Speakers & Topics

2020 Speakers

Get to know this years speakers and session topics! Grow20 has a fantastic line up of industry leaders ready to share their knowledge. A diverse blend of speakers will cover topics ranging from recruiting and training all the way to building a retaining wall – and everything in between!

Mark Abrahamson Plant Protection Division Director – Minnesota Department of Agriculture http://www.mda.state.mn.us

Mark has worked at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture since 1999. Most of his career has been spent as an entomologist working with invasive species like soybean aphid, brown marmorated stink bug, and emerald ash borer. He has been in a leadership position in the Plant Protection Division for the last 4 years. The Plant Protection Division is responsible for invasive plant pests in Minnesota as well as noxious weeds, and inspection and regulation of several plant industries including nursery stock, seeds, hemp and seed potatoes. 
Mark grew up in and now lives in Wisconsin near the Minnesota border. He has a B.Sc. from University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and an M.Sc. from State University of New York at Syracuse.

Topic #1: Emerald Ash Borer in Minnesota – What has Slowed the Spread?
Emerald ash borer has been in Minnesota since 2005 when it arrived in St Paul. The first discovery of EAB was in 2009 and since then it has been found in 20 counties which is much less than was anticipated. Compared to the speed at which EAB has spread generally in the U.S., the rate has been about 1/3 of that in Minnesota. We will consider the history of EAB in Minnesota and why that difference is occuring.

Topic #2: Preventing the Movement of Pests and Disease in Nursery Stock
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is responsible for preventing the movement of pests and disease through nursery stock and insuring that clean, viable stock is available in the market place. To accomplish this task, the Department maintains a program to inspect both the stock grow in Minnesota, as well as that which is brought into the state for sale.

Bill HardyBusiness OwnerGrow & Gather Garden Centre

Bill has had many roles and responsibilities over the years and has always had an avid involvement in industry professional development and certification. He was instrumental in establishing landscape and retail certification programs nation-wide as well as playing a key role in developing Landscape Horticulture as a Red Seal Trade designation.

At home in the lower mainland of British Columbia, over the past 40 years Bill has become a highly qualified management professional in the retail, association, and the environment horticulture industry.

Bill believes in the power of plants and working landscapes to help cities become healthier, more livable spaces, and he puts his beliefs into action by committing his time and talent as a volunteer on many initiatives.

Bill is also co-owner of Grow and Gather Garden Centre in Maple Ridge BC.

Bill is active with several industry associations including: the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association – Communication Director and Treasurer; HortEducationBC – Founding Director and current Business Manager; Canadian Garden Council – Founding Director and CNLA Representative; International Association of Horticulture Producers – Chair Green City Committee; and the Green Cities Foundation – Director at Large

Topic #1: The Green City – The Importance of Urban Green Space
Climate change is affecting our cities, our communities, and our homes and is changing the way we must design and build our urban landscapes. Yes, climate change is a global problem, but the effects hit us locally, where we live. Each city, town and community must then, seek solutions and develop initiatives that are specific to their needs – on their streets, in their parks, playgrounds and schools, at all their green spaces, at every opportunity.

Never have our living landscapes been so important to our collective health and well-being – thriving, contributing, working green spaces and places for people to gather and enjoy. Urban green spaces such as gardens, parks, transportation corridors and woodlands provide a multitude of benefits to human urban populations, and a vital habitat for wildlife.

These important elements of our urban green infrastructure impact our health by improving air and water quality and limiting the impact of heatwaves by reducing urban temperatures. They provide a place for physical fitness and reduce urban stress, the presence of green spaces is proven to enhance the health and well-being of people living and working in cities.

Topic #2: The Rewards of Volunteering

What is a Weasel Worker? How did becoming a Weasel Worker lead to being the head coordinator at the top of the track at the Ladies Downhill during the 2010 Winter Olympics. How did agreeing to volunteer for the 4:00 am shift in the dark and pouring rain of the holding lot at the CanWest Horticulture Show at the Vancouver Convention Centre lead to being a VIP at the 2019 Beijing World Horticulture Expo Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and almost get detained for accidentally sitting in the Chinese Presidents Chair? Join Bill and follow him on his trip down the path of almost 40 years of volunteerism.

Nathan Helder – President – Southbrook Consulting

CEO of Gelderman Landscape Services, located in Waterdown, ON. As CEO, Nathan spends over 80% of his time in the role as a coach and mentor. He believes that every business needs to begin with a simple and clear Strategic Plan, have access to real time data with clean financial reporting, and be aware that Culture outperforms everything. In 2014, Nathan created Southbrook Consulting, which focuses on providing customized management solutions for business owners who have become frustrated and worried about the direction and financial success of their companies. Southbrook offers choices ranging from strategic planning workshops to 1:1 consulting. Nathan is married to Michelle and has 2 children.

Topic #1: Achieving Freedom & Profit, do you have what it takes?
In this seminar you will learn from an industry expert that creating a culture of ownership, operating with an open book management style, paying your staff above industry rates and providing career paths will lead to increase profits and personal freedom. Nathan, a 3rd generation business owner will use first hand examples and share how he transformed Gelderman Landscape Services into a industry leading landscape company.

Topic #2: The Art of Ruthless Execution
 How committed to winning are you? Why do good ideas fail? Why is it so hard to win? How is it that each year we create a new plan, yet there always appears to be reasons why the plan did not happen. Being successful is hinged on being consistent, 100% of the time, Ruthless! Learn how to create the right environment, have the right focus and build the right team.

Sean James – OwnerSean James Consulting & Design

Sean James was named by Garden Making magazine as one of “20 Making a Difference”.

Gardening has been Sean James’ hobby and profession for over 35 years. As a graduate of Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, a Master Gardener, writer, and teacher, Sean focuses on eco-gardening techniques. He has had the honour to be part of creating the new Ontario Landscape Tree Planting Guide, the Grow-Me-Me-Instead guide, the Ontario Horticultural Apprenticeship Curriculum, the national Red Seal Occupational Standard, and the Master Gardeners Reference Manual.

Sean owns Sean James Consulting & Design & instructs at Mohawk College.

Topic #1: What to do with a Downpour: Ornamental Ways to Handle Rainwater
Urban Development has resulted in large areas of impermeable surfaces, leading to poor water quality and erosion, as well as drying of the creeks during droughts. Techniques will be discussed to aid in infiltrating rainwater into the soil while beautifying your landscapes and allowing a more unusual palette of plants to be used. Rain Gardens can be a beautiful addition to any yard and allow the planting of some truly interesting plants. They also help the environment by infiltrating water to clean it and restore the water table and base-flow (the water that seeps through the ground to our creeks). We’ll cover how to design and build a rain garden including placement, construction, and plant choices.

Topic #2: Talk Dirty: Soil, and the Things Living in It.
We’re learning much about soil and its importance to plant health and climate change. The latest information and research will be discussed. Several main questions will be asked and answered: How do we steward the soil microbiome? What are the beneficial bacteria and fungi? What activities harm the soil and therefore the plants? Can better soil stewardship also mean lower maintenance? It’s a dirty topic, but someone’s got to cover it.

Sean KavitchAccount Executive
Jim Pattison Lease 

Sean Kavitch has been in the auto industry for 25 years, and for over 3 years as Account Executive for JPL covering Manitoba. As an Account Executive for JPL, Seans passion is to find clients who have the right fit for what JPL offers, and builds long term relationships as he manages their fleet needs over the life of their partnership.
Canada’s leader in customized fleet management with over 40,000 vehicles under lease and management, Jim Pattison Lease focuses100% on customer satisfaction. Whether your fleet needs are small and simple or large and complex, we provide fleet expertise to ensure you get it right. From vehicle selection and modification(upfitting), to leasing structure, to liquidation we will get you organized providing piece of mind that you are maximizing the benefits of fleet ownership through leasing.

Topic #1 Take Control of your Fleet Vehicle Costs with Jim Pattison Lease and General Motors
Discussing Fleet Management cost saving strategies utilizing the GM and CNLA/MBNLA discount program (with Doug Reimer).

Rohan Lilauwala – Program Manager – Green Infrastructure Foundation http://greeninfrastructurefoundation.org

As Program Manager at Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and the lead of its charitable arm, the Green Infrastructure Foudation, Rohan Lilauwala, GRP, has spent the past five years working on breaking down barriers to the widespread use of green infrastructure across North America.

Rohan has developed and delivered training programs, tools, resources, and analyses, focusing on green infrastructure performance, costs and benefits. His cost-benefit analyses have helped lead to improvements to the Toronto Eco-Roof Incentive Program, as well as the passage of Denver’s citizen-led Green Roof Initiative.

Topic #1: Introduction to Green Infrastructure
Green infrastructure refers to natural and human-made elements that provide ecological and hydrological functions and processes to address environmental resilience and climate change, and include elements like trees, wetlands, rain gardens, and green roofs. This session introduces participants to the rationale for green infrastructure, its elements, benefits, and the principles behind successful policy and implementation of these systems.

Topic #2: Making the Case for Green Infrastructure
The benefits of green infrastructure – like stormwater management, energy savings, increased resilience to climate change, and improved air quality – are well known and accepted. However, these benefits are rarely measured, and their value not included in important policy, investment, and development decisions. This session helps participants understand the principles behind valuing green infrastructure’s many benefits, so that these valuations can be used to make better decisions around limited resources.

Ryan Longo – Business Development and Technical SpecialistBioForest http://www.bioforest.ca/

Ryan Longo is the Business Development and Technical Specialist for Western North America for Lallemand Plant Care. He has an associates degree in Ecosystem Management and holds many different levels of exterminator licenses across Canada. Ryan has worked in the tree care industry partaking in insect eradication programs in municipal settings and Right-of-Way herbicide spray programs in utility arboriculture and industrial management.

Ryan has expertise and holds certificates in GIS mapping and forest resource health. He has been working at Lallemand Plant Care’s BioForest division for the past two years working closely with communities in Canada in integrated pest management and tree health care.

Topic #1: EAB Management and Trapping
Emerald Ash Borer trapping and treatment strategies
Topic #2: Lallemand Plant Care- Microbial in Nature

Lallemand Plant Care utilizes microorganisms and bacteria in various applications, servicing many different sectors of plant production from food production to horticulture nurseries. learn more about OMRI listed products that can solubilize organic and Organic phosphorus to an organic herbicide used for buck thorn control.

Scott Peter – Sales Manager – Aubin Nurseries

Scott Peter has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Manitoba. He is also a graduate of the former Greenspace Management program at Red River College. He is an ISA Certified Arborist and completed the ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification.

Scott has over a decade in experience in asset management, insect and disease diagnosis and treatment, and landscape installation.
Currently he is the Sales Manager at Aubin Nurseries in Carman Manitoba, where he also leads the team in plant development.


Doug Reimer – Fleet Account Manager
General Motors of Canada

Doug is the GM Fleet Account Manager for commercial fleet customers covering Manitoba, Saskatchewan and BC. He grew up in Landmark, MB and grew up in the automotive industry having worked with his father for many years at Landmark Motors, a General Motors dealership. Doug has also worked in automotive training and consulting and for twelve years as a GM Fleet representative. Doug is passionate about building strong partnerships with his customers and colleagues with relationships built on integrity and trust.

Topic #1 Take Control of your Fleet Vehicle Costs with Jim Pattison Lease and General Motors
Discussing Fleet Management cost saving strategies utilizing the GM and CNLA/MBNLA discount program (with Sean Kavitch).

Philip RonaldResearch & Marketing – Jeffries Nurseries Ltd. http://www.jeffriesnurseries.com

Philip Ronald was raised in the Canadian prairies and educated in plant breeding and horticulture at the University of Manitoba and University of Saskatchewan. Philip presently divides his time between teaching horticulture at the University of Manitoba, managing Riverbend Orchards, a 20 acre fruit farm and providing support to the research and marketing programs at Jeffries Nurseries.

Topic #1 – Great Plants for the Prairies
Join Philip and the other plant experts as they take you for a tour through some of the best new plant introductions for the Prairie region. Expect to learn about everything from perennials and planters to shrubs and shade trees from people that work with these plants every day and can offer firsthand experience.

Alex Satel – Senior Consultant – Urban Forestry and Arboriculture
Urban Forest Innovations Inc. http://www.urbanforestinnovations.com

Alex is an ISA Certified Arborist and holds a Master of Forest Conservation (MFC) degree from the University of Toronto. A senior urban forestry and arboricultural consultant at Urban Forest Innovations Inc., Alex leads the development of strategic urban forest management plans for municipalities in Canada and beyond, and specializes in advanced tree risk assessment, including sonic tomography and tree pulling tests.

Topic #1: Tree risk assessment: Principles, practices and progress

This presentation examines the elements of tree risk assessment in an urban forest context. Attendees will learn about the concept of risk; tree biology as it relates to risk; tree biomechanics; ‘defects’ and modes of failure; industry standards, best practices and methods of risk assessment; and conservation-oriented options for risk mitigation. The presentation will review the full range of risk assessment practices and methods, from limited visual assessment to emerging and experimental methods employing technology first developed by NASA for use in the space shuttle program.

Topic #2: From grey to green: Tree planting solutions for hard spaces

Urban forests lack many of the features of natural forests that are critical for tree survival, and throw a few other challenges into the mix. But don’t despair! Despite the perils posed by urban landscapes, there are ways to effectively and sustainably integrate healthy trees into even the most difficult of hard spaces. This presentation reviews key lessons learned from successful (and unsuccessful) tree planting case studies in highly urbanized and challenging locations that can be applied in any community seeking to go from grey to green.

Own Vanstone Vanstone Nurseries

Owen Vanstone is a joint owner of Vanstone Nurseries, a greenhouse and nursery operation located in Manitoba. The company produces a wide range of hardy perennials, shrubs and roses as well as a growing line of herbs, vegetables, and annuals. Owen is involved in plant testing and selection as well as many details in the day to day operations.

Owen has enjoyed developing the perennial trial site at the nursery location. Plant material from several breeders is evaluated for cold hardiness and suitability to the Prairie landscape. The nursery trial site is also host to the All-America Selections trial with a focus on the Herbaceous Perennial category. Owen enjoys evaluating new plants and working to bring the best of them to Prairie gardeners.


Topic #1: Great Plants for the Prairies
Join us for a tour through some of the best new and recent plant introductions for the Prairie region. Expect to learn about everything from perennials and planters to shrubs and shade trees from people that work with these plants every day and can offer firsthand experience. Learn how local hardiness and performance trials offer tremendous insight into the suitability of new introductions to Prairie gardens. This is one session that anyone with an interest in plants won’t want to miss. inviting and exciting destination.

John Zaplatynsky – ChairCanada GardenWorks

John is the founder of Canada GardenWorks, one of Canada’s leading garden centre companies with seven locations in British Columbia. John served as President and CEO for 27 years, retiring in 2010, still serving as Chair of the GardenWorks advisory board. He continues to be active in the industry, serving on the board of Sloat Garden Centres, a San Francisco-based garden centre company with 13 stores in Northern California and acting as an advisor to the Canada Nurseryland group of 100 independent garden centres.

John was born and raised in Winnipeg, starting his retail career with the former T. Eaton Co in Winnipeg following graduation from the University of Manitoba with a B.Sc. in 1967. He spent 14 years in various management positions across Western Canada, before acquiring his first garden centre in Vancouver in 1983.

John has been active in the horticulture industry, serving as President of several industry associations – the BC Landscape & Nursery Association, the Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association and the International Garden Centre Association, as well as being a Director of Van Dusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver. He also served on the board of directors of SunGro Horticulture and on the advisory board of Hines Wholesale Nursery.

Topic #1: Retail Garden centre merchandising
How creative merchandise presentation can transform your garden centre into an inviting and exciting destination.