To say outloud, "I make salads for a living!" I love to watch people’s subconscious stereotype me as they ask the question “what do you do for a living?” It’s really priceless!
Alli: What got me back into shooting food were produce companies not only asking me to do field shots but product shots as well. Then that turned into working with them on their websites/social media posts with fun creative recipe shots. I get to work with my sister Adri on a lot of these shoots for Taylor Farms. It’s fun to see how we can turn one produce ingredient into a beautiful work of art.
Adri: That all three of us would be working in the produce industry in such different capacities; from product development, photography to marketing.
OPN: You have watched the growth of organics---- what is going to be your role in the future progression of this category?
Audra: To bring the benefits of organic food to as many people as possible and serve as a catalyst for positive change. From a consumer perspective it's really about having a healthy relationship with food – more often than not people feel guilty about the choices they make on a daily basis.
OPN: What is the biggest challenge for the organic fresh produce industry and how will you help meet this challenge moving forward?
Audra: People ask me all the time "Is Organic really better for you? Are pesticides really bad for me?" For everyone it’s a personal choice how you vote with your dollars. But I always say, if you could offer food to someone that was organically grown, for a price that is comparable to conventional and feel good about leaving the earth a little better in the end, why wouldn’t you do that? I know there are people out there that work for conventional companies and then go home at night and buy organic food to feed their families! I think the fresh produce industry wants to continue to see the growth in organics, you have to believe in the value upstream and not the bottom line profits. And at the end of the day we all need to realize the small local organic farmer and the big organic farmer can co-exist. It’s not one or the other. Organic farm land is still only 1% - we’ll take all we can get!
Alli: Being able to continue to educate my audience to view my photographs and connect their food to actual food production. Encourage them to get involved in making their own decisions when it comes to their food, body and environment. Educate them about the importance of organic farming and the benefits one can reap from adapting to this lifestyle. I strongly believe in this community and have witnessed successful stories - it’s an industry that seeks to promote others well-beings.
OPN: What do you each see as being your legacy?
Audra: I’m too young to have a legacy, ask me that question in another 20 years!
Alli: That I can artistically empower others through my photographs and that photography was never a job for me, it was a passion.
Adri: That I gave back - through mentoring young women in the organic produce industry
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