COSTA MESA, Calif. — Long before it rivaled the most luxurious shopping areas in the world, before the car-jammed San Diego Freeway snaked alongside it, spilling customers to its doors, South Coast Plaza’s address was actually the largest private lima bean field in the U.S.

It was 1967 and the Segerstrom family, Swedish immigrants who had been farming the 3,500 acres since 1898, found themselves weighing deals from Sears and May Co. interested in catering to the one million people already living in Orange County, a coastal suburb an hour south of Los Angeles.

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