CNGA Annual Awards Honor the Best in the Business

Each year, CNGA recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to CNGA and the industry. Awards are presented during the Industry Celebration which takes place during the week of ProGreen EXPO. Award winners are nominated by CNGA members in the following categories:

  • Hall of Fame – This prestigious award is presented to an individual who, throughout their career, has demonstrated leadership and commitment resulting in overall improvements to the industry.
  • Person of the Year – This award recognizes an individual who in the last 12 months has made a positive impact on the regional horticulture industry through their involvement, actions or participation in the promotion of professionalism, creativity and involvement for the betterment of the industry.
  • Horizon – This award acknowledges an individual who has been in the industry less than five years, exhibits the qualities and high standards exemplifying CNGA, and during that time has made a significant contribution to a CNGA firm.
  • Exemplary Service Award – Given to an individual who is in the industry and employed by a CNGA Member firm. This individual exhibits the qualities and high standards exemplifying CNGA, has made a significant contribution to a CNGA firm and represents the best of the industry.

CNGA is pleased to recognize these award winners and the achievements they have accomplished for their company, the industry, and their own professional development.

Hall of Fame Award – Mandy Gerace, Syngenta Flowers (posthumously)

Mandy Gerace, Syngenta Flowers: Hall of Fame Award.

Mandy passed away on February 4, 2023. She was the CNGA Board president for 2022 and 2023 and had served on the Board since 2017.

Mandy grew up in the greenhouse industry. She graduated from Colorado State University in 2002 with a degree in communications. In 2007 she began working for the family business, Welby Gardens/Hardy Boy Plants, in sales, production and marketing. In August 2020, Mandy joined the Syngenta Flowers production team as a Root-N-Sell Account Manager. As Mandy’s health would no longer permit her to travel, which she enjoyed tremendously, Syngenta transitioned her to Sales Operation and CRM Lead working closely on the company’s project.

As the youngest member of the Gerace family’s third generation, Mandy exemplified the values and work ethic that have defined Welby’s family business for decades. She was pivotal in cultivating invaluable relationships with brokers, breeders, customers, and suppliers worldwide. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Syngenta Flowers, Danziger, Ball Seed, Little Valley Wholesale Nursery, Andrew/Reiter Epilepsy Research Program & Natural Grocers for their extraordinary exclusive flowers and tributes dedicated in her memory, serving as a testament of her enduring legacy. Mandy’s memory inspires us all, reminding us of the power of dedication, compassion, and a love of nature. She will forever be cherished and remembered as an exceptional individual who left an indelible imprint on our hearts and the horticultural industry. 

Hall of Fame Award – Harriett McMillan, Echter’s Nursery & Garden Center

Harriett McMillan, Echter’s Nursery & Garden Center: Hall of Fame Award.

Harriett is a person you can count on. She always volunteers to help out at events, volunteers her time for committees and programs (sometimes as a speaker), and as a board member. She works tirelessly for the CNGA organization.

Harriett has always been an educator. She has spent most of her life teaching the art and science of gardening throughout the industry. When she was very young, she would volunteer at the Denver Botanic Gardens to pull weeds. Later, after many adventures through Hawaii and Oregon, she returned to Colorado to pursue her true passion – plants.

Working at a family-owned business in the green industry made sense to Harriett. Through her personal experiences, she understands the importance of building a community of gardeners.

Harriett is known and admired as a foundational block in the Rocky Mountain region’s green industry.

Exemplary Service AwardDavid Staats, Colorado State University

David Staats, Colorado State University: Exemplary Service Award.

David is an invaluable part of CSU’s Horticulture & Landscape Architecture Dept. Over his 30+ years at CSU, he has been intricately involved in both the CSU Trial Garden program and the Landscape Arboretum. He has been instrumental in assisting with research implementation, data collection, and assisting with managing student workers in the program. He has also served as an AAS judge for several years and been on several boards including the Trial Gardens Advisory Committee and Plant Select.

It is an understatement to say David is dependable and reliable.  He is always willing to assist in any activity related to research, teaching, or extension programs. Whether it is assistance with data management, recording minutes, pest management, repairing irrigation heads or giving presentations, David is truly a team player!  

Horizon Award – Megan Gerard, James Nursery

Megan Gerard, James Nursey: Horizon Award.

Megan was hired at James Nursery as a sales associate, with limited knowledge of plants. Since then, she has learned her plant material on the job, followed by obtaining the CCNP in her second year in the industry. In addition to sales, she has progressed into Inventory Control, which entails receiving, quality control, tagging and sizing incoming material shipments. Megan is a very important part of the James Nursery team and a delight to have around, always bringing a ray of sunshine. She enjoys learning and strives to accomplish new goals. Her love for flowers/plants, food and adventure are evident on a daily basis. We are excited to see what she will take on next.

Horizon Award – Joel Russell, Echter’s Nursery & Garden Center

Joel Russell, Echter’s Nursery & Garden Center: Horizon Award.

Joel has been a member of the Echter’s team for 3 years, starting as a courtesy clerk and service coordinator. He advanced quickly and showed interest in all departments from hard goods to green goods. Eventually he gravitated to the nursery and perennial departments where his love of plants and gardening provided valuable insights. He gained his Colorado Certified Nursery Professional certification in the summer of 2023 and is always seeking new opportunities to continue his education in the industry. He has advanced to the position of Perennials Buyer and Manager at Echter’s. Joel is a team player, and his customer service is exceptional. He is destined to become a leader in our industry with years of service ahead in his choice of horticulture as a career.

Horizon Award – Lauryn Schriner, Gulley Greenhouse

Lauryn Schriner, Gulley Greenhouse: Horizon Award.

Lauryn has brought her research and critical thinking skills learned at Colorado State University and applied them to Gulley’s stock plant program. She is extremely good at networking to find alternative answers to the problems within, and she is also willing to help others with her expertise. She has been instrumental in the growing and propagation of many challenging Plant Select varieties for which there are no other sources. She has worked closely with the CSU staff throughout her time at Gulley’s and we see huge potential for future relationships within the industry.

She is a natural leader and shows a passion for horticulture every day. Lauryn is the hardest working, best team member you could ever ask for. She gets her job done, but always is the first to ask if anyone else needs help. Her ability to organize coordinated trials and actually keep track of the results is amazing. We can’t wait to see where her career takes her!

Horizon Award – Rachel Wood, Blooma Farms

Rachel Wood, Blooma Farms: Horizon Award.

Rachel has provided leadership at Blooma Farms every year for the past four years. She has taken on additional responsibility in overseeing Blooma’s specialty programs that includes foliage, succulents, fairy plants, Denver Garden & Home Show, and comprehensive custom production plan of complex plantings for our high-end mountain customers. She’s demonstrated excellent customer communication and management skills in working with Blooma’s staff to stay on tight production schedules. She assists with planning events for Blooma Farms’ participation in Colorado Destination Days and has recently joined the advisory board for CSU Trial Gardens. She is a friendly person and always has a smile on her face! We believe Rachel has great potential to be one of the Colorado horticulture superstars.

On behalf of the CNGA members, we extend hearty congratulations to this year’s group of award winners!