GPN's Class of 2014: 40 Under 40
These 40 men and women are going to help drive the horticulture industry into the future.
The Class of 2014 of GPN’s 40 Under 40 embody the future of the horticulture industry. Over the next 15 pages (and on the 40 Under 40 page on www.gpnmag.com) , you will have an opportunity to learn more about the men and women who hold the keys to the engine that will continue to drive the industry forward.
They are growers, breeders, managers and owners in greenhouses, garden centers, botanic gardens and other horticulture-related facilities. They represent many of the diverse disciplines that make up our industry.
These individuals will help steer the industry into the future and they all are doing it before their 40th birthday (as of the nomination deadline of Jan. 31, 2014).
It is my pleasure to introduce to you the Class of 2014 of GPN’s 40 Under 40!
Cartago, Costa Rica
Accomplishments: Responsible for implementing company’s production program. Revamped company’s cost structure to ensure long-term viability in Costa Rica and established reporting systems to strengthen relations with breeders and brokers.
Off the Clock: Fernando likes to be competitive and participates in many different sports — baseball, volleyball and soccer. He even played on the defensive line of an American football team.
Relatives in High Places: Fernando’s grandfather was Costa Rica’s Minister of Economy, Industry and Commerce in the late 1970s and started a cut flower business in the early 1980s.
Head Plug Grower
Bob’s Market and Greenhouses
Accomplishments: Helped further the growth of the company from 5 million plugs in 1996 to more than 100 million in 2014. Third-generation family member who is always looking for innovative ways to help improve processes and products to keep the company moving forward.
Off the Clock: When he’s not in the greenhouse, Eric likes to spend quiet time with his wife and two children or get away from it all and go fly fishing or hunting in the mountains of West Virginia.
Staying Out of the Line of Fire: Eric’s great, great, great uncle was a brevet colonel in the U.S. Army under Col. George Custer. Due to an injury from a previous battle, he was hospitalized and narrowly missed the Battle of Little Bighorn.
J. Berry Nursery
Grand Saline, Texas
Accomplishments: Was instrumental in the launch of the family business in 2006 and then helped develop the company’s business strategy to successfully navigate the recent recession. Successfully introduced innovative Black Diamond series of black-leafed crapemyrtles in 2012.
Big Easy Cuisine: A graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans, Jonathan loves to return to his collegiate stomping grounds “to enjoy some of the best food in the world.”
Semper Fidelis: Jonathan is a retired officer in the United States Marine Corp. He received an NROTC scholarship in college and was commissioned as a second lieutenant but was medically retired after two years of service.
Joe Bischoff, Ph.D
Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Director
Accomplishments: Was deeply involved in the AmericanHort/ANLA/OFA efforts and the development of key parts of the 2014 Farm Bill that passed earlier this year. Earned his Ph.D. at Rutgers University and works with legislators and regulators on pest and disease management, international and domestic plant quarantines and trade issues.
A Fungus Among Us? Joe says he is “pretty geeky” because he has published more than 30 papers on fungal taxonomy.
Off the Clock: Joe likes to get away from it all and go sea kayaking — “long trips or just practicing Eskimo rolls in a pond.”
Betsy (Kollman) Bresky
Four Star Greenhouse
Accomplishments: As a member of team that directs the breeding and selection of a national plant brand, has helped improve the trialing processes used to evaluate and bring new plant varieties to market. During graduate school at Cornell University, did extensive research in the breeding of alstroemeria.
Favorite Hobby: “I love cooking. I’m fairly fearless when it comes to concocting complicated meals. Yes, I mess them up sometimes, but when they work they’re really good!”
That Spartan Sound: As a trumpet player at Michigan State University, Betsy’s musical skills have been seen and heard at Big Ten Tournaments, NCAA Tournaments, a bowl game and numerous other events.
Canoyer Garden Center
Papillion, Neb., and two locations in Iowa
Accomplishments: Helped company win New and Emerging Business of the Year competition in Nebraska where 1,700 other business owners voted. Actively involved in company’s expansion from one to three locations in two different states.
Don’t Pin Him Down: Kyle is a two-time state wrestling champion in Iowa and was a Division I wrestler at the University of Nebraska.
Don’t Touch That Remote… when Kyle’s favorite movie “Braveheart” is on. “It’s about the passion of a man to make a difference in life."
John Mark Courtney
Aquascapes Unlimited Inc.
Accomplishments: Responsible for germinating 100 percent of the company’s native wetland perennials and successfully re-creating through hybridization all 18 naturally occurring Pitcher plant sarracenia hybrids. Has grown and supplied unique wetland varieties for major botanical gardens like the U.S. Botanical Garden, the Smithsonian, the New York Botanical Garden and Longwood Gardens.
Almost 200 Miles and Counting: John Mark has snowboarded more than 1 million vertical feet at Jackson Hole, Wyo., and been awarded the Gold Belt Buckle for his accomplishments.
Finding That Right Balance: His favorite book, The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, “is a great story of self development and explores the delicate balance of one life lived in the wilderness and in the city.”
Accomplishments: Helped develop and implement standard operating procedures for the company’s production, growing and shipping departments to improve overall business efficiency. Supervises a team of 20 employees and helped develop operational flowchart and chain of command for organization.
Talk About Stressful Jobs: Bob is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp. and served as an infantryman in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He jokes that he is not sure which career was more stressful: the one in the greenhouse or the one in Iraq.
Can’t Live Without: “Coffee is my lifeblood!”
Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse Co.
Accomplishments: Created and established a forecasting and inventory system that reduced end-of-season surplus by approximately 20 percent. Worked with Foertmeyer & Sons’ environmental control company to develop a unique irrigation boom system that is being tweaked and tested at company’s facility and is on track to be sold to the public later this year.
Off the Clock: Matt enjoys photography and videography. “I bought my first video camera in high school and have been spending way more on equipment than I should ever since.”
Favorite Flicks: “Wall-E” and “Despicable Me.” “We have a 6-year-old and 2-year-old, I don’t get to branch out from their genres very often.”
Accomplishments: Worked for a Phoenix public relations firm for 13 years and is now applying those unique skills as a third-generation co-owner and operator of a 76-year-old family business. Elected 2014 president of the Independent Nurseries of Arizona.
Deep Arizona Roots: A fifth generation Arizonan, Christine is “proud that I have turned every opportunity afforded me into a life experience that helps guide me through thick and thin.”
Tasty Treat: A cheese crisp smothered in El Pato hot sauce.
Roses Inc. Green Country, LLC
Broken Arrow, Okla.
Accomplishments: At the age of 22, successfully launched a rose nursery and in the first year grew maintenance clientele 30 percent; implemented new, sustainable financial and business models; relocated 3,000 rose bushes and the store, greenhouses, etc. during the heat of summer. Launched in-house, custom-made app to decrease paper trail and increase communication between customers, staff, field technicians and the nursery inventory.
Mmm, Mmm, Good! “My mom’s home cooking. We grew up with zero junk food in the house, eating locally grown organic fruits and veggies. Still today she cooks the freshest, most delicious meals.”
From modeling to …Karen used to be a model while attending New York University, but “I left the heels behind for muck boots!!”
Jamie Gibson, Ph.D.
Syngenta Flowers, Home and Garden
Accomplishments: Served on the floriculture faculty at North Carolina State University and the University of Florida-Milton. Recipient of the U of F’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Teaching Award. Served as co-director of research leadership program that trained 60+ horticultural graduates, worked with 105 commercial growers, studied 65 plant genera and conducted 1,150 trials.
Place to Get Away From It All: “You just can’t beat the sugar white beaches of northwest Florida.”
The Roots of the Family Tree: Jamie’s great-grandfather, J.B.S. Norton, was the first plant pathologist for the state of Maryland; he was also a daylily breeder and some of his varieties are growing in the U.S. National Arboretum.
Fort Collins, Colo.
Accomplishments: Was instrumental in developing and growing the company’s liner business and creating an eclectic variety list for customers to distinguish the company from its competition. Responsible for upgrading the company’s graphics and marketing efforts to help compete with other top-tier growers.
Beverage of Choice: Either Arnold Palmer (combination of iced tea and lemonade) or Colorado beer — “We’re lucky to have so many amazing local breweries here!”
Home Sweet Home: Beth owns a 1904 original Ft. Collins brick bungalow. “I still can’t believe I get to live in such a beautiful piece of history.”
Dumfries Nursery & Garden Center
Accomplishments: Responsible for managing all aspects of garden center’s greenhouse production operations including the establishment and launch of organic and heirloom vegetable lines. Helped guide garden center and nursery to multiple accolades for service and quality throughout the Virginia-D.C.-Maryland region.
Fore! Wali is a graduate of George Mason University who, in his spare time, likes to escape to the driving range and hit golf balls “for hours on end.”
Championship Caliber Landscaping: Back in the 1980s, Wali’s father did landscape work for many of the football players on the Washington Redskins, including former head coach and current NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs.
Sales & Marketing Manager
Accomplishments: Worked as general manager of a garden center before turning 20. She was in charge of propagation, container design, order processing, the garden center’s advertising, and the hiring and training. Played a key role in the development of an independent plant brand for independent garden centers and helped bring unique, exclusive genetics to the market.
Off the Clock: Jen enjoys experimenting with recipes in the kitchen, staying active outdoors and shopping to keep up with the latest fashion trends.
Bet You Didn’t Know: Jen was a baton twirler in the 1996 Miss America Parade in Atlantic City, N.J.
Director of Events and Marketing/Event and Product Coordinator
Accomplishments: Grew up in the family business and started asking customers if she could help them when she was 3 years old. Instrumental in the creation and development of the company’s container gardening business, workshop program and Java Garden Café. Developed company’s lettuce and micro-greens programs to help diversify products and connect with the community. The program provides food to the local area and “also educate(s) our community.”
Lights, Camera, Action: Kara makes weekly informational YouTube videos that are emailed to customers to keep them informed on what is happening at the garden center and in the greenhouse.
On a Roll: When she was in sixth grade, Kara was the state champion in roller skating and took fourth place in the regionals.
Big Bad Flower
West Des Moines, Iowa/Sarasota, Fla.
Accomplishments: Contributing to the ambitious growth of a new ecommerce company that is delivering unique, “big bad” plants to consumers for decorating, eating, admiring and enjoying, right to their front door. One of Katie’s hardscape projects was featured in the test garden and the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Can’t Live Without: Katie needs her Chapstick and coffee. “I can’t live — let alone function — without coffee.”
Great Escape: “I enjoy traveling to the northeast border of Iowa in fall, following the Mississippi River as it curves downward from Lansing to Pikes Peak, Dyersville to Davenport.”
Director of Horticulture
Green Bay Botanical Garden
Green Bay, Wis.
Accomplishments: Responsible for overseeing construction of 5 acres of new gardens and adding more than 38,500 permanent plants of over 2,150 taxa to the plant collection. Has mentored more than 50 interns during his nine years at GBBG. “I love getting a fresh perspective from young people.”
Pursuing His Plant Passion: After working for three and a half years as a civil engineer, Mark realized that was not his passion, so he went back to college to study horticulture.
Working to Relax: After a hard day of working out in the gardens, Mark likes to work out. “A workout after work calms me down and transitions me to personal time.”
M&M Wintergreens Inc.
Accomplishments: Has written articles on winter gardening and related Christmas topics for national magazines. Has been a guest speaker at national and regional conferences; and publishes company’s monthly e-newsletter. Planned, designed and implemented company marketing program that received Constant Contact’s prestigious All Star Award.
Fitting in a Hobby: Shannon has been a fitness instructor “off and on” for more than 15 years.
Favorite Vacation Spot: Shannon’s favorite vacation spot is a tie between anywhere warm, tropical and “beachy” and Walt Disney World.
Olsons Greenhouse Gardens/ProGro Partners
Vice President of Sales & Marketing/President
Accomplishments: Developed ContainerFEST, a promotional event for one of the company’s customers, where gardeners can come discover the joy of container gardening. Responsible for building a merchandising company from the ground level to a 300+ employee operation.
On His Bookshelf: Lone Survivor. “I have a great deal of gratitude for the men and women that risk their lives to defend the freedom of others. ”
Gets His Kicks: Brian loves all things soccer (watching, playing, coaching) and is a nationally licensed competitive soccer coach.
Accomplishments: Responsible for increasing sales and profitability of company’s nursery department. Actively involved in multiple committees of regional and national industry associations and won the 2013 Garden Center Live! merchandising contest at OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio.
Turn it Up: Joe can’t live without his music! “Every day my music is playing. Any and every genre, country, pop, 90s and trance music.”
Horticulture is in the Family Tree: Joe’s grandfather was once president of the Grosse Pointe and Eastern Michigan Horticultural Society. He credits his grandfather as the person who gave him his appreciation for horticulture.
Chief Operating Officer
Accomplishments: Participated in the development of a new manufacturing process that converts used water bottles into new pots and trays for the horticulture industry. Optimized existing production methods and implemented new operational procedures to improve overall efficiency and expedite new product introductions.
Off the Clock: In her free time, Stina likes to experience nature in the Pacific Northwest and goes hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and kayaking.
Favorite Vacation Spot: Maui, Hawaii. “A wonderful escape from the drizzly Pacific Northwest — but I’ll start getting island fever after about seven days.”
Corporate Supply Chain Manager/Lean Leader
Floral Plant Growers
Accomplishments: As a member of the company’s leadership team, takes an active role in helping move the entire FPG team toward a culture where employees are empowered to make improvements to their daily tasks. Helped improve communication between departments to help FPG quickly respond to changing weather and customer demand and drive sales while reducing shrink.
Make Him Laugh: One thing John can’t live without is laughter. “It is the one thing that can always bring you back to a happy state of mind. It truly is the greatest gift we were all given in my opinion.”
Favorite Reads: If You Think You Can!: Thirteen Laws that Govern the Performance of High Achievers by T.J. Hoisington and The True Role of a Leader: Being Everyone’s Servant by Paul J. Meyer
Sonali Padhye Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager
Pan American Seed/Ball Horticultural Co.
Accomplishments: Consults and collaborates with growers around the country to develop and implement floriculture research; identify and diagnose growing challenges; and enhance production efficiencies. Has published 10 refereed articles and authored more than 30 floriculture trade magazine articles on her research and related greenhouse production topics.
Outside the Greenhouse: Sonali enjoys making beaded jewelry, painting, sketching, hiking and cooking. “I like to create fusion dishes with hints of Indian and western cuisine.”
A Lily By Any Other Name: In recognition of her research efforts, Tiny Padhye Asiatic lily was named after her.
Cari Peters, Ph.D.
JR Peters Inc.
Accomplishments: Third-generation family member who oversees company’s research, technical support and new product development efforts. Currently serves on the board of directors of AmericanHort and previously has been a member of several different OFA committees and a presenter at multiple industry conferences.
Outside the Lab: Cari loves spending time outdoors skiing, hiking, walking, running or biking. “If it’s outdoors, it’s for me!”
Not Just Any Nachos: Her favorite food is nachos from The Chicken Lounge in Lehigh Valley. “They are a melted pile of goodness on Doritos, the special ingredient!”
Director of Program Development & Marketing
Accomplishments: Responsible for implementing company’s strategic marketing plan and helping develop new products and services that are relevant to customers. As a regional sales manager, was able to help growers and retailers work together to develop seasonal programs and increase their sales and profitability.
Surf’s Up: When she was in high school, Siena came in second place in the California state surfing championships.
Favorite Flick: Forrest Gump. “Life really is like a box of chocolates. The trick is not to get too attached to any single kind because there’s such a great variety to try.”
Garden Center Manager
Christen Farm Nursery
Accomplishments: Responsible for purchasing all of garden center’s plant material, giftware and plant care products as well as developing the company website and ongoing social media efforts. Serves on horticulture advisory board at local community college and loves to give back to the community by teaching to audiences of all sizes and levels.
A Necessary Skill: “I am very creative, outgoing, and I have a crazy sense of humor that is a gift for everyday existence on a crazy spring day in May.”
Can’t Live Without: The Letter F. Family, Friends, Food, Flowers and (F)hone with internet access.
Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Accomplishments: Contributes to the design, development and marketing of the company’s innovative new product launches. Works with writers, speakers and gardening hosts/celebrities in the gardening and horticulture community to get company and its products featured in TV, radio, print and web exposure on a regional and national level.
Off the Clock: “I absolutely love going for long walks! Nothing beats fresh air, beautiful scenery and great conversation.”
At Home on Their Range: “I love to bake but hate to cook … Luckily my husband likes to cook or I would be eating TV dinners every night.”
Peace Tree Farm
Accomplishments: Manages all of the company’s crops, production personnel and all aspects of the crops including propagation, transplanting, scheduling and other technical growing requirements. Developed forcing techniques for the production of up to 1,000 different genera, species and cultivars for the Philadelphia Flower Show.
What’s in the DVD Player? “GoodFellas.” “Who doesn’t love gangster movies?”
Nate’s Great Getaway: The French Quarter in New Orleans. “Every year I visit this city and every year when it comes time to leave I hate to say goodbye.”
Owner, Horticulture Educator
DeVosBury Designs LLC
Green Lane, Pa.
Accomplishments: Managed the restoration of more than 22 woodland acres working with volunteers to plant native plants back into the disturbed sites and managing contractors. Was awarded the Garden Club of America Conservation Commendation.
Recipient of NISOD Excellence Award, which recognizes teachers who demonstrate an outstanding commitment and contribution to their students and colleagues.
Going the Distance(s): Kathy completed the Race for the River Kayakalon — a 1.5-mile kayak ride, 15-mile bike ride and 5K run to raise money for the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation.
Can’t Live Without: “A place for my nine lovely hens and one handsome cat to roam with room to grow a few of my own organic vegetables.”
Grants Pass, Ore.
Accomplishments: Manages a non-profit horticultural workshop for developmentally disabled adults that starts, grows and donates over 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food bank and rescue missions. Responsible for growing starter plants from seed for more than 2 million plants annually for various educational and civic programs in the local community.
Off the Clock: Nick enjoys brewing beer, watching Seattle Seahawks games, hiking, playing guitar and enjoying time with friends, family and nature.
On the Bookshelf: East of Eden, The Shining and Lord of the Barnyard. “I like books that give you a vision of the characters and the world they live in as they see it.”
Plug and Liner Operations Manager
C. Raker & Sons
Accomplishments: Improved and updated the start area work instructions and process maps required as part of company’s quality system and also created a comprehensive training process for new employees. Helped design new packaging and containers to help ensure safe shipping of live plants.
One-Man Company: Casey also owns his own home inspection company with one employee — Casey.
In His Spare Time: He enjoys woodworking and remodeling projects. Last year, he remodeled the family’s kitchen and built a new deck. This year’s project is new landscaping for the deck.
Wallace’s Garden Center
Accomplishments: Designed and managed two green roof installation projects on the campus of Iowa State University. Manages retail garden center and has a passion not only for plants but also for business and retail and working with people.
Can’t Live Without: Miles has to have the most up-to-date apps on his iPhone because “I’m a huge tech geek.”
Air and Water Show: Miles likes to relax by flying model airplanes and fishing.
Michael Van Wingerden
Vice President of Logistics
Accomplishments: Responsible for implementing new shipping system that helped reduce typical spring work week for employees from 60+ hours to 45-50 hours. Started separate trucking company with brother-in-law that helped lower greenhouse’s overall shipping costs and liability. Trucking company hauls outside freight during slow periods and picks up empty trailers on one-way freight deliveries.
Two Different Tracks: In high school Michael high jumped 6 feet 8 inches. He is also a former two-time national racecar champion.
Brotherly Love: Michael really enjoys being able to work with his three brothers in the company’s day-to-day operations. “The four of us have a great working relationship running different areas of the business.”
Thomas Van Wingerden
Vice President of Greenhouse Operations
Accomplishments: Implemented new production processes to improve overall water quality (and ultimately plant health) for the growing operations at Metrolina Greenhouse. Helped optimize and restructure company’s production lines to increase the number of plants the company grows and to meet shipping goals.
Racing Runs in the Family: Like his brother Michael (at left), Thomas enjoys racing cars and has won more than 100 races during his career.
The BBQ King: Thomas is an avid BBQer, who enjoys cooking/smoking barbecue on a stainless-steel cooker designed and built by his father and Metrolina founder, the late Tom Van Wingerden.
Peter van Rijssen
Concept Plants BV
LJ Ijsselstein, the Netherlands
Accomplishments: Responsible for establishing North American branch of Plantipp, an agent for plant breeders, and “bringing people, plants and ideas together.” Developed a network of propagators who trial, produce and market the different varieties he represents.
Dining Delights: Japanese food, especially shabu-shabu and sashimi.
Place to Get Away: Fiji. “The people are so relaxed all of the time.”
Accomplishments: For more than 10 years, ran garden center’s residential and commercial landscape division and, with a team of six, successfully completed thousands of projects that significantly contributed to the overall success of core business. Last summer, launched a spin-off from landscape division to plant container pots and flower beds only that has increased sales in bedding and pottery departments.
Best Part of Her Job: Helping homeowners who have waited their entire lives to retire and realize their dream of starting a garden.
Hobbies: “I love to bug my sister (Christine Fortman and on right in photo), in the office, dabble around in the stock market, watch sports and play guitar.”
Ernst Benary of America
Accomplishments: Responsible for coordinating and overseeing a cutting stock production program with sources from the U.S. and Mexico. Managed all aspects of a major geranium brand from trials, planning and production to sales, inventory management and technical support.
Honor Roll: While a student at Cal-Poly, Jon-Paul was named the 2004 Intercollegiate Flower Judging Contest individual and team champion.
The Beat Goes On: His grandfather played drums for Les Brown & His Band of the Renown featuring Doris Day and backed up Jack Benny in a military band in 1944.
May’s Floral Garden
Eau Claire, Wis
Accomplishments: Recently transformed facility into a destination garden center by adding 8,000 square feet to retail garden center with the latest plants, garden supplies and decorating trends. Responsible for developing innovative television advertising campaigns creating considerable buzz in the community and drawing customers into garden center.
As If One Job Wasn’t Enough: Angela loves to attend music concerts. Because of that love, she started a second business selling jewelry, purses, hats and rubber boots at two outdoor music festivals.
Can’t Live Without: “My phone is my lifeline!” She gets four different emails (personal and business), belongs to five different social media networks and “I have three kids in many different activities that always need a ride to or from something!!”
Wilson’s Garden Center
Accomplishments: Responsible for managing the overall construction of a new garden center greenhouse. Continually working to find new and innovative ways to help company lower operating costs and improve efficiencies.
Tech Guru: Brian enjoys working with computers and other electronic products and has even become a programmer for the company’s point-of-sale software.
Can’t Miss Menu Item: Empanadas.