Meet our Board of Directors

mary meyer

Dr. Mary Meyer, chair

Mary manages the Grass Collection at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and was a professor in Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota for many years where she got her PhD studying grasses. She gardens in Plymouth, MN on a shady 1/3 acre plot and likes to grow vegetables in community gardens and try out local Community Supported Agriculture with local farmers. Although she loves grasses, Magnolia grandiflora and Ginkgo biloba are two of her favorite plants.


Mary Marrow, vice chair

A senior attorney with the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Mary works on legal and policy initiatives to increase access to healthy food and physical activity nationally. Before joining the Public Health Law Center, she was a public interest practitioner for over 12 years, focusing on poverty law, international human rights and environmental advocacy. In 2010, Mary worked with the Center for Public Interest Law in Accra, Ghana, through a fellowship sponsored by the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, conducting a comparative study of mining practices and the effectiveness of environmental regulations in the U.S. and Ghana. She also served in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa, and managed a crisis shelter for the homeless in Alaska. Mary is an avid gardener and outdoor enthusiast.


Paul Markwardt, treasurer

An Iowa farm boy turned tax lawyer, Paul learned to garden beside his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members. Paul has found that his MSHS membership offers the same type of gardening help—practical instruction, advice and encouragement that make gardening enjoyable. Through his participation on the MSHS board, his goal is to support MSHS in its efforts to continue and to expand these valuable services to the broader community, from lifelong gardeners to people whose interest is newly sparked. Paul's current gardens include perennials, vegetables and a small orchard (which the wildlife, especially pileated woodpeckers and blue jays, may be more successful harvesting). One of his childhood favorites, peonies, continue to enjoy a sweet spot in his gardening heart.


Renay Leone

Renay Leone, secretary

An MSHS member for 20+ years, Renay loves connecting with gardeners. She grew up gardening with her mom and grandma and remembers them taking her swimming in a nearby lake after weeding the vegetable garden on hot summer days. "Not everyone was as fortunate as I was to grow up with an appreciation for and grounding in gardening," Renay says. She believes everyone should have the opportunity to learn about plants and growing. After considering a career as a concert pianist, she chose to go into real estate law, nonprofit work and government land management. When she's not working, Renay enjoys quilting, weeding and walking in nature.


Steve Poppe

A horticulture scientist at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, MN, Steve has served the UMN since 1976. He has extensive experience growing, trialing and taking data on a wide variety of horticultural crops and ornamentals. He also coordinated the management of a large public display garden, Prairie Garden, Children's Garden, fund development and numerous horticulture educational events each year. He was on the board and a member of the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and a member of North American Strawberry Growers Association. Steve has received numerous awards: the 2004 UMN President’s Award for Outstanding Service, the award of excellence for exemplary education from All-America Selections, the UM Civil Service Award, a USDA Special Service Award and he was honored by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society for his outstanding contributions to horticulture in both 2004 and 2015.

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Nan Eserkaln

Nan is the director of product strategy and sustainable and impact investing for a large financial services firm. During her career, she has focused on building sustainable, efficient systems based on clear value propositions. This includes designing and executing coaching-based leadership programs, managing a $15B+ investment product and leading 7-figure, cross-organizational projects. Joining MSHS is a return to her passion for helping humans cultivate healthy, balanced relationships with nature. While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Nan studied International Relations & Economics with a focus on Land Tenure. This carried forward into her master’s in Business and Leadership at Hamline University focused on development systems. Currently, Nan lives in Minneapolis with her partner and pets. She enjoys long walks, harvesting her garden’s bounty of veggies and flowers, captivating conversations, belly laughs and a good read. 


Judy MacManus

Growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota, Judy experienced the joys of gardening at a young age and grew to understand the importance of stewardship of the land. This background has carried forward in her adult life and is manifested in her love of gardening and concern for the environment. She has been a member of MSHS for almost 25 years and is currently a member of the Garden Club of Ramsey County and also the Saint Paul Garden Club. She earned a degree in art at the College of St. Benedict and pursued a career in advertising, marketing and design. Now retired, she has more time to enjoy her passion for gardening.



Laura Wagner

Laura earned a BS degree in Education from Drake University and MBA from the University of St. Thomas. She grew up at her family’s business, Wagners Greenhouses in Minneapolis, and is part of the fifth generation of the family working at the greenhouse. Laura has worked at Wagners full time since 2008 and specializes in marketing. She enjoys taking care of flower beds and a large vegetable garden with her husband at their Shakopee, MN home. Her favorite plants are begonias because they are so versatile and easy to care for.

rhys williams

Rhys Williams

As Executive Director of The Good Acre, Rhys developed programs that connect farmers, food makers and communities through good food. He believes the key to strengthening the Twin Cities food system is giving a voice to and creating market opportunities for independent, minority and immigrant farmers. Having worked in nearly every aspect of the food system, he understands what it takes to grow and distribute local food. Growing up in Blind River, Ontario and then the suburbs of Chicago, Rhys earned a degree in Landscape Architecture from Mississippi State University. He served in the Peace Corps in Kenya in the 80’s and relocated to Minnesota in the early 90’s, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.