NEWSLETTER. From the Half Moon Bay History Association Winter 2021 “Coastside Chronicles” by Marc Strohlein.
Perhaps the best quote about Aldo Giusti, lifelong Coastside resident, farmer, and inventor, came from his brother Bruno who said, “He was always trying something, he was a very creative person.”
Aldo had a life-long ability to spot a need and create a solution. Indeed, Aldo could be called a Renaissance man for his many talents and contributions to the Coastside.
Aldo was born in Moss Beach in 1926 to Guido and Geni Giusti. Guido had immigrated from Italy and, in 1921, found his way to the Coastside to escape the heat of the central valley; Geni arrived in 1926. In 1949, Guido and a couple of partners acquired a farm plot near the Johnston House that was later handed down to Aldo.
Aldo grew up on the Coastside, serving as class president at Half Moon Bay High School. He also played sports and was active in the school band. Aldo took up trumpet in high school and was drilled by his band teacher Leo Hillings on military marching songs, including pieces by John Philip Sousa.
When he later joined the army in 1946, he listed one of his skills as trumpet playing and found himself auditioning for the Army’s band. To his surprise the audition required him to play the same music that he had been drilled on and he was chosen, serving in the Army band until 1947. One of his memorable experiences was playing for wounded veterans at the Hot Springs Arkansas Veteran’s Hospital. After leaving the service he married Rose Rovai in 1948 and began farming Brussels sprouts and artichokes a year later. Later, he formed Giusti Farms and purchased Cowell Ranch from POST in 2006.
His son John notes an interesting fact about Aldo, stating that “he didn’t like farming; his goal was to get off the farm.” He tried to find work as a bricklayer with no success, and so became a farmer.
In the 1950s artichokes and Brussels sprouts were harvested by hand, and as many as 100 workers worked the fields at the Giusti farm. The 1950s also saw a major boost in nationwide popularity of Brussels sprouts as frozen food companies began distribution.
When the Bracero farm worker program ended in 1964, loss of immigrant labor caused shortages and Aldo at first traveled to San Francisco to hire homeless people as workers, but then conceived a mechanical harvester. John Giusti recalls his father “tinkering at night and working at a machine shop in Half Moon Bay to create a Brussels sprout harvester prototype” that he patented. The device used a three-pass process to cut sprouts right from the stalk, and John notes that “it worked better than today’s one-pass harvesters, which have trouble with some stalks,” but was slower. Aldo eventually sold prototypes to some large food companies along with the rights to the patents, and the devices were used in the United States and United Kingdom for about five years.
Aldo served on the first Half Moon Bay Planning Commission in the early 1960s, soon after it became a city. He also served on the Board of Fellows for Santa Clara University. Among his many pursuits and hobbies, Aldo was an avid golfer—so avid, in fact, that he invented a golf game in the 1960s that used a curtain to simulate a fairway, and Velcro balls that, when hit, would stick to the curtain. Golfers could determine where the balls would have landed on a real fairway. Unfortunately, he didn’t patent the Velcro ball, which was later turned into a commercial product by other companies.
Nonetheless Aldo remained an active golfer, including a month-long trip to Ireland in the 1980s. Son John successfully ran the farm in his absence, including managing the payroll—a formative, if formidable experience for the younger Giusti.
In 1999, Aldo was selected as Farmer of the Year by San Mateo County, also gaining recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Assembly.
Aldo Giusti died on November 14, 2007, leaving his legacy of Giusti Farms, along with his many contributions to the Coastside.
Today, third-generation farmer John Giusti farms about 350 acres of peas, artichokes, beans, and Brussels sprouts. In perhaps the best testament to Aldo’s legacy, John recalls “my father Aldo taught me everything I know about farming. He had his own business and he loved it, and he really encouraged me to join farming.”
And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—John was selected Farmer of the Year in 2011, while son Jacob won first place in the San Francisco Bay Area Science Fair for his study “What Keeps Food Fresh,” finding a solution that kept 50% more vegetables fresh.
April 19, Half Moon Bay, California. The Half Moon Bay History Association (HMBHA) has received all permits to begin construction of a state-of-the-art museum behind the old town jail at 503 Johnston Street.
The land, leased from the City of Half Moon Bay, includes a large building with century-old origins. An entirely new building will be built inside the old structure, while keeping the original historic exterior. Construction will begin immediately, and is expected to last twelve months. The new museum will meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, and will include solar panels and LED lighting.
HMBHA has secured an agreement with Weldon Exhibits, the Bay Area’s nationally renowned designers and fabricators of museum exhibits. Weldon will work closely with HMBHA to create static and interactive experiences about all things historical on the Half Moon Bay Coastside. Weldon will construct exhibits offsite while the new museum is being built.
News and updates will be posted on the History Association’s website: halfmoonbayhistory.org.
For more information, please contact:
Museum Project Manager, HMB History Association
Communications Manager, HMB History Association