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Home > About Us> Nursery History

Nursery History


In 1978, Marcia and Jim Hodges, the founders of San Marcos Growers, determined that there was a need for a wholesale nursery to supply a more unusual line of plants than was commonly available at the time. Jim Hodges was a retired businessman with an interest in horticulture who had dreamed of one day owning his own nursery. He was also a director of Santa Barbara Beautiful, an organization dedicated to the beautification of public spaces in Santa Barbara. Dave Gress, another director of Santa Barbara Beautiful and also the arborist for the City of Santa Barbara and had found that many of the trees that the city wished to plant were unavailable. The Hodges selected Mr. Gress to run the nursery and in 1979 found a suitable site for it on the eastern edge of the Goleta Valley. The original 6 acre site had an existing greenhouse that had been used for the production of certified citrus and avocado trees. The new nursery was named San Marcos Growers in reference to its location on the historic stagecoach route that goes over the mountains to the north, which is now San Marcos Road. Shortly after the land was purchased, Jim Hodges passed away, but his wife, Marcia also had an interest in horticulture and decided to fulfill Jim's dream and develop the nursery as planned.

The 27 acres across from the original nursery were acquired by the Hodges family in 1981 for the purpose of future nursery expansion. The acreage and infrastructure required by the nursery increased as its market expanded. In 1985 San Marcos Growers moved its office to a larger building on the east side of San Marcos Road and increased the area under production to 15 acres. As awareness of the nursery's unique product mix increased and its emphasis on drought resistant plant material was realized, it was apparent that more area would be needed for nursery production and propagation stock gardens. In 1987 an additional 6 acres of land was added for container production and a large propagation and demonstration garden was developed in the area to the east of the office complex. In 1992 nearly an acre of land was planted out with New Zealand Flax for cut foliage production and propagation stock. Currently there are 21 acres in nursery production with an additional 2 acres dedicated to cutting and demonstration gardens.

In 1980 Lynn Kravitz, then a graduate of the horticulture program at Santa Barbara City college was hired as Propagation Manager and in 1981 Randy Baldwin, a graduate of the Environmental Studies program at UCSB, was hired as Production Manager and to oversee the new plant introduction program. Both became partners in the business with the Hodges family in 1990, at which time Randy took over as General Manager and Lynn took over as both Production and Propagation Manager. Lynn retired from the nursery in 2015 and that same year Randy became President of the San Marcos Growers Corporation with Marcia and her three adult children, Brett Hodges, Brian Hodges and Sharon Bradford, as his fellow members of its Board of Directors. Current department managers are listed on the website on our Staff Page.

In 1996 San Marcos Growers launched one of the earliest websites in the nursery industry. That website had static pages with photos and descriptive lists describing the plants the nursery was then growing. The concept of having a nursery website was so innovative that the Western Region International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS) asked Randy to give the talk "Establishing & Maintaining a Nursery Website" at their year 2000 meeting. In 2001 the current version of the website was launched utilizing active server pages linked to the nursery's plant database and inventory. All content is written by Randy Baldwin.

San Marcos Growers recognizes that it plays an important role in the introduction of new plant material into the California nursery trade. The nursery belongs to numerous Botanic Garden Associations, both here and abroad, and has nursery contacts throughout the world. Representatives from the nursery are active in trade and professional organizations such as the Plant California Alliance (formerly the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers), California Landscape Contractors Association, International Plant Propagators Society and the Cactus and Succulent Society of America. Though the nursery has always been successful and profitable, in 2023 it was announced that the nursery would close on January 1st 2026 so that the property could be developed for housing as part of the County of Santa Barbara's Housing Element as mandated by the State of California's Department of Housing and Community Development. More information about this closure on our Nursery Closure Page.