In 1946, California's citrus industry was rapidly becoming a major player in the state's economy. Cousins, Albert Newcomb and Ned Willits, saw the importance of supplying quality, disease-free nursery trees to the expanding citrus industry. After setting up the Willits & Newcomb citrus nursery in the Coachella Valley near Thermal, CA, Mr. Newcomb set out to work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to develop a program that would ensure citrus nursery stock produced in California is produced under regulation of the CDFA's Citrus Certification and Registration Program, which tests propagating materials for various diseases and viruses to ensure the California citrus industry receives clean, healthy, true-to-type materials. Mr. Newcomb was instrumental in creating the certification program, which has been paramount in establishing California as the highest quality citrus growing area in the world.
Willits & Newcomb grew to over 100 employees while located in Thermal, even offering company housing for employees and exceptional customer service to citrus growers and nurseries throughout citrus producing regions of the world. The pioneering ideas of Mr. Newcomb and Mr. Willits developed a company whose name is recognized worldwide as a leader in supplying clean, high-quality citrus propagating materials and nursery trees.
The company moved its operations to the Arvin area in the southern San Joaquin Valley of California and incorporated shortly thereafter. A decline in citrus plantings in the 1970's resulted in the business shifting to supplying only seed, seedbed stock and budwood. Willits & Newcomb Citrus Nursery supplied a complete line of citrus propagating materials to the United States and to 100 countries worldwide.
In the late 1960's, Mr. Newcomb bought out Mr. Willits and operated the nursery on his own. In December 1977, Lamar and Jackie Timmons came on board to manage the nursery for Mr. Newcomb, then 71 years old. Ten days later a devastating windstorm destroyed the company's office, barn and 40 acres of scion and rootstock trees. The rebuilding of the business seemed an overwhelming task for Mr. Newcomb, so in May of 1978 he sold the business to the Timmons, who retained the company name because of its worldwide recognition.
With the new ownership came some innovative ideas and the desire for increased production. Shortly after the Timmons W-N, it was producing 17,000 nursery trees per year for commercial citrus farmers. An opportunity to purchase the assets of Duncan Nursery came along in 1984 and literally overnight Willits & Newcomb was producing 250,000 trees a year for commercial use.
In 1992, Jackie Maxwell (previously Timmons) became the sole stockholder and company president. Under Ms. Maxwell's leadership, Willits & Newcomb began expanding its product line to include trees for sale to retail outlets. This addition was in keeping with the company's goal to be the leading supplier in all phases of quality citrus stock.
On January 1, 2015 the nursery entered the next phase of ownership. Dennis and Stacey Johnston of Johnston Farms purchased Willits & Newcomb. The Johnston's were customers of Willits & Newcomb and had always admired the quality of the trees and will continue to uphold those quality standards. Today all nursery stock is started from seed and grown in hothouses to protect them from pest and disease. Our hothouses are certified pest free.
This company, established in 1946 to fill the needs of all areas of the citrus nursery industry has reached the 21st century with the lofty goals of its pioneering forefathers still in place. Willits & Newcomb is indeed "The Citrus Nursery" for growers, nurserymen and backyards enthusiasts looking for the finest quality citrus propagating materials and trees.