Meet Our Guest Speakers!


May 6-7, 2017

Los Rios Historic District, SJC

We’re using the power of creativity to help inspire greater well-being for the earth and for ourselves. Come learn, make, explore, purchase, or enact change. Here are our amazing speakers!

Mike Evans

Over thirty years ago, Mike Evans started Tree of Life Nursery, which began propagating California native plants all with the notion that the developed hillsides and open spaces in the state were in desperate need of returning to their natural, beautiful forms. Today, the nursery supplies a high quality line of over 500 species and varieties for landscaping and ecological restoration at the wholesale level. Located on 40 acres of the historic Rancho Mission Viejo in San Juan Capistrano, Tree of Life Nursery, the largest native plant supplier in the state, provides a means for California’s precious flora to return to the land.

Mike EvansOwner, Tree of Life Nursery
Wendy Proud

Wendy Proud has provided numerous plant presentations and interviews to a wide variety of groups and organizations including Sunset Magazine, DIY Home & Garden Network, San Diego Home & Garden Magazine, Monrovia Growers Retail Plant Council, gardening clubs and nurseries. As a California Sales Representative for Mountain States Wholesale Nursery in Phoenix, AZ, she was instantly hooked on desert adapted plants and the desire to inspire others about the beauty and diversity of plants from the Southwest and other arid regions.

Wendy ProudMountain States Wholesale Nursery
Jordan Perkins

Prior to working with Solutions for Urban Agriculture, Jordan Perkins managed a variety of projects and programs in public and private sectors. As the urban agriculture projects and program officer for the Orange County Great Park, he took the lead on visioning, planning, and implementing an impressive complement of cutting edge, community-based programs that continue to give back to the community. Jordan’s knowledge of strategically positioning land leases to mutually benefit short-term agricultural tenants and land owners was valuable while repurposing former military runways and adjacent fields in Irvine.

Jordan PerkinsExecutive Director Of Solutions For Urban Agriculture
Nicholas Staddon

Born in England, Nicholas Staddon attended Otley Agricultural College, dividing his time between farm and school and receiving his accreditations in the Agricultural Sciences. He is professionally affiliated with the Royal Horticulture Society, the California Association of Nurserymen, and AmericanHort. He is an advisor to The Mediterranean Garden Society Southern California, and serves on the board of advisors to Mount San Antonio College, Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, and Cal-HIP, California Horticultural Invasives Prevention.

Nicholas StaddonNew Plant Specialist, Village Nursery
Lucian Toma

Lucian Toma leads the Eco-Garden Design Services a the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano as well as coordinates lectures and workshops. Through this he helps inspire individuals with practical approaches to environmental problems at both the household and community levels. The Ecology Center highlights cutting-edge perspectives that restore and enhance coexistence with a thriving environment. It focuses on small and big issues such as: How do we manage food supply and waste? How do we make homes healthier?

Lucian TomaSkills-Based Programming, The Ecology Center
Tom Jesch

Tom Jesch grew up in the Tahoe/Reno area of Nevada, giving him a great respect and love of the outdoors, which carries through in his love of horticulture. He refers to himself as a “farmer.” When he was just a kid he started growing a collection of cactus on his windowsill. Tom and his brothers loved the freedom of the land and would hike and camp out regularly in the hills and canyons of Nevada.

Tom has spent over 30 years in the nursery business “Waterwise Botanicals,” which is the fruition of drawings that Tom did when he was 11 years old. In addition to the great agri-tourism location of Waterwise Botanicals, the company produces design and project-management for innovative, and artistic landscapes on projects ranging from residential to hotels, and commercial projects and cities.

Tom JeschOwner, Waterwise Botanicals
Derek Knobel

Derek Knobel is Rancho Mission Viejo’s passionate, hands-on Vice President of Ranch Operations. He oversees the successful care and harvest of The Ranch’s 85,000 citrus and avocado trees, manages a full team of dedicated farm and ranch workers, and maintains the facilities and grounds that also host the El Viaje de Portola horseback ride and the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo each year.

Derek also plays a key role in the ongoing maintenance of cattle operations and water systems, which fits perfectly with his “cowboy” upbringing. For him and his team, the goal is the same: to capture a years worth of sunshine and produce perfect grade A fruit and top quality beef cattle.

Derek KnobelVice President of Ranch Operations, Rancho Mission Viejo
Jodie Cook

Jodie Cook has been a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener since 2011 and has taught California Friendly Landscape Classes throughout Southern California. She is a long standing member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the California Native Plant Society and other horticultural organizations. Her garden areas of interest and knowledge include designing beautiful, sustainable landscapes using native and Mediterranean plants and edibles.

Jodie CookJodie Cook Landscape Design
Suzie Vanderlip

Susie Vanderlip is a Monarch Butterfly Citizen Scientist, assisting in Monarch Health Initiative research. She raises Monarch butterflies in Orange, California, studying, photographing, videotaping, tagging, speaking, and writing about the Monarch life cycle. She shares about their life cycle in live presentations, using photography and video to create movies and books, inspiring all to learn about these invaluable pollinators. In addition, she has a greeting card line sharing colorful and captivating garden and Monarch butterfly visions. She is nationally known for her storybook, movie/DVD, and eBook: The Story of Chester, the Monarch Caterpillar/Larva.

Suzie Vanderlip Author, Citizen Scientist
Manny Kiesser

Manny Kiesser serves on the Board of Inside the Outdoors Foundation. Inside the Outdoors (ITO) provides hands-on environmental science education to 120,000 Southern California K-12 students annually. ITO has had particular success in introducing students and families to nature through simple, experiential first steps into the outdoors, often in our own neighborhoods. Manny is a 20-year employee of The Walt Disney Company where he works to improve the health and safety of Disney’s Cast Members.

Manny KiesserBoard member, Inside the Outdoors Foundation
Wendi Phan

Wendi Phan is the founder of Gardens of Wendiland, a business which is dedicated to tropical plants and herbs. She popularized medicinal plants for blood sugar health such as Gynura procumbens, bringing healing and culinary plants from the east to meet with the west. Her creations of eco-friendly terrariums and Modern Zen Gardens became a sensation. Her work had been featured in Geobeats, Docol and Vidro Impresso magazines. She also hosts a popular Youtube channel, sharing her passion in growing tropical and exotic plants as well as expanding her audiences’ horizon in Asian culinary arts.

Wendi PhanFounder, Gardens of Wendiland
Megan Dukett

Megan Dukett brings a rich history of education and interpretation to match her passion for preservation. She has served as a National Park Ranger in the Mid-west and then at Yosemite. She is an avid hiker, citizen scientist, and brings a vast knowledge of local history to thousands each year.

Megan DukettLocal Historian, Former National Park Ranger