Hall Of Fame Inductees
The individuals nominated should have made a significant impact or positive influence that assures the future of our industry in the lives of generations to come.
Once nominated, an individual’s biography and photo are updated on the site, and he or she is placed in the polls for voting. At the end of the year the committee takes into consideration the votes and decides which candidates are inducted.
Those with a star (*) next to their name below were either inducted posthumously or have passed away since being inducted.
- Person with integrity and passion
- Minimum 20 years in industry
- Someone who has developed or invented new technology
- Has made contributions that resulted in change
- Contributed to mankind’s needs in his field
- Provided education and encouragement with self-sacrifice
- Changed the industry
Robert "Bob" Ludekens*
L.E. Cooke Co.
It’s no small feat to be able to say that you’ve been involved in the green industry for nearly 80 years—but that’s exactly how Robert “Bob” Ludekens can describe his life. Bob’s interest in the industry started young, as evidenced by the fact that he was already a self-employed gardener from the ages of 9 to 15. Throughout the years since, Bob has been involved in the green industry through his work, education, and extensive volunteer activities.
Today, at 86 years young, Bob is still working 6 days a week at L.E. Cooke Co., where he started as a part-time employee when he was a teenager, and continued working there full-time from the age of 26. Within just a few short years, he became a part owner, then manager, and by 1965 he was the majority owner and president of the business and ran it for the next 30+ years before eventually turning over management (and later ownership) to his son (Ron Ludekens) and son-in-law (Dave Cox).
Over the years, the business grew from 3 full-time employees to 165+ full-time employees (and ~385 at peak season in December and January). Sales grew to over 1,300 listings in six divisions, and farming grew to over 1,200 acres. The company was responsible for the development of the first vinyl garden tie – Miracle Garden Tie – to replace twist ties, raffia, and hemp for plant and tree tying. They also developed Miracle Flagging Tape (colored tape for identification) and large roll Max tape for use in the Japanese Max Tapner. Over the years, they introduced 177 new varieties – 63 of which the company named – to their nursery customers.
Bob remains active in the daily sales and customer service activities of L.E. Cooke Co, working in sales, orchard, and propagation. His main responsibilities today are supervising 80+ acres of scion orchards and calling on a few customers.
Outside of his work at L.E. Cooke Co, Bob has been very active in the Visalia community, participating extensively in community and industry groups and taking an active leadership role his church. Bob has also remained a registered and active member of Boy Scouts of America for 75 years, including holding multiple leadership positions.
Many of his pursuits have naturally been in the green industry. A prime example is Bob’s involvement in the California Association of Nurserymen and Garden Centers – he started working with them back when they hired Jack Wick, and remained an active participant until retiring. During those years, Bob chaired numerous committees, including: Research, Nursery Service, Employee Relations, Trade Show, Insurance, Deciduous Growers, Grades & Standards, Executive & Finance, Nominating, Conventions, Membership, and more. He was also:
- President of the San Joaquin Chapter, 1968 and 1969
- CAN President 1983-1984
- CAN Treasurer 1984-1989
- Winner of the 1991 Pacific Coast Nurseryman Award
Bob was also on the board of governors for the American Association of Nurserymen for 6 years. He was the California Chapter secretary & treasurer for 15 years, and also a member of several committees, including the Grades & Standards committee and the Transportation committee.
Farm Bureau has been a staple in Bob’s life, having been a member for more than 50 years. He was a member of Tulare County Board from 1972 to 2014. Bob chaired the Labor & Environmental Horticulture committees, where he still remains active. He’s also currently a member of the Ground Water Committee since 2015, and was a member of the State Labor & Environmental Horticulture committee for many years. He was selected twice as Farm Bureau Member of the Year, in 1994 and in 2008.
In addition to volunteering his time at industry associations, Bob has been extensively involved in various agricultural and horticultural educational programs:
At Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Bob was recruited by Howard Brown in the late 1950's. He was a member of Advisory Council for the School of Agriculture from 1985-2009. He also worked with the Ornamental Horticulture Department for 30 years on refresher courses, banquets, officer installations, and scholarships. At California State University, Fresno, Bob was on the Plant Science Advisory Council for five years. And at the University of California , Davis, Bob was an active member of the Foundation Plant Material Service committee.
At College of Sequoias, Bob handled tours and other Ag School programs. He was on the Ornamental Horticulture Advisory committee, and also was the Chairman for new complex in Tulare. He received the Outstanding Ag Service Award there in 2009.
Beyond the extensive involvements in the industry associations and educational institutions above, Bob managed to find the time for further green industry volunteer activities, including participation in:
- 4H – Ag leadership and supporter
- Central California Farmers Association
- Agricultural Personnel Management – founder and long time member
- Saratoga Horticultural Foundation Growers – Advisory Council member
- California Department of Food and Agriculture:
- Fruit Tree, Nut Tree, & Grapevine Improvement – Founder, and Advisory Board 1987.
- Nematode Study Committee – senior member from 1960 to present
- County Ag Commissioners – 22 years served on their semi-annual state working meetings as the only businessman in attendance