Hugo Tottino of Ocean Mist Farms, a fourth-generation family-owned produce grower, passed away Nov. 6. He was 91 years old.
Known for his warm and welcoming spirit, Ocean Mist says Mr. Tottino greeted employees every day one-by-one.
“His hard work ethic and loyalty to his family and employees motivated countless long-tenured Ocean Mist Farms employees,” the company says. “He was a great steward of the land and a compassionate business owner and employer.”
“Hugo will always be remembered and admired for his generosity, integrity, humbleness, strong family values and his passion for farming,” said Ed Boutonnet, Ocean Mist chairman of the board. “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 humble and generous man
Born and raised in Castroville, California, to Alfred and Emilia Tottino, Mr. Tottino 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. He joined the California Artichoke and Vegetable Growers Corp. (now known as Ocean Mist Farms) in 1947. In the early days of his employment at “Cal Choke,” Mr. Tottino worked the docks unloading produce trucks by day, and loading railcars bound for the East Coast in the evenings, all the while tending to his family’s 40-acre farm.
Mr. Tottino 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.
Mr. Tottino 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, says Ocean Mist. As the business grew, he continued teaching what he had learned about the fresh produce business to each of his employees, as well as his children.
With a heart for serving others and giving back to the community, Mr. Tottino supported several local charities, usually anonymously and with great modesty. He led the way for the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project—irrigating 12,000 acres with reclaimed water. He also donated land to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation to restore wetlands and provide wildlife with habitat. In 1960, he helped create the Artichoke Advisory Board, where he was a longtime director and perennial sponsor of the Artichoke Festival.
Mr. Tottino was extremely proud to have been chosen as a member of the first class of the “People to People” program to travel to Russia along with a group of local farmers and businessmen 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.