Two elders of a pioneering South County agricultural family have been named the 2012 agriculturalists of the year by the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau board of directors.
Haruo and Rose Hayashi of Arroyo Grande received the award Wednesday during Cattlemen & Farmers Day events at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles.
The couple is credited with operating some of the most well-known farms in the area, helping reactivate one of the Central Coast’s largest vegetable shipping companies and providing major support for the arts and youth.
Born in 1926, Haruo was raised in Arroyo Grande as a second-generation vegetable farmer.
When World War II broke out, he and his family were shipped off to the Gila River Relocation Center, also known as Butte Camp, in Arizona.
Yet his spirit and loyalty to his country were not defeated by the wartime discrimination against Japanese Americans.
One month before graduating from Arroyo Grande High School in 1944, Haruo was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Discharged in 1945, Haruo returned to Arroyo Grande and farming, helping to reactivate and expand Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange.
An agriculture cooperative, POVE was started in 1928 by nine families to market their produce but became inactive as members were sent to relocation camps.
Today, POVE grows and ships as many as 24 types of vegetables and is the world’s largest grower and shipper of nappa cabbage, its specialty crop.
The Hayashis are active in many aspects of the South County community.
Haruo served on the Lucia Mar Unified School District School Board of Education and was the second Asian American to serve on a San Luis Obispo County grand jury.
They helped found the Arroyo Grande Growers basketball teams, which Haruo coached for 35 years.
They also are founding members of the Clark Center Foundation and longtime members of the San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple.
Married for 57 years, they have five sons — John, Howard, Robert, Alan and Edwin — and seven grandchildren: Allyson, Jana, Jordan, Lauren, Colin, Michael and Kobe.