Paul is a Professor of Biological Sciences at UW-Marathon County, with graduate degrees in entomology and a plant sciences minor from UW-Madison. At UWMC, he has taught botany, ecology, animal biology, entomology, and an interdisciplinary course on organic agriculture. He has made numerous presentations for Master Gardeners, garden clubs, community garden groups, and at organic farming conferences. In addition, he has served on the board of the Monk Botanical Gardens in Wausau since 2004 and currently chairs its Grounds Committee. In the summer, he can often be found in his large vegetable garden, admiring the incredible survival and reproductive strategies of weeds and insects before deciding to dispatch them or, in some cases, let them live.


Dr. Brian R. Smith grew up on a diverse commercial Horticultural farm in Mitchell, South Dakota. His family grew both produce and Green Industry products including strawberries, raspberries, watermelons, tomatoes, Christmas trees and greenhouse and nursery crops for both retail and wholesale markets. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from South Dakota State University-Brookings and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul.
Brian Smith is currently a professor of Horticulture and State Extension Commercial Fruit Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His activities and goals include:
• Director, 28-acre University of Wisconsin-River Falls Fruit Research, Teaching and Extension Facility where he conducts research on small fruit and tree fruit; primarily targeted for the development of new cultivars and the testing of cultivars from other programs for the feasibility of commercial production in the upper Midwest (strawberries, Aronia, grapes, plums, apricots and cherries)
• Integrate research findings into Extension programming via grower newsletters, extension bulletins, grower field days, conferences and presentations
• Teach commercial fruit and vegetable production courses at UW-River Falls
• Improve profitability of fruit growers via efficiency guidelines and cultural techniques
• Educate growers on Best Management Practices and improving sustainability
• Assist growers in starting new businesses
Smith has received numerous awards for his contributions including: 2014 Outstanding Faculty Award in the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and honored nationally with the 2014 Teaching Award of Merit from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) in recognition of meritorious efforts in College teaching; the all-campus Paul B. and Robert Dykstra Faculty Excellence Award in 2012, for his role in research, creative and scholarly activity; the WiSys Technology Foundation Innovation Scholar Award, 2006, for exemplary work in development of the BlackIce™ plum, and was named a Wisconsin Idea Fellow in 2004-2005 by the University of Wisconsin System for extraordinary public service on behalf of the University.


Brett Barker is Professor of History at UW-Stevens Point at Wausau (formerly UW-Marathon County) where he has taught since 2002. He is an avid birdwatcher and has seen over 60 species in his “bird-friendly” yard in northeast Wausau. His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge on a variety of topics including birds, history and gardening make Brett a very popular speaker.



Ben believes that gardeners, through their gardens, can save the world. He is passionate for connecting people to plants, and one another, through public gardens. Ben is most interested in the potential of urban landscapes to provide meaningful, authentic, and transformative experiences through participation and co-creation of green space. Ben is the Director of the Allen Centennial Garden at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A life-long gardener, Ben was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. Prior to this role, Ben worked at Fernwood Botanical Garden in southwest Michigan and the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park.


David Eagan is an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Botany at UW-Madison. Currently he is a freelance writer, naturalist and botanist based in Shawano, who consults with homeowners and others to help them discover and value the wild “nature” of their land.



Mariette Nowak is the author of the book, Birdscaping in the Midwest. She is also the past director of the Wehr Nature Center in Milwaukee County where she served for 18 years. An avid birder, she is a board member and newsletter editor for the Lakeland Audubon Society and past board member of the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology. In addition, she is Founder and President of the Kettle Moraine Chapter of the Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes. She has also served as a past vice-president of the national organization.


Michael Perry is a New Your Times bestselling author, humorist, playwright, and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.  Perry’s books include Population 485, The Jesus Cow, Montaigne in Barn Boots and the (non)gardening book Truck: A Love Story. His “Roughneck Grace” column appears weekly in the Wisconsin State Journal and he can be found online at www.sneezingcow.com.

Drawing on his bestselling memoirs and his experiences as a failed gardener, Michael Perry provides a humorous, heartfelt look into his relationship with food of all sorts, from gas station jerky to organic asparagus truffle foam.


Laura Syring holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a Master of Science in Nutritional Science. She has gardened for more than 30 years in greenhouses and in the landscape. Through her company, Earthborn Care, she expertly designs, creates, and maintains landscapes in the Wausau area. Her current favorite gardens are those that provide ingredients for creative cooking and attract pollinators to help sustain nature.


Bernie Williams has been with the Wisconsin DNR for 10 years as a Plant Pest and Disease specialist in Forest Health.  She went to the University of Pittsburgh for undergrad and grad school and bumped into a badger after graduation and has been in Wisconsin ever since.  She loves science and particularly invasive species with her favorite being worms.



Fawn is the owner and floral artist behind Inspired By Nature, based in Wausau. Flowers are her artistic passion and she has been a professional florist since 2001. As a studio florist, Inspired By Nature specializes in weddings and events including sympathy tributes and hands-on workshops. In her designs, locally-grown garden flowers are added into the mix whenever possible to help support our local flower farmers and to promote the farm to table movement. Fawn’s design style has been described as casual elegance with a cottage and organic feel.



While still a Horticulture Science undergrad at the University of Minnesota he started a small business, planting flowers for his professors and their neighbors. That little business evolved into a full-scale design and build landscape contracting company serving all areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  Born and raised on a tree nursery and crop farm in Southwestern MN, Joel has a foundation in horticulture and an entrepreneurial spirit.  He earned a bachelor’s degree and ten years ago became a garden book author and winner of the P.J.Redoute award for practical horticulture in 2014 for his best-selling book “Straw Bale Gardens.” Now an award-winning author of four best-sellers on Cool Springs Press for Quarto Publishing, Karsten is working on future projects and speaking regularly around the world. His recent TEDx talk, “Let’s end world hunger with the STRAW BALE GARDENS® method,” has shattered records for downloads and received praise from many of the world’s leaders in the fight to end hunger.

Audience feedback from his appearances attests that whether they are avid gardeners or novices they are impressed with his revolutionary new ideas, humor, inspiring stories and general knowledge of horticulture. His presentations are always fun, very educational, and will inspire the audience to go home, grab a shovel, and change their backyard, making it the envy of the neighborhood!


Brad Schmicker is a photography enthusiast. He started as the family photographer with a Brownie camera, handed down from an older sister, but soon a birthday present upgraded his equipment to a Kodak Instamatic. Let’s avoid the cliche, “And the rest is…” line, and simply say he continued playing and exploring with SLR and DSLR cameras. As an elementary teacher, he taught camera skills and techniques to upper-grade students including creating stop-motion videos. His interest in landscape and flower photography grew after marrying his wife from Wyoming. Through many years of UW Continuing Education courses, Brad taught adults (and young people) how to use Photoshop to improve and enhance their personal photography experience.


Lisa has a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Communication, as well as 8 years working in the horticulture industry. She has been the Dane County UW-Extension Horticulture Educator since 2004. Lisa gives frequent presentations to garden clubs, schools and libraries  in southern Wisconsin, writes for Wisconsin Gardening magazine, has a weekly column in the WI State Journal and is a regular guest on Larry Meiller’s public radio ‘Garden Talk’ program. In her spare time, she attempts to keep her garden under control, volunteers with a cat rescue, a non-profit called Warrior Songs that uses art and music in healing veterans with PTSD and a folk music cooperative called the Wild Hog in the Woods Coffeehouse. She is also in a folk-music duo called ‘Leafy Greens’.

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