On Nov. 5, 2000, Reverend Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California rose to his pulpit during his weekly televised “Hour of Power” show and spoke about good health.
“Jack LaLane credits his life today to Paul Bragg,” Schuller told his congregation. “[Paul Bragg] taught him what to eat and how to think… Well, Paul Bragg lived to his 90’s and then he died because of an accident, not because of his health. He was body surfing at the age of 90. That was Paul Bragg! I interviewed his daughter, Patricia Bragg, one morning and she said that, ‘You are what you eat, drink, think, say and do.’”
Schuller was, in all likelihood, repeating a myth. According to a lengthy essay by a researcher named Wade Frazier (you can find it at www.ahealedplanet.net, which also contains a lot of info on UFOs, free energy and the like), Paul C. Bragg wasn’t apparently honest with people about his age.
Using Social Security applications, census records and draft cards, Frazier makes a compelling case that Paul Bragg was born in 1895—not 1881, as he told many friends and followers. That means his 1976 death came at the age of 81, not 95. The 14-year distinction would ordinarily be irrelevant, except that Bragg made money telling people they could live healthier, longer lives by reading his books and following his dietary guidelines.
According to the label of every bottle of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar or Bragg Liquid Aminos (called “hippie’s shoyu” by fans), Bragg Live Food products have been “Serving Health to America since 1912.” According to the Hoovers online database of corporations, the company—headquartered in Santa Barbara, California—did about $3.1 million in sales in 2007 and employs just 25 people.
Except for Bragg, company officials refused to comment for this story. When I called the Bragg office and asked to speak with the Chief Financial Officer, the operator placed me on hold. After a few moments, she came back on the line and apologized, saying the CFO wasn’t available, and she’d connect me to someone in “marketing.” A few moments later the operator was back on the line, apologizing again, and saying that Dr. John Westerdahl, who’s listed on the Bragg website as a Bragg Foundation director, would call me back.
He never did, but later that night Patricia called me, asking why I was calling her company. I explained that I wanted to know more about the financial side of the business, such as how much her company did in sales last year.
“We’re not about that!” she said, refusing to say anything more about the company.
Bragg Live Food Products is actually a small company in the health foods industry. Eden Foods, a Clinton, Missouri company that sells a variety of teas, juices, condiments, oils and snacks, did $35.4 million in sales during 2007, according to Hoovers. Newman’s Own—the Westport, Connecticut health foods company started by Paul Newman—is a comparable giant: $120 million in sales last year.
Still, local health foods fans and retailers swear by the Bragg name. “I opened my store 14 years ago and said, ‘What’s this stuff?’” Hawaiian Moons’ Donny McGean told me of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. “It’s one of our better selling items. Bragg’s Aminos are also one of our top sellers. [Bragg] is what I’d call one of the leaders in the natural foods industry.”
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Hoover’s lists Patricia Bragg as her company’s president. Federal tax records obtained by Maui Time also list her as president of Bragg Health Crusades, the non-profit foundation also based in Santa Barbara.
“The Bragg Health Foundation is a living legacy dedicated to my father’s life work of promoting health and wellness worldwide,” states the main page of the foundation website (www.bragghealthfoundation.org). “My father, Paul C. Bragg, N.D., Ph.D. dedicated his life to spreading the gospel of good health, happiness and love everywhere he went on his world travels.”
It is undeniable that the Bragg Foundation contributes money to worthy causes.
“Patricia has been one of my supporters for the last four to five years,” Beth Arnoult of Kula told me. Arnoult, wheelchair-bound since a 1991 automobile accident, is currently ranked 13th in the world of wheelchair-bound tennis players.
“I met Patricia at a chiropractor’s office Upcountry,” Arnoult said. “She gives me financial support, sends me some of her products and books, and tries to keep me healthy.”
Bill Galt, who founded the Good Earth Restaurant chain in 1976, credits a Paul Bragg lecture with transforming his life from “the junk food junkie of the world” to being a healthy eater.
“Patricia has funded cancer research,” Galt said. “She’s given to Peace Leaders International, which does conflict resolution. I live in lower Baja most of the time, doing non-profit work now in animal rights. She’s helped us kick off a new movement in Baja. She walks her talk—she really does.”
The foundation’s 2004 and 2005 tax records—the only ones I could obtain by press-time—do indeed show a variety of contributions to these and other charities. In 2004, the records show the foundation donated $500 to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and $1,000 to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, among other organizations. A year later, the foundation gave $5,000 to the Cancer Control Center in Los Angeles, $1,000 to Arnoult and $200 to the GMO Free Mendocino campaign.
But the 2004 and 2005 tax records also show that the foundation has donated various sums to fundamentalist Christian groups. This makes sense—Bragg said repeatedly that she was “blessed” by having such good “Christian” parents. Indeed, each bottle from Bragg Live Food Products carries the Christian fish symbol displaying the Bible passage 3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
But the ministries and organizations listed in the Bragg Foundation tax records are rigidly conservative and tend to align themselves all too overtly with the Republican Party:
• Crystal Cathedral Ministries ($750)
• Focus on the Family ($1,000)
• Pat Robertson and Family ($1,000)
• Trinity Broadcasting Network ($750)
Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson and Family are especially notorious organizations. Run by Jim Dobson—who enjoys the ear of President George W. Bush—Focus on the Family has long pushed an anti-homosexual agenda.
Pat Robertson, the host of the popular 700 Club, has in recent years become a kind of buffoonish cartoon character, exemplifying an extreme intolerance against homosexuals, any religion other than Christianity and Planned Parenthood. In 2005, according to CNN, USAToday and a host of other media outlets, Robertson told his television audience that the U.S. government should “assassinate” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
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Bragg’s Waiehu property is actually very beautiful. She insists that she will not subdivide it or develop it in anyway, and that will be a good thing.
On Feb. 20, Bragg’s farm manager Jonathan Kurtz took me on a tour of some of the land. I couldn’t see much of it, though—recent storms had washed out most of the roads in the mauka portion of the property, and he was going to have to get in there with a bulldozer and clear them.
The property is covered with thick, tall grasses. They seem to grow everywhere, including right down the middle of the dirt roads that criss-cross the property.
Kurtz began the tour in one of the mac nut orchards. The trees were just beginning to blossom, and old nuts still littered the ground. Kurtz said the nuts would grow and ripen, falling off the trees sometime around June.
“I don’t think Patricia was interested in harvesting the nuts until I said something,” Kurtz told me. “But mac nut prices are way down. You can just about break even.”
Processing the nuts first requires vacuuming them up off the ground. But given all the thick vegetation growing in and around the orchards Kurtz showed me, I couldn’t help but wonder how they’d get even a single bag.
Kurtz later introduced me to John and Justina Evangelista. An older couple, with deep tans and weathered hands, they’ve been farming a few acres of the property for about 15 years. They’re two of the dozen or so farmers who work 20 of Patricia Bragg’s 553 Waiehu acres.
They grow assorted fruits and vegetables—certified organic by the Hawaiian Organic Farmers Association—on the land they lease every month from Bragg. When farm manager Jonathan Kurtz escorted me through the land, the red stems of their dryland taro were visible above the soil, and Justina was going through their banana trees, which had lost a lot of fruit during the recent storms.
As long as Bragg continues to keep her Waiehu property exactly as it is, they will have no problems.
“We’ve got a kind of family relationship here,” Justina told me. John said the lease was “no bother” and both said they were happy with things as they were.
“Well, you’ve got quite a few more years here,” Kurtz told them. “Nothing’s going to change.”
“Yeah,” Justina said as John slowly nodded.
Research assistance by Kathryn Friesen. MTW