Speaker Spotlight: Susan Poizner

Susan Poizner, Founder of Orchard People Fruit Tree Care Education is an award-winning author, journalist, filmmaker, and urban orchardist. She has been a fruit tree care educator since 2013 and currently teaches fruit production at Niagara College in Ontario, Canada. 

With a goal to make fruit tree care easy, Susan created OrchardPeople.com where people can find a blog, podcast, books, and online courses. On the site, she expresses the challenges that beginning orchardists may face.

“If only growing fruit trees was easy. Many of us plant our trees thinking that all we need to do is water them and wait for the harvest. But fruit trees can experience problems including poor fruit quality, pests, and disease.”

She began creating various e-learning materials for people who are starting their own orchards because it was “exactly what I needed when I planted my first fruit trees in 2009.”

It’s hard to imagine an expert like Susan making a mistake, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? We asked her about a gardening mistake she made that led her to where she is today, she responded,

“One of my biggest gardening “mistakes” was planting fruit trees in 2009! I planted nine fruit trees in a community orchard in my local park that year. But the problem was that I didn’t know that fruit trees needed special pruning, feeding and care. This led to a series of fruit tree pest and disease challenges. 

If I had learned about correct fruit tree care BEFORE planting our trees, I would have selected cultivars that are easier to grow. I also would have pruned and cared for them correctly, right from the start! In the end, I learned a lot from my mistakes and shared the lessons I learned in my award-winning fruit tree care book, Growing Urban Orchards.” 

Going back ever farther in her gardening life, Susan recalls her first garden-related experience; growing tomato plants. She had just gotten married and her husband wanted to plant veggies in their garden. She was skeptical at first and thought it would be messy but as she watched those plants grow, she fell in love with the magic of gardening. She says, “It’s beautiful. It’s challenging. It is rewarding. And, as a bonus, you can often eat what you grow!”

If she could only give one piece of advice to a new gardener, she would say to just dig in and give it a try! She suggests starting by growing annuals. Because they are largely transient, there is more room for trial and error. 

But when it comes to planting perennial plants, she advises to be sure to do your research first. “Perennial plants and trees are like babies. If you neglect them in the early years, they can get stressed and have health challenges in the years to follow.” She continues, “But if you care for perennial plants and trees correctly in the early years, they will have a long and healthy life.”

Susan will be sharing the skills she has honed creating online courses on day two of the GardenComm Virtual conference in a program called “Creating eLearning FAST”. 

Susan says that today, more and more people are turning to online learning, and it’s a profitable teaching tool that every garden communicator should be considering. However, she also finds that many garden communicators are hesitant, saying that they feel like in order to create a successful online course they need top-notch skills in technical areas like cinematography and sound mixing.

In this workshop, Susan will share how to create successful online courses quickly using familiar tools, like PowerPoint as well as other easy options for filming, recording and editing an online course.

Susan says, “Your goal here is to stop procrastinating, and just to roll up your sleeves and get started! I look forward to teaching you how to create eLearning fast!”

Click here to learn more and register for the conference.

Speaker Spotlight: Callie Works-Leary

In February of 2021, D Magazine printed an article called The Online Effort to Educate North Texas Gardeners that best describes one of our GardenComm 2021 Virtual Conference speakers in the Friday, August 13 lineup, Callie Works-Leary, of The Dallas Garden School.

“The Dallas Garden started as just an Instagram account, a separate social media page where founder Callie Works-Leary could talk soil and seeds and fertilizer without inundating her friends-and-family followers with all the dirty (literally) details of her gardening exploits.

Launched last April, the IG page was where the longtime home gardener and former greenhouse plant propagator could share her expert tips on everything from how to grow tomatoes on a patio to when you should get your cucumbers in the ground—all with a focus on growing in North Texas’ unique climate.

“I just kept getting wonderful feedback,” Works-Leary said, “from people who were saying, ‘Thank you so much. It’s so hard for me to find information online that is specific to our area.’ ”

The dearth of digital resources for North Texas gardeners—combined with a shelter-in-place order that shut down in-person gardening classes, prompted people all over town to try their thumb at pandemic gardening— meant more and more Dallasites were desperate for information on what to plant where and when.

“I thought this was such a unique opportunity to reach out to a new generation of gardeners,” says Works-Leary, who grew up in Dallas and is a certified Texas Master Gardener.”

Her interest in plants began in childhood when she remembers picking chamomile flowers from her mother’s garden and making it into tea. “Growing something that is useful is magical and empowering.” she says, “My purpose is to give others the necessary tools to achieve the same sense of fulfillment.”

After an early career in marketing and product development, Callie Works-Leary founded The Dallas Garden School to educate young North Texas gardeners through multichannel, digital content.

Her work in the horticulture industry began with a research internship at The Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and included work in propagation and private consulting.

She now specializes in urban food production, cut flowers, perennials, and community gardening.

Despite her success in food garden production, Callie shared an experience that most any of us can identify with when it comes to not having quite enough hours in the day to get everything done. She said, “Last summer, I left a large onion harvest to dry for a day or two in the garden. Because our community garden is a target for produce thieves, I protected the onions from prying eyes by loosely covering with floating row cover. Next day, I came back to find that the row cover had trapped enough heat to cook every single onion cooked inside their own skins!”

Callie uses Instagram’s tools to create all types of video and visual horticultural content. She says that engagement is the number one thing that the Instagram algorithm uses to decide how many people see your content. Boosting engagement will boost your reach and ultimately boost your following. Her virtual conference program taking place on Friday, August 13 at 2p ET is titled “Maximizing Your Reach on Instagram: Reels, Stories, Guides, and IGTV.” In it, you will discover ways to reach new audiences using Instagram’s latest options, you will learn the difference between Reels and IGTV, and you’ll find out when it’s most effective to use Stories vs. Guides. She’ll teach you how to improve your own engagement with real-world examples of what works, especially for gardening audiences.

Her advice to gardeners is advice we can use in many facets of our lives: “If you treat everything you do in the garden as an experiment, then you can’t fail because the feedback you get from something going wrong is ten times more valuable than the feedback you get from something going right.”

Click here for all the 2021 Virtual Conference information. Be sure to look at the tabs at the top of the pages for all the detailed education and enrichment sessions.

In addition to her conference presentation, Callie will also be presenting a virtual program to the GardenComm community on June 17. All details can be found here. We hope you will register for both of these amazing progams.