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Albert Pieri, a founder of Ocean Mist, dies at 90

Ocean Mist Farms, a Castroville CA-based artichoke and vegetable grower-shipper, has announced that Albert Pieri, an original founder of the company and a dedicated employee of nearly 50 years, has died at age 90.

Mr. Pieri was a pioneer in the early days of California Artichoke & Vegetable Growers, which was renamed Ocean Mist Farms in 1995. He was honored with the UnitedAg Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 for his service to the industry, along with recognition to the Pieri family for nine generations of agriculture leadership. Known fondly as “Big Al” for both his physical stature and engaging personality, Mr. Pieri is mourned by the Ocean Mist Farms family and Castroville, CA, community at large.Albert-PieriAlbert Pieri

“Our most heartfelt condolences go out to Albert’s children, Renee, Glen, Dorian and Diane, along with his sister Norma Pieri-Reasons, brother-in-law Don Reasons, and companion Marlene McMillan,” said Joe Pezzini, chief executive officer of Ocean Mist Farms. “Al’s contributions to our organization, the agricultural industry, and his community will be remembered and appreciated by all for many years to come.”

As a young boy, Mr. Pieri first worked for his father at California Artichoke & Vegetable after school and summers, harvesting crops and making wooden packing crates. After high school he joined the Navy. Upon his return from overseas duty, he went back to work for Cal Choke loading and icing railroad cars, packing broccoli, driving trucks and learning the business from the ground up.

In 1954, Mr. Pieri was asked to take the bookkeeping position in the company, but soon found himself answering sales calls, subbing for the sales manager and becoming well known by the buyers. Eventually, he moved into full-time sales.

In 1964, he became the company’s sales manager, making friends across the nation and facing the many challenges growing and distributing produce offers. Having added cauliflower, cardone and sweet fennel to its commodities, Mr. Pieri and Cal Choke’s popularity took off, so much so that in 1974 over 600 friends and associates came together to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary in Castroville, CA.

By 1981, Cal Choke had added Romaine from Boutonnet Farms and then Butter, Red and Green Leaf lettuces -- bringing production and handling needs to an all-time high.

Mr. Pieri was always supportive of innovation and expansion of its operations with state-of-the-art packing machinery for all of the company’s produce to make sure that his two highest priorities -- commitment to customers and commitment to quality -- guaranteed a strong future for his California produce, especially his “first love,” artichokes. The addition of hydro and vacuum coolers, forced-air storage and handling rooms and ice injection chambers, along with computers and controllers, were some of the first of their kind used in agriculture in America and the world.

A graveside memorial service is planned for May 6 at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Woodland, CA. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to the Ocean Mist Farms Academic Scholarship Program.

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