Nov 8, 2017Ocean Mist mourns the death of partner Hugo Tottino
Hugo Tottino, longtime partner and co-owner of vegetable giant Ocean Mist Farms, died Monday, Nov. 6, the company announced. He was 91.
Hugo is survived by his wife, Dolores, and children Michele, Les, Karen, Cathy, and David.
Ocean Mist mourned the death of Tottino as a “partner, employer and friend,” according to a news release.
Hugo greeted employees every day one-by-one while working at Ocean Mist Farms, Ocean Mist said. He was “a great steward of the land and a compassionate business owner and employer,” according to the company.
“Hugo will always be remembered and admired for his generosity, integrity, humbleness, strong family values, and his passion for farming,” said Ed Boutonnet, Chairman of the Board at Ocean Mist Farms. “There will forever be a void at Ocean Mist Farms without Hugo’s presence.”
The family has not yet announced a memorial service date and time, but will share information as soon as it is available.
A grower’s life
Born and raised in Castroville, Calif. to Alfred and Emilia Tottino, Hugo learned the family business of farming as a young boy. He joined the Army at the height of World War II, and returned to the States in 1946. Hugo Joined California Artichoke and Vegetable Growers Corporation (now known as Ocean Mist Farms) in 1947. In the early days of Hugo’s employment at “Cal Choke,” he worked the docks unloading produce trucks by day, and loaded railcars bound for the east coast in the evenings, all the while tending to his family’s 40-acre farm.
Hugo met the love of his life, Dolores Bei in 1949, and they were married in 1951. They raised five children – Michele, Les, Karen, Cathy and David Tottino.
Hugo had an extreme fondness for the people he worked with and knew every employee’s name as well as their children’s names, and made it a point to ask how they were doing each and every day. As the business grew, Hugo continued teaching what he had learned about the fresh produce business to each of his employees, as well as his children.
Hugo had a heart for serving others and giving back to the community. He supported several local charities, usually anonymously and certainly with great modesty. He led the way for the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project – irrigating 12,000 acres with reclaimed water. Hugo also graciously donated land to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation to restore wetlands and provide wildlife habitat even when food safety restrictions discouraging the practice. He helped create the Artichoke Advisory Board in 1960 where he was a long-time director and perennial sponsor of the Artichoke Festival.
Hugo was extremely proud to have been chosen as a member of the first class of the “People to People” program along with a group of local farmers and businessmen to travel to Russia during the cold war in 1963. The “People to People” program was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities; he felt that creating understanding between people was essential to building the road to enduring peace.
In 2015, Hugo was awarded the Grower Shipper Association of Central California EE Gene Harden Lifetime Achievement Award for his leadership and support of the fresh produce industry.
Ocean Mist Farms, a fourth-generation family-owned business and the largest grower of fresh artichokes in North America, offers a full line of 30 fresh vegetables.