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Volunteer Spotlight: Gary Marcus

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Gary Marcus has been a frequent volunteer at the Sutro Native Plant Nursery since fall. Gary immediately took to nursery projects and quickly became a go-to person for special nursery efforts beyond the usual plant propagation. Always willing to take on new and challenging projects with a positive attitude and teamwork, we truly enjoy working with him. Strike up a conversation with Gary at the next volunteer event. We learned some new and interesting things about him from this profile interview and there's a lot more to discover! Read on to find out more about Gary:

Where are you from and what’s your background?

I’m from New York and went to college in Buffalo before moving out to San Francisco. I’ve lived here for 40 years now and recently retired after 31 years as a member of the worker-owned cooperative, Rainbow Grocery.

Where did you first hear about Sutro Stewards?

I first heard about Sutro Stewards from my bodyworker, Rob Bakewell, who is a Sutro Stewards crew leader and also leads projects at the Oak Woodlands in Golden Gate Park. Rob recommended I volunteer with Sutro Stewards for my Introduction to Environmental Horticulture class project at City College. I’ve also taken Garden Practices with instructor Thomas Wang, who is fabulous. I’ve signed up for Landscape Design in the fall, and I’d like to take a Plant ID class as well.

Eight months ago I couldn’t even water houseplants, and now I’m learning so much about horticulture. I’m fascinated by how much humans are similar to plants. Now when I am around town or out in nature, I want to know what’s around me – what plants and trees are here. It’s humbling to come into something you know so little about.

What makes you want to volunteer?

I volunteer on Wednesdays at the Sutro Native Plant Nursery. It’s so nice and peaceful here; it’s a lovely place. I never knew this place existed! I am learning so much from staffers Amy and Liza and Maegan, and it’s great working alongside other volunteers who love Mt. Sutro. In particular, I am attracted to the native plant emphasis of the nursery.

What projects do you work on as a volunteer with Sutro Stewards?

Whatever Liza tells me to do!! I want to be helpful and do what needs to be done. There is always up-potting, pot washing, and weeding to be done, but I do work on some special projects as well and I contribute to maintaining a tidy work area and being efficient. I actually like sweeping and organizing!

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself? Hobbies, interests, etc?

I rebuilt my backyard a couple years ago and put in new beds. The hardscape looked great, but when it came time to plant, I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s rewarding now that I understand more, though I do sometimes still get weeds and native flowers confused. There’s always more to learn!

I also love to travel. It’s very important for me to get out of the country regularly. My next trip is to Vietnam and Cambodia, two of my favorite places in the world! It will be my fourth visit to these countries and I find them to be very, beautiful, tranquil, and sweet. And lovely horticulture!

I also have a wife and partner who is wonderful, political, and brilliant! She’s a legislative aide to Supervisor Hillary Ronen. I am very lucky to have her.

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