Ellen Baker and Fred Menge live a mile from the beach in Santa Cruz County, California, with their family, their dog, and too many chickens.  They have been obsessed with growing and foraging fruit on the California’s central coast for over 25 years. Starting with a primarily pomme fruit focus, they have lately felt called to pursue a new love: avocados.  When confronted with the fact that avocado growing in Northern California only follows the commercial market, they started Epicenter Nursery and Fruit which allows them to cultivate and sell exceptional and unusual varieties of avocado trees.  They also sell red-fleshed and European style apples to Bay Area restaurants and San Francisco’s Bi Rite Market.

Yunfei Chen is a scientist in the Biotech Industry, and lives in Fremont CA. In his free time he enjoys gardening, fishing art and taxidermy!  He fondly remembers the fruit Myrica Rubra or “Yangmei” from his youth in China. However most of his knowledge about the fruit has developed from his personal experience with introduction and cultivation of yangmei in California.

This is a very promising new fruit crop for California and Southern US. Yunfei has established the appropriate grafting methods adapted for our climate and soil conditions, and has started to work with a nursery, hoping to commercialize this fruit.

Harvey Correia is a long time CRFG member, who farms commercially in Isleton CA. He sells fig cuttings (and jam), and also chestnuts. He has also grown a wide variety of pomegranates. He shifted to primarily figs beginning in 2005, and now has over 350 varieties. He could certainly be described as a bona fide “figaholic”. He is also interested in many other kinds of fruits, both common and uncommon.

Steve Demkowski is a beekeeper in Willow Glen California, owner of Willow Glen Honey and resident beekeeper at Happy Hollow Zoo. He moved to Willow Glen, CA in 1970, encountered his first honey bee swarm in 1994 and has had bee fever ever since.  This includes Blue Orchard Bees (BOB) with other native bees. He has turned his own property into a great pollinator habitat, and has set up blue orchard bee habitat boxes at a farm in Watsonville. He is involved with the 4-H youth, teaching beekeeping at History San Jose since 2002.  He has also established a native bee habitat garden at Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose.

Taylor Hoover graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences with a concentration in Fruit Science. He recently acquired his CCA certification. He has been working with Farm Fuel Inc. for four years as field consultant and technician.

Farm Fuel Inc. is a company that provides products and services that offer alternatives to soil fumigation through the promotion of soil health. Farm Fuel Inc. consults and provides materials for Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation and manufactures Peacadero Gold Mustard Seed Meal Fertilizer.

Aaron Dillon is a fourth generation citrus nurseryman with Four Winds Growers.  He is proud to carry on his family’s tradition of providing their customers with high quality citrus trees for use in any setting.   He attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he studied environmental horticulture.  He then moved on to complete a BA in U.S. History from San Francisco State University in 2000, and an MA in Geography, with a concentration on Environmental Planning and Resource Management in 2013.  Aaron has been working full time with Four Winds Growers since 2002.  For the last seven years he has worked on the development of Four Winds Growers newest growing grounds in Watsonville, which features nearly 300,000 sq. ft. of state of the art insect resistant production facilities for citrus nursery stock.

He serves on numerous professional boards including:

  • California Citrus Nursery Society (CCNS)
  • California Citrus Nursery Advisory Board (CCNAB)
  • California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC)
  • National Clean Plant Network Citrus Sub Group

(The NCPN provides high quality asexually propagated plant material free of targeted plant pathogens and pests that cause economic loss to protect the environment and ensure the global competitiveness of specialty crop producers.)

Chuck Ingels has been the Farm and Horticulture Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County since 1996.  He conducts research and educational programs for tree fruit and wine grape growers, landscape professionals, and the public.  He also oversees the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, which is maintained by over 50 Master Gardeners.  He was the lead technical editor and author of a UC publication, The Home Orchard, which was published in 2007 and is undergoing revision (likely published in early 2019).  The book has detailed and graphic explanations on training and pruning, as well as budding and grafting.

David Karp has worked as a writer and photographer for 26 years, specializing in fruit, primarily for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Gourmet magazine. Since 2006 he has researched citrus for the University of California, Riverside’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, and grown stone fruit in Morgan Hill in partnership with Andrew Mariani of Andy’s Orchard. He lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, his cat, and an extensive pomological library.

Robert Kourik has written 16 books on a variety of topics including drip irrigation, environmentally-sound homes, edible landscaping, and lavender. His articles have appeared in numerous national publications, including seven in The New York Times. He has received two national awards for the best article of the year from the Garden Writers Association. Robert has authored or co-authored 16 books pertaining to a sustainable home and garden. He began his career in organic landscape maintenance in 1974 working with clients throughout California and the U.S. During that time, he worked on design projects of all sizes, shapes, and textures—water gardens, paths and patios, elegant arbors, habitat gardens, innovative home playgrounds, outdoor barbecue areas, deer-resistant gardens and landscapes, and low profile and attractive deer fences, to name a few. Robert lives in Northern California among towering redwoods, many varieties of lavender, and spreading oak trees with lots of deer. His extensive, thirty-year-old ornamental and herbal drought- and deer-resistant garden and orchard have never been watered and only mulched…no tilling allowed.

Ann Northrup spent her undergraduate years at the University of Michigan where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology.  Her interest in plant pathology started there but she took a five year diversion working in the field of medical diagnostics and molecular biology research.  After that long wait, she returned to plant pathology to earn a master’s degree with Dr. Bob Raabe at UC Berkeley.  Her work has been primarily in disease diagnostics of ornamental plants, first with Soil and Plant Lab in Orange CA, and then with Nurserymen’s Exchange in Half Moon Bay.  She currently works half time at Montalvo Art Center in Saratoga, consults privately in plant pathology and arboriculture and teaches horticultural classes at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and Merritt College in Oakland.  One of her long time and current enjoyments is volunteering at the “Sick Plant Clinic” at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden.  She is also an active volunteer in the UCCE Master Gardener program of Santa Clara County. 

Kate Nowell is the Supervisor of Horticulture at Filoli, a 654 acre historic estate in Woodside, CA including 16 acres of formal gardens and 8 acres of historic orchards.  Kate has a background in biology and residential landscape maintenance.  She received a master’s in Museum Studies from the University of Washington, focusing her studies on the preservation, management and interpretation of living plant collections.  In 2017, Kate participated in the Historic Landscape Institute at Monticello and the University of Virginia.

Tim Philen is a nationally acclaimed author, award-winning advertising creative director and songwriter. Tim turned his passion for the arts into a passion for artisan fruit growing in 2000, when he and his wife Sherryl purchased the seven-acre homestead in the Santa Monica Mountains that became Philen Pharms.

Blessed with a high-chill microclimate that is rare in Southern California, Tim turned two of those acres into a high-density orchard and vineyard that specializes in producing heirloom apples, peaches, pears, plums, persimmons and table grapes from the 19th, 18th and 17th centuries, as well as rare 20th century varieties, all organically cultured.
Philen Pharms grows its tree- and vine-ripened fruit exclusively for the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, California.

John E. Preece, Ph.D is a scientist with the National Clonal Germplasm Repostitory in Davis CA. The mission of the Repository is to collect, preserve, evaluate, and distribute the genetic resources of the crops assigned, as part of the US National Genetic Resources Program. These resources are preserved to ensure that these species will be available for future generations and to support research efforts in variety development and other areas of plant research.

Responsibilities include:

  • Supervisory Research Leader/Horticulturist
  • National Clonal Germplasm Repository, Davis, CA and
  • National Arid Land Plant Genetic Resource Unit, Parlier, CA
  • Acting Supervisory Research Leader National Clonal Germplasm Repository, Riverside, CA, USDA-ARS

Ernesto Sandoval has been wondering about and seeking questions to why plants grow and look the way that they do since a young age.  Now he explains and interprets the world of plants to a variety of ages and experiences from K-12 to professionals and Master Gardeners.  Ernesto thoroughly enjoys helping others, and gardeners in particular, to understand why and how plants do what they do. When he was about 13 he asked his dad why one tree was pruned a particular way and another tree another way. His dad answered bluntly “because that’s the way you do it.” Since then he’s been learning and teaching himself the answers to those and many other questions by getting a degree at UC Davis in Botany and working from student weeder/waterer to Director over the last 24 years at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory. He’s long left the “mow blow and go” monoculture landscape gardening world and has immersed himself in the world of polyculture and biodiversity by managing and supervising the growing of several thousand types of plants at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, many of them succulents.  By helping people to understand the workings of plants he hopes to help us better understand how to and why our plants do what they do and how we can maximize their growth with less effort.  Finally, he remembers telling someone “that plant can’t be propagated from a leaf, you need a stem!”- and since then he’s learned that, using the right techniques, with tissue culture it could be done!

Rachel Spaeth is the Garden Curator for the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens in Santa Rosa, California.  She has been coordinating the volunteers there for over a decade.  She holds a BA in Botany and an MS in Biology from Sonoma State University, and is currently working on a PhD in Plant Breeding and Historical Plant Genetics at UC Davis.  Her area of research involves genetic testing on Burbank Plums to determine parentage and isolating the DNA from his original fruit prints.  She was the Chair for the Redwood Empire California Rare Fruit Growers for three years, and teaches Horticulture classes at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Tom Spellman began his career in horticulture in 1973. Working for a small hometown nursery in Rowland Heights, Ca. he used to ride his skateboard to work. After a couple of years concentrating on landscape design and construction he accepted a position with Armstrong Nurseries in Ontario, Ca. The nursery specialized in the production of bare root fruit trees and roses. In 1981 Tom began a 20 year run with La Verne Nursery located in San Dimas and La Verne, Ca. After two years Tom was promoted to general manager. The nursery specialized in the production of Avocado, Citrus, sub tropical fruits and grafted ornamental plants. In 2001 Tom accepted a position with Dave Wilson Nursery as southwestern sales manager. Dave Wilson is one of the largest growers of fruit, nut and shade trees in the USA. Tom has also done Television, Video, Radio, print articles and lectures on home fruit growing and Backyard Orchard Culture. Tom is tired, but not ready for retirement, yet.