Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at the St. Charles Convention Center

Speaker Bios

Thank you to our 2017 speakers

Jeffrey Bruce
Jeffrey L. Bruce and Company, President

Jeffrey L. Bruce, FASLA, is Owner of Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company (JBC) a national landscape architectural firm with offices in Kansas City and Des Moines. Founded 1986, JBC provides highly specialized technical support to many of the nation’s leading Architectural and Landscape Architectural firms on a wide variety of project profiles including engineered soils, green roof technologies, urban agronomy, green infrastructure, performance sports turf, water harvesting, and irrigation engineering.


Matt Bruns
Toro Company, Regional Sales Manager

Matt began a career in the green industry in 1991, where he worked at his family’s Toro Master Distributor in Orlando, as a golf irrigation salesman.  In 1999, he started with The Toro Company as the Regional Sales Manager for Toro & Irritrol Residential/Commercial Irrigation Products.  Matt has both the CIC and CLIA Certifications from the Irrigation Association, is a past Education Director for the local GIA, and has become one of our regular speakers over the years.  Matt and his wife will celebrate 30 years of marriage this December, have two older children, and lives in Kirkwood, MO.


Matt Bunch
The Giving Grove, Horticulturist 

As the horticulturist for the Giving Grove, Matt selects the fruit and nut varieties, consults with new sites, and advises Giving Grove site stewards on the best practices for growing fruits and nuts biologically in the Kansas City area. Matt has been in the horticulture profession since 1994, but his love for plants and gardening grew from the gardens of his parents and grandparents. Schooled as a history major, Matt has worked in horticulture in retail, municipal, and public garden capacities. From 2004 to 2013 Matt was with Powell Gardens (Kansas City's Botanical Garden), first as a Native Plant Landscape Specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation Discovery Center, and later as the Horticulturist for The Heartland Harvest Garden, a 12 acre edible landscape featuring over 2000 distinct edible plant varieties; fruits, nuts, berries, vegetables and herbs. Over the years Matt has written for The Best Times and the Missouri Gardener and has spoken at many Master Gardener gatherings, the Great Plains Growers Conference, Growing Power, The National Green Centre, Grow Native Workshops and more. Work follows him home where he grows mainly natives and edibles with his wife and two children in Kansas City, Missouri.

Steve Crouch
Just Landscape Lighting, Owner/Operator

Carol Davit
Missouri Prairie Foundation/Grow Native!, Executive Director

Carol Davit is the executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, a 51 year old prairie conservation nonprofit, named on March 10th, 2017 the Conservation Organization of the Year for 2016 by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. She has worked for 20 years in the conservation and environmental fields in communications,development, administration, and leadership capacities. She has worked for private, nonprofit conservation groups, including the Missouri Botanical Garden, and at the municipal and state government levels. Davit serves on the Missouri Monarch and Pollinator Conservation Steering Committee, the Conservation Federation of Missouri Grasslands Committee, OAKS (Missouri Outdoor Action Committee), and on MELAB - The Missouri Environmental Literacy Advisory Board. She has been the editor of field guides and written on a wide variety of natural history and conservation topics for the Missouri Prairie Journal, the Missouri Conservationist, and other publications.


Larry DeWitt
DeWitt Company, Founder and CEO

Larry DeWitt started his own landscaping business in Sikeston, Missouri, soon after earning degrees in horticulture and landscape design at Southeast Missouri State University. In 1977, he was looking for a material to stop weeds and increase plant growth - without chemicals. But back then, black plastic was a landscaper’s only option. From hands on experience, he knew that while plastic stops weeds, it also blocks out moisture and air. The result: disease, fungus and rot. Unsatisfied, Larry decided to create something better. He experimented with textiles and materials until finally hitting pay dirt. He discovered that woven polypropylene did everything he wanted. And his new landscape fabric, (later dubbed DeWitt’s Weed Barrier), changed the professional landscaping industry. Today, DeWitt produces a diverse family of landscape and nursery support products used in more than 70% of the commercial landscaping done throughout the United States. In 2000, the company moved into a 300,000 square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility which is centrally located in the heartland of America. By 2017, the manufacturing facility has expanded to over 350,000 square feet. By continually investing in technology and equipment, DeWitt is able to consistently provide the highest quality products available in the landscape and nursery industry.

Laura Ekasetya
Lurie Garden, Director and Head Horticulturist

Laura joined Lurie Garden in February of 2011 as a horticulturist working to maintain the integrity of Piet Oudolf's perennial plant design. She came from Chicago Botanic Garden where she tended to perennials grown under research evaluation. After attending the public opening of Millenniurm Park in 2004, she became a regular visitor to the garden, watching the garden grow from a field of gallon sized plants to a rangy tapestry of texture has been a joy. In the beginning of 2017 Laura became the director of Lurie Garden. Laura enjoys stalking insects, birds, and other creatures that make the garden their home. She enjoys helping out with community gardens throughout the city, hiking the Indiana Dunes and marshes of the Calumet region.


Erik Ervin
Virginia Tech, Professor

Dr. Ervin started his career as the State Turfgrass Extension Specialist for the University of Missouri in 1998. For the last 17 years he has been a Professor at Virginia Tech specializing in Turfgrass Culture and Stress Physiology. Currently, Dr. Ervin is also serving as Head of the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.


Bob Glover
Ritter Greenhouses, Head Grower

Responsible for growing quality plants from the seed and plug stage, to the time they ship to our independent garden center customers and landscape companies.

Dean Gunderson
Gateway Greening, Garden Program Manager

Dean Gunderson is the Garden Program Manager of Gateway Greening.  Gateway Greening's garden program currently supports 200 community and school gardens in the St. Louis region.  He works with community groups to help them plan out their garden projects and then works to build and install infrastructure with the gardeners.  He also manages Gateway Greening's efforts to support those gardens by providing vegetable seeds and seedlings, advice on growing food in the urban environment, a tool loan program, and maintaining a demonstration garden.


Brad Jakubowski
Penn State University, Instructor

Brad has been involved with the Green Industry for over 25 years, working within the residential/commercial, golf course and sport field areas. He is currently pursuing his PhD at Penn State University and is an instructor of Turfgrass Science. Previously, he directed the two-year Sports Turf Management Program for the University of Nebraska and helped them develop their new Turfgrass and Landscape Management Degree Program. He is a 14-year member of the STMA, co-founder of the STMA Student Challenge and recently served on the STMA board of directors. Brad especially enjoys working with industry and conducting educational outreach programs.


Anne McKinstry
McKinstry Sales, Owner

As owner and manager of McKinstry Plant Sales, Anne is a sales representative/consultant for local, regional and national wholesale nurseries plus a green industry supply manufacturer.  A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a B.S. in Agriculture with an emphasis in ornamental horticulture, Anne has been involved in the nursery business for over 40 years. Her experience has been in garden center sales, landscape design and wholesale sales.  A past president of the Missouri Landscape & Nursery Association and Landscape & Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis, she has served on the board of the Southern Nursery Association &  Missouri Governor Carnahan’s Agriculture Advisory Committee.  Anne was the Missouri Landscape & Nursery Association’s Coordinator for eight years.


Jon Miller

Lee Miller
University of Missouri, Associate Professor

Dr. Lee Miller is the extension turfgrass pathologist at the University of Missouri. Lee is the faculty lead for the MU Plant Diagnostic Clinic, and coordinates both the Missouri IPM program and Pesticide Safety Education Program. Current research interests include characterization of Pythium species causing root diseases in creeping bentgrass in the Midwest, and integrated management practices for spring dead spot on bermudagrass and large patch of zoysia.


Jeff Morrisey 
Washington University in St Louis, Campus Planning & Capital Projects

Jeff Morrisey, AIA, is a planner for Washington University in St. Louis, in Campus Planning & Capital Projects in the Department of Facilities Planning & Management.  He has been intimately involved in the multi-project East End Transformation of the Danforth Campus from early programming and master planning through design and currently-underway construction.  His diverse experience in architecture and design spans from award-winning master planning for the Grand Center Arts district, to the major expansion of student housing for St. Louis University, multiple national U.S. Courthouse projects under the General Service Administration’s Design Excellence program, and the comprehensive adaptive reuse of the landmark historic Old Post Office, in downtown St. Louis.


Mike Rood
Pea Ridge Forest Tree Farm, President and Co-Owner

Mike Rood is president and co-owner of Pea Ridge Forest Tree Farm. A graduate from the University of Missouri Columbia with a degree in forest management, he parlayed that knowledge and the experience of going up on a christmas tree farm to incorporate nursery stock. He is a past president of the Landscape and Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis as well as the Hermann Tree Council. Mike is an active member of our green community with a passion for trees and desire to share that knowledge. He is a guest speaker, community leader, and consummate teacher to students and industry professionals alike. Mike has served on numerous committees and councils within our green industry to insure that Pea Ridge remains a leader in the industry.


Craig Pisarkiewicz
MPR Supply Company

Barry Ritter
Ritter Perennials, Owner/Manager

Barry Ritter is the local owner and artisan grower of Ritter Perennials. Barry has over 40 years of knowledge and experience, and has been a business owner for over 25 years. Barry is a member of the Perennial Plant Association, Gateway Professional Horticulturist Association, Missouri Green Industry Alliance and Landscape and Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis.  He attends the industry's foremost horticultural conferences each year to learn upcoming perennial trends. He also meets with the top breeders of the world to bring back the newest plants that will thrive in the St. Louis area climate and conditions.


Bill Rosner
Big River Marketing

Bill Ruppert
Bohn's Farm and Greenhouses, Sales Manager

William (Bill) Ruppert, since 1990, owns and manages the St. Louis office of National Nursery Products, a horticultural sales, marketing and consulting company representing wholesale growers of a wide variety of ornamental and environmental landscape plants. Bill is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a B.S. in Agriculture with an emphasis in ornamental horticulture and landscape design. Upon graduation, he began his career at the University coordinating the landscape redevelopment and enhancement of the University of Missouri's Columbia campus which was a significant portion of (then) Chancellor Barbara S. Uehling's campus beautification initiative. Bill maintains active leadership association with variety of professional green industry boards, community service organizations and educational program advisory committees including Missouri Green Industry Alliance, Missouri Green Industry Conference, Mizzou Botanic Garden, MU Extension St. Louis County Council, Gateway Greening, St. Louis Science Center GROW Exhibit and Missouri Prairie Foundation Grow Native!.

Derek Schrof
Ball Seed Co.,Sales Representative

Derek is a sales consultant for Ball Seed Co. and works with greenhouse owners to produce a wide range of plants. His passion for plants began on an IL farm and has grown for over 21 years professionally. He has been active in green industry associations and holds a degree in horticulture from the University of Illinois. He enjoys being with his wife and two children and spending time in the yard and on beautifully landscaped golf courses.

Yvonne Steingruby
City of Webster Groves, Park Superintendent

This presenter has a combined 29 years of horticultural industry experience in both the private and public sector. Credentials include an AAS in the field of Horticulture, a BA in Management, and is a Certified Arborist with TRAQ. She is currently working as the Superintendent of the Webster Groves Park system and in the process of completing an MA in the art of management.

Guy Sternberg
Starhill Forest Arboretum, Principal

Guy Sternberg, an ISA-certified arborist, retired licensed landscape architect, and Pi Alpha Xi honors Purdue University graduate, has researched, written, and lectured extensively on native trees. His arboretum, Starhill Forest, holds the most comprehensive APGA-certified living oak collection in North America along with 2000 other types of trees, native and otherwise. He is a co-founder of the Illinois Native Plant Society and the International Oak Society, a life member of the International Dendrology Society, and holds adjunct appointments with the Illinois State Museum and Illinois College biology faculty.


Claudia West
Phyto Studio LLC, Principal

Claudia West is a leading voice in the emerging field of ecological planting design. Known for her passionate advocacy of plant-driven design, Claudia is a widely sought out speaker and consultant who applies the technologies of plant systems to bring essential natural functions back into our cities and towns. She has worked on all sides of the green industry—as a designer, a grower, installer, and land manager—grounding her innovative work in pragmatic solutions that address the realities of our urbanizing world. She is the co-author of the critically acclaimed book, Planting in a Post-Wild World (Timber Press, 2015).

Having grown up on a family-owned nursery, florist business, and design/build firm in eastern Germany, Claudia was propagating plants before she could walk. Her love of American native plants brought her to the U.S. where she worked at Blue Mount Nurseries in Maryland and immersed herself in the study of American flora and mid-Atlantic ecosystems. Claudia holds a Master’s Degree of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the Technical University of Munich, Germany. Her intense studies of plant habitats and the science of plant community-based design strategies at the renowned school for horticulture in Weihenstephan, Germany built a solid foundation for her current work. Before co-founding Phyto Studio, Claudia was ecological sales manager at North Creek Nurseries, a wholesale perennial grower in Landenberg, PA. Her work was focused on bridging the gap between growers, designers, and land managers as well as introducing more functional and beautiful ecological plants into the nursery trade.


Brian Winka
Missouri Sports Turf, Lead Agronomist

Brian Winka, CSFM is the Sports Turf Manager for the City of Chesterfield Missouri, a position he has held since 2005. He holds a B.S. in Agronomy from Missouri State University and attained certification as a Certified Sports Field Manager through STMA in 2008. He is the former President of the Gateway Chapter of STMA.

Brian’s background includes being in grounds management for over 20 years. Prior to being a Sports Turf Manager he was an assistant golf course superintendent at WingHaven Country Club and at The Missouri Bluffs Golf Club.


Xi Xiong
University of Missouri, Associate Professor

Dr. Xi Xiong is a turf specialist. Her research at the University of Missouri focuses on turf pest management, and developing strategies for control of soil hydrophobicity. Dr. Xiong also teaches undergraduate turfgrass management courses at Mizzou as well.