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Vegetables rule 

The Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange is Grand Marshall of the 71st Harvest Festival Parade in Arroyo Grande

New Times What the heck is POVE (Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange) anyway?

Dan Sutton [Laughs] In a sense it is a grower and shipper of fresh produce. The way it’s set up is that POVE is owned by five local family farmers: The Hayashi’s, the Kobaras, the Dohi’s, the Ikeda’s, and the Saruwatari’s ; they individually formed their own ground and ranches ; all of their products they grow come through POVE, which is their marketing entity.

New Times What’s its history on the Central Coast?

Sutton POVE had its roots starting in the 1920s. It started out as the growers growing mainly bush peas and pole peas ; and the two companies Pea Growers of Pismo Beach area and the Arroyo Grande Pea Growers Association joined up, and when those two entities came together that was the origin of POVE. They were very successful. Back then it was all peas in the A.G. valley. Up until World War II ; then a lot of our Japanese growers were placed into internment camps. The families who took care of their farms when they were away gave the land back to them when they returned ; they watched the farms for them ; when they were released they could return to their land.

New Times What is your role with POVE?

Sutton I am the general manager. We have a board of directors and I report to them. I oversee the POVE business. Sales, accounting, to the guys that work on the dock.

New Times What has changed over the last 71 years with produce from the Central Coast?

Sutton As far as the industry as a whole, whether it is the Central Coast or Arroyo Grande or Santa Maria, as growers and shippers of fresh produce we are faced continually with more regulations. The increase of our input. The cost of fuel affects everything we use in our industry.

New Times What is POVE doing at the Harvest Festival?

Sutton We will be riding in the parade and will be present at the fish fry on Friday night where we will be presented an award for being Grand Marshal. We will also be cooking Teppanyaki from noon to 4pm on Saturday, near the historical society ; it is a stir fry, a very traditional Japanese dish. It’s a mix of cabbage, onion, chicken, bok choy. It’s a delicious thing to eat.

New Times Why is it important that you are represented at the Harvest Festival?

Sutton A lot of our growing families have been past marshals of the Harvest Festival. This is the first time POVE as an organization has been named and we are so very honored. Our growers are very active in the community.

New Times What’s the hot vegetable right now?

Sutton Our flagship for POVE is Napa cabbage.

New Times Why is it called Napa cabbage if grown on the Central Coast?

Sutton It’s an Oriental type cabbage. We are blessed with the micro climates here, so it grows very well in our area. That is how POVE has gotten its reputation over the years. Our consistency. We are the largest producers of Napa cabbage in the agricultural industry.


Celebrate! Ah, scarecrow contests, flower-growing contests, the Big Ditch Derby, and of course, the parade: It must be

September in Arroyo Grande. The Annual Harvest Festival is the kick-off to autumn and takes place in downtown Arroyo Grande Sept. 26 to 27. The activities and entertainment are endless all day, all weekend. The weekend will be packed with fresh veggies, a parade, a haunted house, cow-tipping contest, spelling bee, costumes (festival goers are encouraged to dress up), nail pounding contest, tomato demo with Mama’s Meatballs, a pie eatin’ contest, ice cream Olympics, tons of live music, and more. Info:, 473-2250, or Art exhibit info: IOOF Historic Hall presents Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange (POVE) through September located at 128 Bridge St. in Arroyo Grande. The focus of the exhibit is the cooperative’s history and the food it produces on the Central Coast. Historic photographs and crate labels will be featured. Info:, 489-8282, or 458-3321.

Christy Heron can be contacted via


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