InVigorateU Speakers

Kris Bachtell Ginny Hodgson Mike Gooder
Bryce Carnehl Timothy Howard Jenna Jones
Holly Birch Smith Aaron Zych Dr. Trent Ford
Dr. Bridget K. Behe Natalie Kenny Marquez  Gregg Roesink
Jessica DeGraaf Shannon McEnerney Lawson Thalmann
Phillip Douglas Nikki Melin Brodie Kerst
Kurt Dreisilker Dr. Dan Potter

Mike Gooder, President
Plantpeddler Inc.Mike Gooder

Mike Gooder is president and co-owner (wife Rachel) of Plantpeddler, located in Cresco Iowa, and has been in business since 1980, with son John joining in 2014.

Plantpeddler’s Young Plant division is a major propagator of vegetative genetics with industry leadership in Begonias. The Wholesale division focuses on premium retail-ready products from Spring through Christmas.

Mike is a graduate of Horticulture from Iowa State University, involved in several industry groups, a recipient of the National Horticulture Leadership Award, and speaks on a wide range of horticultural and business topics regionally and nationally.  


Dr. Bridget K. Behe, Ph.D., Professor of Horticultural Marketing
Michigan State University

Dr. Bridget Behe is a Professor of Horticultural Marketing at Bridget Behe Michigan State University. She teaches courses on marketing and management for horticulture majors. Bridget has conducted over 100 consumer and market research projects on horticultural products, both edible and ornamental. She has written more than 500 publications in the trade press and peer-reviewed journals.

She joined Michigan State’s faculty in August, 1997, after serving on the faculty at Auburn University (Alabama)for 8 years. Bridget earned degrees from Penn State University (Ph.D. Horticulture, B.S. Horticulture, B.S. Agricultural Education) and The Ohio State University (M.S. Horticulture).

Each year, she speaks to professionals and industry groups nationally and internationally. She writes articles for trade magazines to share the findings of her consumer research studies. She was co-chair of the AmericanHort (formerly OFA) Garden Center Committee for several years and now serves on their Retail Committee. Dr. Behe has served as chair of a USDA regional project committee where horticulturists and agricultural economists work collaboratively on consumer and economic challenges facing the ornamental horticulture industry.

Phillip Douglas, Director of Plant Collections
Chicago Botanic Garden

As the director of plant collections at Chicago Botanic Garden,Phillip Douglas Douglas manages a diverse collection of plants and participates in plant collecting expedition work around the globe.

Douglas also oversees the Garden’s plant breeding and introduction program: Chicagoland Grows, the plant evaluation program, and the living plant documentation department. Douglas is a member of the International Oak Society, International Plant Propagators Society, American Public Garden Association, and International Dendrology Society.

A native Kentuckian, Douglas began his career in horticulture working for the historic Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then as the Director of Horticulture for Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. He received a bachelor of science in horticulture from the University of Cincinnati, and a masters of public administration from Eastern Kentucky University.

Natalie Kenny Marquez
Grow Marketing + Communications, LLC

Natalie Kenny Marquez is a born planner and communicator Natalie Kenny Marquezspecializing in helping organizations determine their audience, tell their story, build their brand, and expand their reach. Natalie's background includes over a decade in municipal government outreach and communications, five seasons running Urbana's Market at the Square, and countless hours working with small businesses and start-ups on their marketing plans and strategies.

Natalie is a double-major in Journalism/Advertising and Political Science from Southern Illinois University and holds a Master of Public Administration, with an emphasis on Public Management, from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Besides owning Grow, Natalie is an Entrepreneur in Residence, a program of the Illinois University Incubator Network. She also is the President of the Illinois Farmers Market Association. In 2016 she was a Forty Under 40 winner, a program of Central Illinois Business Magazine.

Kris Bachtell, MS, Vice-President of Collections and Facilities
The Morton ArboretumKris Bachtell

Kris Bachtell is the Vice-President of Collections and Facilities at 
The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL which is 30 miles due west of Chicago, IL. His role involves directing the horticulture, grounds, and facilities operations of one of the largest arboreta in the United States. The Arboretum’s principal collections focus growing hardy woody plants: trees, shrubs, and vines.

Kris has participated in eight germplasm collecting and evaluation expeditions to the northern and northeastern regions of the People's Republic of China. His interests include evaluating plants suitable for the colder, harsher climate of the upper Midwest, and introducing these plants through the nursery trade.

He serves as a Director for the Chicagoland Grows® Plant Introduction Program, a joint venture of The Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois (OGA). 

Dr. Trent Ford, Illinois State Climatologist
Illinois State Water Survey
Trent Ford

Dr. Trent Ford has been the Illinois State Climatologist since 2019.
He and his team provide information online, through traditional and social media, and by speaking to interested groups across the state.

In addition to his role in education and climate outreach, Ford also conducts research on the climate system and extreme climate events, like drought and heat waves; monitors current conditions; and studies climate change.

A native of Roanoke, Illinois, Ford earned a bachelors in geography from Illinois State University before completing his masters and PhD at Texas A&M University. Before joining the Illinois State Water Survey, Ford was an assistant professor in the Department of Geography & Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.


Kurt Dreisilker, Head of Natural Resources and Collections Horticulture 
The Morton Arboretum

Kurt oversees the planning Kurt Dreisilkerand implementation of ecological restoration projects within the Arboretum’s natural areas.

Kurt has more than 20 years of experience managing ex-situ (horticultural maintenance) and in situ (natural ecosystems) conservation programs at the Arboretum. Currently, Kurt’s research focuses on understanding the Arboretum’s natural ecosystems with the aim of improving their health, diversity, and sustainability over time.

He works closely with staff and volunteers to document and improve conditions for the flora and fauna within the landscape and then devises plans to improve their conditions by implementing tailored conservation projects.

Additionally, Kurt works with staff and volunteers to engage in maintenance operations of the Arboretum’s living collections, which includes ensuring the trees and shrubs of the Arboretum are in good condition. He also coordinates with numerous organizations on regional, national, and international scales to understand and help implement conservation and ecological restoration projects across the globe.

Lawson Thalmann, Head of Technology
ChaletLawson Thalmann

Lawson represents the 4th generation of Thalmanns at Chalet, Chicago's premier garden center, where he leads the company's technology efforts. The retail, landscape design-build and growing businesses are all benefiting from his digital transformation efforts. Lawson launched Chalet's eCommerce business in 2017, and sales have grown by multiples in the years since. Over the past year, Lawson launched a new POS system to take advantage of omnichannel synergies for the company. He's now focusing on a new software launch for the landscape division.

He earned his MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in 2020 with a focus in Strategy and Marketing which honed his love for solving business problems. His undergraduate degree is in Economics from the University of Wisconsin.

He is passionate about using technology to improve business and day-to-day life, but seeks to balance this with a connection to nature and well being for himself and others. He practices meditation daily and helps others establish the practice. Home is the Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown with his new wife and golden retriever puppy. They escape the city to the Thalmann Farm in Wisconsin where Lawson keeps a 96 square foot vegetable garden that supplements the diet of this friends and family.


Dan PotterDr. Dan Potter, Professor of Entomology
University of Kentucky

Dr. Dan Potter is Professor of Entomology at the University of Kentucky. His research has informed strategies integrated pest and pollinator management for 42 years. He is an award-winning teacher and a frequent invited speaker at conferences around the world.

Dan has received national legacy contribution awards from the Professional Land Care Network, the American Nursery and Landscape Association, and the U.S. Golf Association.


Holly Birch SmithHolly Birch
Holly Birch Photography

Holly Birch Smith is a commercial & wedding photographer based in Mahomet, IL.

She loves and collects lobsters, has a slight obsession with tea (both hot and iced), and owns way too many pairs of socks. An avid blogger, she has owned Holly Birch Photography for more than 15 years and has photographed products, food, and events for many local and national businesses and restaurants.  



Bryce Carnehl, Specification Marketing Manager
Hunter Industries

Bryce Carnehl

Bryce Carnehl has been in the landscape industry for over 20 years working in construction, landscape architecture, sales, corporate social responsibility, and marketing. Throughout these years he has dedicated himself to promoting the value of green spaces.

What he has learned during this time is that the ‘green industry’ (landscape industry) is far from being green or responsible for its actions and impacts. So, he has channeled his passion for the green industry to educate stakeholders on aligning responsible practices with business goals to help build business prosperity, increase the value of landscapes, and ensure healthy communities in which we all live, work, and play.



 Jessica DeGraaf, Director of Retail Accounts
Proven Winners

Jessica DeGraaf is a lifelong gardening enthusiast who quite Jessica DeGraafliterally grew up in the horticulture business, learning about plants while toting hoses through her parents’ garden center in Northern Michigan.

After receiving undergraduate and master's degrees in Horticulture from Michigan State University, she went on to work for numerous large grower operations in support-oriented roles. A year spent in Germany working for a global breeding company helped Jessica understand more about the European market and how to apply those lessons to her work in the U.S.  

In her current position as Director of Retail Accounts for Proven Winners, Jessica is focused exclusively on building relationships with and innovative marketing programs for independent garden enters. Jessica has never met a plant she doesn’t like and enjoys spending her free time gardening, hiking and traveling with her husband, two children and her dachshund Brunhilde.

Timothy Howard, PresidentTimothy Howard
Clarity Connect, Inc.

Timothy is the Founder and President of Clarity Connect, Inc.  For more than 20 years, his company has delivered creative, practical marketing solutions for the horticulture industry.  Their online solutions include custom designed websites with easy-to-use website content management tools specifically for growers, garden centers and landscapers.  

Timothy’s presentations are very practical and typically have suggestions you can implement with little to no cost. He likes to engage the audience with questions and the occasional barb and humor (at least to him).



Nikki Melin, Sales Operations ManagerNikki Melin
Midwest Groundcovers

Nikki holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture and a Master in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing & Entrepreneurship from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Nikki leads and manages the sales, shipping, and order fulfillment teams to ensure customer expectations are met. Nikki also directs marketing activities and plays a pivotal role in strategic company planning.

Nikki began her career interning at a prestigious garden in Chicago’s Millenium Park and at an outdoor tree museum in Lisle, IL. Nikki is an Illinois Certified Nursery Professional (ICN Pro), specializing in perennials.


Shannon McEnerney, Marketing Manager Shannon McEnerney
Midwest Groundcovers

Shannon has a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Horticulture and Design from Purdue University.

Shannon brings 12 years of experience to Midwest, including experience in retail, floral design, annual containers and perennial maintenance. She previously worked for a landscape company where she held positions in purchasing; residential account management; landscape and seasonal container design.

At Midwest, Shannon maintains the inventory database; manages license agreements and payments; coordinates the forecasting and plant accession processes; and supports the Purchasing Coordinator.


Gregg Roesink, Product Training SpecialistGregg Roesink
Hunter Industries

Gregg is a graduate of San Diego State University and has worked for Hunter Industries for over four years. Before that, he worked in landscape architecture, water management, landscape contracting and as an irrigation technician. With over 18 years in the industry, water conservation and high efficient irrigation design has become a passion of his along with an occasional dive into the creative realm of landscape lighting design and installation.

His role at Hunter is the Product Training Specialist and is responsible for Hunter University Instructor-led trainings nationwide. Gregg carries accolades that include Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA), Certified Irrigation Technician (CIT), Landscape Industry Certified Technician (LICT), Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) Recycled Water Site Supervisor (RWSS).

Ginny Hodgson, Sales RepresentativeGinny Hodgson
Ball Horticultural Company

Ginny Hodgson has spent her entire 35 year career in the Horticulture Industry in a wide variety of jobs. From working at and managing garden centers, to being a plant buyer for a large landscaping firm in the Chicago area, to selling inputs to greenhouse growers representing Ball Horticultural Co. and many stops in between, she has been inspired by many people plants and ideas




Aaron Zych

Aaron Zych, PLA, ASLA
ILT Vignocchi

Aaron is Vice President of ILT Vignocchi. This multi award winning design/build Landscape Architecture firm has been in business for over 50 years. Aaron is a licensed Landscape Architect as well as a Certified Arborist with over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry. His passions include plants and refining processes and loves the fact he can use his creative talents daily.




Jenna Jones, ASLA, LEED Green Associate, Director of Marketing + CommunicationsJenna Jones
site design group, ltd 

Jenna Jones is the Director of Marketing and Communications at site design group, ltd. (site). Her educational background in marketing communications and landscape architecture with a focus on ecological design has led to a strong passion for exploring the relationship between people and nature. Communication of design and the creative process is an integral part of her day-to-day role, which includes leading the firm's proposals, social media, web presence, and outreach.




Brodie KerstBrodie Kerst
Brodie Kerst Productions

6 years ago Brodie began to pursue a career in the profession of architecture and design. Along they way, he picked up a camera and began using video to help story tell the projects he was designing. Fast forward and now Brodie is working with architects, landscape architects, and interior designers to help them better communicate their work through video. His work has gone on to not only win over more work for the firms he collaborates with but also a few awards along the way.  




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