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Ocean Mist mourns Hugo Tottino

Ocean Mist Farms announced that its 91-year-old partner, employer and friend Hugo Tottino died Monday, Nov. 6.

Known for his warm and welcoming spirit, Mr. Tottino greeted employees every day one-by-one while working at Ocean Mist Farms. His hard work ethic and loyalty to his family and employees motivated countless long-tenured Ocean Mist Farms employees. He was a great steward of the land and a compassionate business owner and employer.image002Hugo Tottino

“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.”

Born and raised in Castroville, CA, 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 United States in 1946. Mr. Tottino Joined California Artichoke & Vegetable Growers Corp. — now known as Ocean Mist Farms — in 1947. In the early days of his 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.  

Mr. Tottino met his wife, Dolores Bei in 1949, and they were married in 1951. Together they raised five children.

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. As the business grew, Mr. Tottino continued teaching what he had learned about the fresh produce business to each of his employees, as well as his children.

Mr. Tottino 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. Mr. Tottino 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.

Mr. Tottino 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, Mr. Tottino 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.

Mr. Tottino is survived by his wife, Dolores, and children Michele, Les, Karen, Cathy and David. The family has not yet announced a memorial service date and time, but will share information as soon as it is available.