Established in 1956 in Belchertown, Massachusetts, family owned and operated Hodgen Landscape Co., Inc. is now in its third generation.
David G. Hodgen, founder, attended the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts.
James D. Hodgen, current owner, attended the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts.
Jeffrey D. Hodgen, landscape and construction foreman
Steven I. Hodgen, landscape maintenance foreman
Hodgen Landscape Co., Inc, serving Western MA landscape service needs since 1956.
· Residential and commercial landscaping services
· Landscaping design
· Lawn construction
· Grounds maintenance
· Landscape contractors
· Tree and shrub planting, fertilization and pruning
· Paver patio and wall construction
· Light excavating services · Dump trucking
· Spring and fall cleanup
· Mulch/Stone garden prepping
· Lawn fertilization, mowing and trimming
· Snow removal services
· Fully licensed and insured
· Insurance and Workman’s Compensation policy certificates are available upon request.
· Professional references are available upon request.
Contact us today to discuss your custom job.
By Stephen C. Hill , Sentinel Correspondent
BELCHERTOWN – When David Hodgen started Hodgen Landscape Co. in 1956, he had but a pickup truck and a lawn mower. Now, 60 years later, his son James “Ike” Hodgen is running the business and faces a whole new set of challenges.
His father, who died earlier this year, actually wanted to be a farmer and attended the University of Massachusetts’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture, said Ike Hodgen. Wisely, David Hodgen’s father talked him out of the farming life. Two of David Hodgen’s uncles were landscapers, one in the Boston suburbs and another in New York. So, with a new family, he turned to landscaping and for a while, it was a tough row to hoe.
As one might imagine, suburban landscaping was not in great demand in Belchertown in the 1950s. “It really wasn’t that big a to-do. My father did most of his work out of town,” Ike Hodgen said.
“He started from scratch and had to create a need where people would hire him,” said Hodgen.
He worked for large contractors like Daniel O’Connell’s Sons of Holyoke, doing landscaping for commercial projects in the cities, and tending the properties of bankers and businessmen in Ware and Gilbertville. He also mowed the lawns and fields for towns and school systems in Belchertown and elsewhere. “He used to mow the schools up in Orange for example,” said Ike Hodgen. One of the first projects Ike Hodgen remembers going to with his father was in 1967, when he was seven years old, was Cliffside Apartments, in Sunderland where they were contracted to do the landscaping.
But while most of his work took David Hodgen out of town, the people he hired mostly came from of his hometown. “Jack Hulmes was my father’s first employee,” said Ike Hodgen. Hulmes went on to found
Hulmes transportation and other enterprises. Countless other townies worked for Hodgen over the years but another early employee was Gary Bock, who began working for Hodgen Landscape Co. in 1972, when he was 18 years old. Bock retired last year.
“We did a ton of lawn construction,” Bock recalled, of the building boom years in Belchertown in the 70s and 80s. “There wasn’t a lot of competition and Dave had a good reputation,” Bock said.
“We were the guys planting grass in Belchertown back then,” agreed Hodgen.
Bock also remembers the work being more hands-on in the old days. When building lawns, they used a dump truck, bucket loader and did the rest with wheelbarrows and rakes, he said. Lawn mowing locally also became a bigger part of the Hodgen Landscape Co. repertoire, accomplished with a couple of lawn mowers, said Bock. Tree trimming was another task that in the old days was accomplished mostly by climbing rather then using expensive lift equipment, said Bock.
Things began to change when Ike Hodgen started running the business in the 1990s.
“That was an interesting few years,” Ike Hodgen said. He began buying more and different equipment to make the work more efficient, he said, but his father grumbled and they argued about how best to do things, Ike Hodgen said.
But Bock, for one, saw the benefit in backhoes and power rakes. “This is so much easier and faster. Why didn’t we have this equipment back then,” Bock remembers thinking to himself at the time.
Another change ushered in by Ike Hodgen has been a shift away from tending residential lawns to taking on more corporate and institutional customers. Competing with low overhead, low cost landscaping crews is usually not profitable for his company, said Hodgen. He has found that businesses and associations that can write off the cost of maintenance are willing to spend a little more for the detailed service his company provides. And as home building cooled with the start of the new century, they turned their construction work to condominiums and other larger projects.
But the shift brings its own challenges, Hodgen said. The business of running the business has become more complicated, particularly when bidding on jobs that involve government funding, with regulations, insurance certificates and prevailing wage requirements. “You can’t just do the work anymore,” he said.
Ike Hodgen is now experiencing what his father did, bringing a new generation of his family into the business, with his sons Jeffrey, 32, and Steven, 24, working with him full time.
Family and attention to detail are two things that have not changed over the years, said Bock.
Both Ike and Dave Hodgen, said Bock, “are very fussy in that they do. It’s got to look immaculate when you’re done.” The idea, passed down by Dave Hodgen, was “you’re name’s going on this and it’s got to look just right. That’s something Jim continues today,” said Bock.
Shortly after he began working for David Hodgen, Bock became an orphan at 18 years old. “Back then I had a ponytail and Dave was pretty conservative,” he said. But Bock stuck with it and Dave Hodgen stuck with him and Bock found not just a skill but learned about life on the job.
“It was not really a job, but a friend, family,” Bock said. Dave Hodgen always made sure he had a place to go for Christmas and holidays, said Bock.
The Hodgens also practice philanthropy in their own way, by sometimes providing services to elderly people or those struggling financially for free or a reduced cost.
“There are a lot of things that people don’t know about,” said Bock. “Dave was kind of ahead of the times with his random acts of kindness.”
We look forward to your questions, comments and Customer Reviews and will respond within 48 hours.
PO Box 873, 40 Sargent St, Belchertown, Massachusetts 01007
Monday - Friday: 9am - 5pm
Saturday: By appointment