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The Marvin's Story

We are proud of our past. We thrive to live present. We consider the future generations.

Our Timeline of Evolution

The Full Story


Growing up in rural Georgia, Marvin Duren fell in love with nature as a child, and found the beauty and inner connectedness in nature, whether hiking or riding his loyal horse to explore the farms, fields and forest around Stone Mountain, Georgia. In 1970, Marvin volunteered to be drafted into the Vietnam war.


During his one year tour, Marvin led many missions as a team leader, deep into the mountains and jungles of southern and central Vietnam. He personally witnessed the abuse of chemical warfare in the form of aerial herbicide applications of Agent Orange, widely used as a defoliant. Agent Orange and similar herbicides were used throughout the war to deter the Viet Cong soldiers, by killing their crops, destroying their forests, polluting their water supply and ultimately, devastating the livelihood of the Vietnamese in areas affected by chemical warfare.


Revisiting Vietnam 30 years later, Marvin observed vast areas of mountain and jungle vegetation that never returned after being bombarded by herbicides 30 years earlier.  He also witnessed the legacy those chemical pesticides left behind, with an absence of birds and wildlife in Vietnam, and an unusually high rate of birth defects in those children born from families whose fathers were exposed to chemical herbicides during their military service in the 60s and 70s.


Over 40 years after the Vietnam war, many U.S. Soldiers exposed to Agent Orange are being diagnosed with skin cancer and other debilitating diseases directly related to their wartime chemical exposure.  It was from these experiences that Marvin became convicted that utilizing organic gardening practices is the safest and most affective way to farm, garden and grow nursery plants, and thus began his  mission to promote safe, sustainable and non toxic gardening solution for the community.

After Marvin arrived home from Vietnam in 1971, still healing from seven gun shot wounds, his father Guy Duren (Pop), offered Marvin an incredible opportunity to build and manage a Waffle House franchise. With enthusiasm, Marvin transplanted himself to Ohio and began work immediately, with a supportive family to help guide and direct the success of the business.


Over the next 28 years, Marvin built a successful franchise, growing to 24 Waffle House restaurant locations, scattered and covered across Ohio and Northern Kentucky.  During that time as a restaurant operator, Marvin became aware of the power of “Curb Appeal”, at his 24 hour a day, seven day a week, no holiday off restaurants.


His restaurant properties provided him ample opportunity to experiment with organic gardening, plant selection and bed layout practices. Marvin touted the benefits of building, beautifying and maintaining his restaurants lawns and gardens.  As his gardens grew, so did his sales, until he was operating the number one highest grossing sales franchise in the country, during the 1990’s. 


As a secret to his success, Marvin implemented a food scrap recovery program at all 24 Waffle House locations, in order to reduce waste, lower trash cost and acquire compost ingredients. He trained and motivated work associates to sort and separate coffee grounds, egg shells and lettuce scraps, which were collected and composted on a weekly basis. The food scraps recycled from Marvin's restaurants became the compost foundation to build the health and beauty of the Waffle House lawn and gardens.



The history of Marvin’s Organic Gardens began when Marvin Duren first purchased a 64-acre property in Lebanon, Ohio. The property’s original owner was John Shillito, who was famous for opening Cincinnati’s first department store in 1832.


Right from the start in 1999, Marvin, his son Wes and their team of talented specialists started making improvements to the property, transforming it into an eco-friendly landscape and plant production center. Guy Duren, “Pop”, Marvin's father, was an avid supporter of Marvin's Organic Gardens, providing a means for developing the operation, and was a wise counselor throughout its growth and development.


The first structure built on the property was a Dutch-design tempered glass greenhouse, where they began growing Ohio native perennials, shrubs and trees, as well as woodland and prairie plants, and an assortment of annuals and edibles.


Shortly thereafter, 19 additional passively heated poly houses were constructed for additional plant production needs. Customers started coming from all over to get our edible, ornamental and native plants that thrive in the Ohio region, but are rarely found at other area nurseries.


Marvin’s Organic Gardens earned its official USDA organic certification in 2003. This certification ensured the entire property follow strict, organic growing methods, and never use synthetics or chemicals.


Because we remain one of the only businesses in the tristate that offers our unique green services, we have remained in high demand for our landscape services and educational presentation, tours and events.

A new retail center and bulk products pole barn was constructed in 2006, which carried a wide selection of USDA Certified Organic gardening products including homemade compost, natural fertilizers, insect and weed control products, repellents, and soil amendments.


Starting in the summer of 2008, Marvin took his business national and began to sell many of these popular products on their website. Marvin’s Organic Gardens was the tri-state’s only USDA Certified Organic nursery and garden center. The garden center and nursery changed direction in 2013, and no longer grows or sells plants, but continues to offer an array of bagged and bulk organic gardening products from a new location in Lebanon, Ohio.


For many years, Marvin and his family crafted the finest homemade compost nearly 50 years, and in 2012, became certified as a class II compost facility, enabling MOG to recycle up to 50 tons of food scraps per day, in addition to yard waste and manure. However, Marvin recently retired from these operations after his long period of service to improving the soil in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Organic & Safe Fertilizers

In the summer of 2014, Wes and Diantha Duren, Marvin's son and daughter-in-law, acquired ownership of Marvin's Organic Gardens.  With that acquisition came positive and decisive change within the business.


The focus to provide the highest caliper of customer services and workmanship remains at the heart of our business. With new and exciting innovations in customer service, landscape design and installation, we are excited and well prepared to make the 20th year of our landscape design and build business, our best yet!


With over 100 years of combined experience in the horticulture industry, our talented and dedicated team of landscape professionals look forward to serving you and your family. As always, we remain dedicated to educating our customers, and the public, about the importance of creation care and how to do so responsibly.


We continue to offer time tested organic gardening products, both bagged and bulk, that are as safe and natural as they are affective. We invite you to experience our expert service and artisan craftsmanship.

Let Marvin’s Organic Gardens design, build, maintain and sustain your
outdoor living sanctuary.
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