Spring into Gardening Speakers Bios



Doug Soldat is a professor and extension specialist in the Department of Soil Science at UW-Madison. His research, teaching, and extension programs deal with improving the agronomic, economic, and environmental sustainability of maintaining turfgrass. He is a native Wisconsinite and earned his Ph.D. in Horticulture at Cornell University after completing a BS and MS in Soil Science at UW-Madison.


Amaya Atucha is an assistant professor in the department of Horticulture and is the Fruit Crop Extension Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also the Gottschalk Chair for cranberry research. Her research program focuses on fruit crop physiology and production of deciduous fruit crops (cranberry, apple, and grapes in particular). The goal of her extension program is to deliver up to date, research-based information to fruit growers that will lead to improve production practices of fruit crops in Wisconsin. She earned her B.S. in horticulture from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Chile) and her Ph.D. in horticulture from Cornell University. Prior to joining UW-Madison she was an assistant professor at Colorado State University in the department of Horticulture.


Lisa has a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Communicationy. She has been the Dane County Extension Horticulture Educator since 2004, and previously worked at the Milwaukee County Extension office from 2000-2004. Among her responsibilities are  training Master Gardener Volunteers, providing continuing education for members of the green industry, overseeing management of the Dane County Extension Teaching Garden, and acting as staff for the Dane County Tree Board. She gives frequent presentations to garden clubs, schools and libraries in southern Wisconsin, has a weekly column in the WI State Journal and is a regular guest on Larry Meiller’s ‘Garden Talk’ program on Wisconsin Public Radio.


He is a graduate of the University of Illinois with degrees in Ornamental Horticulture and advertising communications. For over 30 years, Jeff has managed a range of Ball customer focused sales and marketing activities, currently focusing on Ball’s steadily growing independent garden center and landscape business segments, working directly with greenhouse and garden retailers, and landscape professionals.  Jeff is a frequent speaker to garden centers, professional landscapers, growers, and municipal organizations regarding ideas for garden retailing, landscape color trends, new varieties, and landscape care and installation practices. More information about Ball Landscape can be found at www.Balllandscape.com


Susan Carpenter is the native plant gardener at the UW-Madison Arboretum. With students and community volunteers, she manages a four-acre garden representing the native plant communities of southern Wisconsin. She promotes pollinator conservation through native plant gardening outreach and support for the WiDNR citizen-based monitoring program, Bumble Bee Brigade.


Claire Strader is the Organic Vegetable Educator for FairShare CSA Coalition and Extension Dane County.  In this shared position, Claire works with organic vegetable farmers serving direct markets.  Her key projects include on-farm research on cover crops and reduced tillage techniques for organic vegetables, the Organic Vegetable Farm Manager registered apprenticeship, and the annual Organic Vegetable Production Conference serving farmers in Wisconsin and surrounding states.  Claire is also a gardener and regularly translates farm-scale techniques into garden-scale success.


Erik Desotelle is a wholesale sales representative at Johnson’s Nursery, Inc., but really he just likes to talk about plants.  He previously worked in the retail department at Johnson’s Nursery, helping homeowners select and install plant material for their landscapes.  Erik is also an adjunct horticulture instructor at Gateway Technical College.  When not at the nursery, you can find Erik hiking in one of Wisconsin’s state parks, complaining about invasive species, or just talking to trees.


Nancy is the newly retired owner of The Flower Factory, which recently closed it’s retail operation after 37 years of being the Midwest’s largest selection of hardy perennials. Nancy has a degree in horticulture from UW-Madison, which started off her interest in gardening. Wisconsin has always been her home base, but she has enjoyed traveling and appreciating gardens wherever they are. Her pleasure in life is to share the curiosity of watching plants grow, and the importance of working in the soil for your mental health.