For a list of all the speakers with their topics, see the Speaker Topics page.

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.

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

Aaron will speak on research and management of citrus in the age of HLB disease.

Joe Hewitt has worked as a programmer in Silicon Valley companies since about 2001. However if you were to ask him what he does he might say that he is an aspiring farmer. He has taken his analytical background in another direction with experimentation growing many different kinds of subtropical and tropical plants in the very “not tropical” Los Gatos foothills. He also grows many more traditional home garden fruits and veggies on his half acre.

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 Pescadero Gold Mustard Seed Meal Fertilizer. http://www.farmfuelinc.com/

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. He will speak on pruning to keep maximum production and better accessibility on our fruit trees. He also will speak on various budding and grafting techniques for different times of year.

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. David is a dynamic speaker, and will provide our keynote presentation on fruits that meet the classical standard of greatness and “high flavor.” He also will speak on a class of citrus called “The Fifth Citrus”.

C. Todd Kennedy is a San Francisco resident and practicing agriculture attorney who grew up on the Peninsula. He is a fruit historian and rare fruit preservationist on a short list of experts who identify heirloom varieties of fruit and orchards. He collected Italian figs in Rome in the 1980s, established a worldwide network of rare fruit colleagues/collaborators, and is credited with restoring the heritage orchard—with its 600 varieties of apples—at Filoli estate in Woodside. Mr. Kennedy is an authority on stone fruit, which he sells bare root through Arboreum Co. Much of what Todd grows and sells are heirloom varieties, but consistent with his quick and dry sense of humor he has titled his presentation as “The Trouble With Heirlooms.”

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. He will speak on the benefits of summer pruning for our fruit trees, and he will speak on using drip irrigation—daily!

Theresa Lyngso is a Master Gardener and Master Composter. She believes a healthy living soil holds the answer to so many of our problems, from more healthy and disease/pest resistant plants to clean water and carbon sequestration. She is President of Lyngso Garden Materials. She will speak about maximizing soil health for our fruit trees.

Andy Mariani, educated in both horticultural and behavioral sciences, continues the family tradition of growing sweet cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums, but he also has a reputation as a highly innovative orchardist who utilizes some of the newest agricultural research to develop better farming techniques. As a member of the California Cherry Advisory Board’s research committee, he has helped initiate research on cherry growing. Another of Andy’s interests is the maintaining of one of the largest collections of stone fruit varieties on the west coast, and during the summer months he personally hosts fruit tastings and tours. Andy is a noted fruit expert for the California Rare Fruit Grower’s organization. He’s passionate about what he does-often teaching classes of Master Gardeners (Santa Clara County) and horticulture students at the local high school as well as gardening forums on the internet. Andy is a contributing writer to the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink in America. He has also authored a book on fruit varieties, written many articles, and lectures on fruit and fruit culture. Another of Andy’s interests is developing new varieties of stone fruits through hybridization, selecting for specific characteristics.

Dave Muffly was born and raised in small town Nebraska (home of the national Arbor Day Foundation), and escaped to the promised land of California to earn a mechanical engineering degree at Stanford. Duly influenced by the cultural climate, Dave promptly abandoned his training, and chose a path of ecological service, with a major emphasis on urban and wildland interface tree planting and care. After 20 years of hard-fought learning and experience, Dave was discovered by Steve Jobs, and made Senior Arborist for Apple. In that capacity, Dave was able to make a long-held dream come true – a compact and climate change adaptable urban landscape, based first in native oak trees, and expanding to climate adapted oaks, and other species, from around the world. Of 7,200 trees on the main Apple Park site, 900 are fruit trees, of 30 different varieties both pome and stone, chosen for proven productivity, and sequential ripening, to be consumed by employees.

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. Kate will speak about the historic Gentleman’s Orchard at Filoli, and the varieties within it.

Tim Philen grows heirloom grapes, peaches, and plums near the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. Organically grown, with no herbicides or pesticides ever used, Philen Pharms specializes in rare and unique fruits-from rare American heirlooms, to centuries-old fruits from grafted trees that have been passed down from Asia and Europe. In his spare time, Tim is an author and songwriter. The fruit he grows is used exclusively at 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

John will speak on selecting and propagating rootstocks for our trees, as well as grafting.

Peter Ruddock represents California for the National Ark of Taste organization, a part of Slow Food USA. He is a sustainable food advocate and small business consultant. He is working toward creating a more sustainable world, by changing the way we interact with our environment and with each other. He concentrates on food systems change, because given that everyone eats everyone should be able to relate to a healthier, more sustainable food system. Peter will speak about the Ark of Taste which works to protect and promote varieties of fruits (and other foods) with special historical value and fine flavor.

Ernesto Sandoval has been wondering about and seeking questions to why plants grow and look the way that they do since a young age. 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 his way from student weeder/waterer, to Director over the last 24 years at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory. 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! Ernesto will share knowledge about plant hormones and how they influence growth in our trees.

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. She will speak about Luther’s plums, and hopefully will be bringing plums to share.

John Valenzuela is a horticulturist, consultant and educator. First introduced to the sustainable design theories and methods of permaculture in 1989, John studied and practiced permaculture and taught extensively in Hawaii, Orcas Island, Washington, Costa Rica and throughout urban and rural California, collaborating with leading permaculture organizations. His special interests are rare fruit, home gardening, trees, traditional agriculture, plant propagation, and ethnobotany. He is active in the Golden Gate chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers where he has been Annual Scion Exchange coordinator, and served as Chapter Chairperson. John is a regular volunteer at the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden, College of Marin in Novato, where he works and advises in the orchard and coordinates fruit tree propagation in the nursery.

He now lives and grows in North Eastern Marin County California, where he is diversifying a food forest garden with over 150 varieties of fruit on multi-grafted trees, along with a small nursery, while practicing photography, developing educational materials, freelance consulting, team teaching, planting and maintaining gardens. He specializes in the care of fruit trees, especially pruning and grafting.
John is known for an engaging enthusiasm that matches his depth of plant knowledge.

Dan Willey is a long time citrus lover and a computer engineer who spent 20 years in the wireless industry working for Motorola and Blackberry. Realizing the potential of computers to slow the spread of the deadly huanglongbing disease of citrus, Dan started the fruitmentor website (http://fruitmentor.com) and YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/fruitmentor) to both teach citrus lovers how to graft citrus successfully and also promote the use of disease-free budwood. Dan has recently been working with California’s citrus budwood program, the Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP) to introduce new citrus varieties to California.