About Brokaw Nursery
Avocado trees were first planted in Ventura County in 1871. During the next 100 years avocado growers here and throughout the world planted avocado seeds and grafted the resulting seedlings with clippings from avocado trees known to have good fruit. Hank Brokaw changed all that.
William Henley “Hank” Brokaw was born in Whittier in 1927, in a family of avocado and citrus nurserymen. His uncle was the first to commercialize the Hass avocado variety. Hank began his career as a high school math and science teacher. He earned his B.S. degree from Harvard and a M.A. degree from the University of Chicago. In 1956, with $200 borrowed from his in-laws, he planted 500 avocado seedlings in his backyard to launch his own nursery business.
A fungal disease, known as root rot, beginning in the 1930’s, challenged the avocado industry. By the 1950’s researchers at the University of California had developed a method of producing disease-resistant trees, but it was complex and expensive.
Brokaw spent 20 years refining a better method. In his mind, a clipping from a disease resistant rootstock tree is grafted onto a seedling started from an avocado seed. The plant is grown in the dark for a short period and the clipping grows its own roots. The original seedling dies. The stem of the new plant is then grafted, with a clipping from a tree with the variety of fruit desired. In this way, good rootstock and desired fruit varieties are combined.
By the 1970’s, Brokaw’s method was practical and cost efficient. This made root rot resistant avocado trees affordable. Avocado production soared in California and beyond.
Brokaw Nursery in Saticoy is currently the state’s largest avocado tree producer and has sold more than 10 million avocado trees both domestically and internationally. The nursery is also a leader in citrus, kiwi and other subtropical fruit trees.
Presented by Rob Brokaw