Patricia Bragg, N.D., Ph.D., didn’t get the memo that says you’re supposed to slow down as you age. As CEO and president of Santa Barbara-based Bragg Live Food Products, Dr. Patricia Bragg oversees the company started by her father, Dr. Paul C. Bragg, in 1912. A dynamic and diminutive disciple of healthy living, Dr. Bragg practices what she preaches, exuding youthful energy at an age when she is, as she says, “approaching my ninth decade.”
When Paul C. Bragg was a teenager, he contracted tuberculosis. He developed a healthy diet and exercise program that he believed allowed him to regain his health. He became a self-proclaimed health crusader, spreading the gospel of a healthy lifestyle, which included Bragg food products sold in the first-ever health food stores. The company’s products, including the popular Apple Cider Vinegar, 24 Organic Herbs & Spices Sprinkle, Liquid Aminos and Nutritional Yeast Seasoning—all made with organic and non-GMO ingredients—are now sold in health food stores and supermarkets all over the world.
We recently caught up with Dr. Bragg (it wasn’t easy) at Bragg Organic Farm, an idyllic 120-acre spread in Winchester Canyon in Goleta. The farm serves as headquarters for the family-owned company, as well as for Bragg Health Foundation, which sponsors and funds community health education lectures, seminars and outreach programs; supports health science research; and provides scholarships to students pursuing naturopathic medicine.
The farm buzzes with activity, as 54 employees, including farm staff, go about their business in well-kept buildings connected by flower-lined paths. This is a teaching farm—groups stroll on guided tours (by appointment only) through the organic vegetable and herb gardens, where school children glean tips for healthy eating. Happy chickens roam in their spacious pen, and birdhouses abound (Dr. Bragg feeds the birds daily). A small duck-dotted spring-fed pond adjoins a tiki-hut-style event center, which is available to health-related nonprofits. The farm’s orchards include 3,300 apple, lemon, pomegranate, apricot and avocado trees, whose bounty is donated to local charities. Fruits and veggies used in Bragg products, which are made off-site, are grown at other locations around the country.
Bookshelves in her sunny office are stocked with copies of the ten books, continuously updated, that she co-authored over the years with her father. Although the office is also furnished with a desk and chair, the vivacious Dr. Bragg, sporting her signature flower-bedecked pink hat, doesn’t make much use of them, preferring to stand and punctuate her remarks with exuberant gestures and dramatic flair.
“I’m a crusader for the Bragg Healthy Lifestyle…I love it!” she exclaims enthusiastically. The lifestyle’s basic tenets include eating fresh and organic; avoiding processed and refined foods; fasting one day a week, drinking distilled water to cleanse; exercising daily; breathing deeply; learning to meditate and relax; and thinking positive. “You are what you eat, drink, breathe, think, say and do,” says Dr. Bragg. A tireless crusader, she travels around the globe to spread the word, giving lectures and interviews.
The devoted following of the Bragg lifestyle includes a slew of celebrities, from Katy Perry to Clint Eastwood. “The Dalai Lama has been using our products for over 50 years,” she says, pointing to a tapestry, a gift from His Holiness, which hangs in the offices.
The longtime celebrity connection started back in the early days of the Hollywood movie studios. “Samuel Goldwyn called up and asked Dad to speak to his actresses. He said, ‘These young girls are staying up all night partying and they’re so tired, I can hardly make a movie,'”she says. “Gloria Swanson was 18 years old—she listened to every word. Dad asked them to write down what they ate for two weeks. In the end, the actresses said that those Braggs are rejuvenating us!” In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Braggs hosted the Health & Happiness from Hollywood TV show, which was packed with a lineup of healthy recipes, exercises and guest appearances.
But the best advertisement for the benefits of the Bragg credo is Dr. Patricia Bragg herself. As she marches energetically around her office in her pink flip-flops, she says,”I’m up at five o’clock every morning, naturally,I swim, bike, jog and garden, and I sleep like a baby.”
This story was originally published in the winter 2016/17 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.