Grow Native! Committee (2015). Photo: Mervin Wallace

Grow Native! Committee


Ronda Burnett

Committee chair

Missouri Department of Conservation

Ronda Burnett has been a Community Conservation Planner with the Missouri Department of Conservation since 2005. She helps communities connect to nature and enjoy the enhanced quality of life made possible by healthy fish, forest, and wildlife resources. Ronda holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Louisiana State University and a Master of Urban, Environmental, and Land Use Planning from the University of Kansas.

simon barker

Simon Barker

Native Landscape Solutions

Co-owner of Native Landscape Solutions, Inc. and Barker Horticultural Services LLC, Simon pursues thoughtful approaches to landscaping and

always strives for innovation. There are many approaches to design, execution and stewardship for landscapes. Using different techniques, gleaned from a lifetime of experiences, Simon melds beautiful and functional landscapes from clients’ ideas and by reading the site.

Native plants and ecosystems have become a major palette that Simon draws from in the past 20, or more, years. Their resilience, beauty and ecosystem function as well as their great diversity provides inspiration and a vast repertoire to draw from.

The work of the two companies ranges from small residential landscapes to large corporate campuses and public spaces. Design, execution and long term stewardship carry ideas and vision from a first discussion to mature and long lived, beautiful landscapes.

Felicia standing in a field

Felicia Brundick

Missouri Prairie Foundation 

Felicia is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Missouri Prairie Foundation.   

Carol Davit

Missouri Prairie Foundation
Carol Davit is the Executive Director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, overseeing all operations of this conservation organization and land trust, including its Grow Native! program. Davit has worked for 20 years in the conservation and environmental fields in communications, development, administration, and leadership capacities. She has worked for private, nonprofit conservation groups and at the municipal and state government levels. 

Paula Diaz

Gardenerd consultations

Paula Diaz is the owner of GardeNerd Consultations, which provides designs incorporating native plants into traditional home and business landscapes. Paula is a University of Missouri Advanced Master Gardener who actively promotes native plant gardening through the Master Gardeners Speaker’s Bureau. She is a founding and current member of Raymore Tree Board, a member of Cass County Sustainability committee, and a professional GrowNative! Member, as well as a member of the Missouri Native Plant Society. Paula serves on the University of Missouri Cass County Extension Council and was awarded the University of Missouri’s highest volunteer honor in 2013 by being named to the MU Extension’s Leaders Honor Roll.


Will Gibson

Down To Earth Services/Green Thumb Gardens

William Roth Gibson is the founder of Down to Earth Services, a company that is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of native plant communities. The company designs, builds and maintains landscapes working with native plants and sustainable solutions. William also co-owns Green Thumb Gardens, a retail nursery suppling native plants to the Kansas City region.  William’s background and education are in environmental history and political science. After receiving a dual degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, he returned to the KC region and started his path as an entrepreneur. Will serves on numerous committees in the KC area including: The Kansas City Native Plant Initiative, Tree Champions, Heartland Conservation Alliance, Grow Native!, and his local Chamber Organization. Will is a vocal advocate for changes in the Green Industry and work force development. 


Betty Grace

Grace Native Seed

Betty Grace and her husband, Jim, live on a farm in northwest Missouri and operate Grace Native Seed.  They raise, harvest and sell native grass and wildflower seed, grow plugs and plants, and run a forage-based cattle operation. The Graces have been members of Grow Native! since just after its inception, and are also long-time members of the Missouri Prairie Foundation.  Betty and Jim belong to the Missouri Native Seed Association where Betty has served as president.


Nate Keener

Lewis and Clark Community College

Nate Keener is Director of Sustainability at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, IL. He works with the Restoration Ecology program on campus to implement native planted bioswales and prairie installations. He is part of the Grow Native! Southwestern Illinois Committee tasked with bringing Grow Native! to Illinois. He was part of the planning committee responsible for the February, 2016 “Native by Design: Landscapes Beyond Beauty” workshop featuring Doug Tallamy. He is an avid naturalist who enjoys gardening and hiking.

Barb Kipfer

Barbara Kipfer

Missouri Master Naturalist

A life-long “plant person” and nature lover, Barb began to transform into a “native plant person” when her family moved to the Ozarks in 1973. Having grown up in central Kansas she already appreciated prairies! One of many pleasures of moving to Springfield was discovering the beauty of local wildflowers. She found a native plant nursery, Pan’s Gardens, and added a few to her flower beds. She doesn’t remember how she found the resource, as there was no Grow Native or internet then. She enthusiastically shares the Grow Native website with any interested person.

After retiring from nursing in 2009 she became a Missouri Master Naturalist in the Springfield Plateau Chapter. She also began converting her small yard into a native plant landscape with over 90 species. This was for the benefit of the “three B’s” – butterflies, bees and birds – but discovered that Barb and husband Bob were beneficiaries too. She enjoys sharing her love and knowledge of natives with others. Another of Barb’s passions is invasive plant species management and educating others about them.

Sue Leahy

Sue Leahy

Greenscape Gardens

Sue Leahy is Native Plants Manager at Greenscape Gardens.   She has developed a robust natives department, expanded plant offerings and developed the Greenscape Native Plant Guide for customers.   She has been gardening with natives for about 12 years and her yard is certified platinum by the St. Louis Audubon Bring Conservation Home program.  She is passionate about native plants and enjoys the increase in wildlife she now sees in her backyard.   She also serves on the board of Wild Ones St. Louis and is chair of the Outreach Committee.   

Becky McMahon

DJM Ecological

Becky McMahon is a Project Ecologist and Vice President of DJM Ecological Services, Inc.   With a degree in Conservation Biology from Arizona State University, she specializes in habitat assessment, installation, and stewardship of wetlands, prairies, savannahs, woodlands, and glades.  She has directly impacted the pollinator movement within the Saint Louis metropolitan and surrounding states by working on over 70+ projects spanning private, municipal, state, and federal contracts.

Becky serves on the Board for the Open Space Council, is a certified arborist, a licensed pesticide applicator, and is OSHA 30 certified.  In her spare time she can be found climbing a tree with her daughter or hanging out with her duck and chickens.  Dirt under her nails is a sign of a day well spent.

Pete Millier

Pete Millier

University of Missouri

Pete Millier is the Director of Campus Facilities-Landscape Services and the Mizzou Botanic Garden at the University of Missouri in Columbia. The Mizzou Botanic Garden’s purpose is to support the University’s mission of education, research, and extension to better the lives of all Missourians. The ‘teaching’ by MUBG of sustainable horticulture through demonstration, programming, or outreach contributes to improved lives. MUBG is always looking for innovative programs that share these same goals and Millier believes that the work of the Grow Native! program is one program that does this.


Bill Ruppert

National Nursery Products

William (Bill) Ruppert, since 1990, owns and manages the St. Louis office of National Nursery Products, a horticultural sales, marketing and consulting company representing a diversity of wholesale growers specializing in Midwest natives, selections of American natives, and non-invasive ornamental landscape plants. Ruppert is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a B.S. in ornamental horticulture and landscape design. Upon graduation, he began his horticulture career working at the University coordinating the landscape redevelopment and enhancement of the University of Missouri – Columbia campus which was a large part of (then) Chancellor Barbara S. Uehling’s campus beautification initiative. Ruppert maintains active leadership involvement with a variety of professional green industry and community service organizations including Missouri Green Industry Alliance (MoGIA), MU Ag Alumni Board of Directors, Mizzou Botanic Garden Friends Board, MU School of Natural Resources Advisory Council, MU Center for Agroforestry Advisory Board, Missouri Environmental Education Association (MEEA) Advisory Board, Landscape and Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis, Gateway Greening Board of Directors, Missouri Prairie Foundation Grow Native! Committee and Missouri Invasive Plant (MoIP) Task Force.


Mervin Wallace

Missouri Wildflower Nursery

Mervin Wallace, Brazito, MO, has been in the business of propagating and selling plants of Missouri genetic origin for more than 30 years. Through the years Mervin has also grown into his well-qualified role of educator. His Missouri Wildflowers Nursery catalog has become a handbook for beginning and longtime native plant gardeners.

Mervin has earned the respect of his naturalist peers and has given us more access to some very fine plants and the knowledge to grow them well.


Virginia Woulfe-Beile

Sierra Club/Piasa Palisades Group

Hi, I am Virginia Woulfe-Beile, Three Rivers Project Coordinator for the Piasa Palisades Group of the Sierra Club. My education background is in Horticulture and Organizational leadership. Before joining the staff of the Sierra Club I worked in land management as a Golf Course and Park’s Superintendent. As much as I loved working outdoors I was experiencing a moral dilemma in regards to manipulating landscapes with chemical inputs. I wanted to be true to my love for nature and all things wild and beautiful as well as quality of life issues in my community.  Being involved with the Sierra Club, first professionally through public land use issues and eventually as a member and volunteer, I found I was able to follow my passions. I was elected to serve on the Piasa Palisades Executive Committee in 2007 and joined the staff in 2012.

The Three Rivers Project works in Madison, Calhoun and Jersey Counties, protecting the big rivers, helping secure a new energy future and building vibrant communities.  We achieve these goals in many ways; monitoring air and water quality, leading local food and native plants initiatives, providing environmental education, and organizing conservation and restoration projects.

I live in Godfrey Illinois with my husband Dave and Labrador Retriever Posie Jo and have 24 year old twins Phillip and Kaylin.

David Young

David Young

Missouri Prairie Foundation

David B. Young is retired from the Missouri Department of Conservation where he was a wildlife regional supervisor responsible for over 100,000 acres of public lands, developing and supervising wildlife management programs in West Central Missouri. As a retiree, he is self-employed as a part-time landscape maintenance technician and is a Master Gardener Emeritus in Johnson County. His hobbies are hunting, fishing, family activities, and traveling. He holds membership in MPF (life member); CFM (life member); and NWTF.


Kim Young

Forrest Keeling Nursery

Kim Lovelace-Young’s email signature includes a Frank Lloyd Wright quote. “The best friend on Earth of man is the tree.” It echoes Forrest Keeling Nursery’s mission: ‘restoring the earth’s ecosystem’s one tree at a time’. Appropriate since Kim took the role of Nursery president in May 2020.

Kim grew up in the nursery industry and is instrumental in promotion of its best practices. She continues to be an advocate for native plants, soil health and conservation.

Kim played a significant role in commercializing Forrest Keeling’s patented RPM-production technology. The innovative, all-natural technology helps produce better plants. RPM plants display faster flowering and fruiting and improve survivability and growth rate.