In February of 2014, the Westport Garden Club hosted Doug Ladd as a guest speaker at their monthly meeting. At the time, Ladd was the Conservation Director for The Nature Conservancy in Missouri. Doug spoke of the state of the tallgrass prairie as the most threatened, yet least conserved of the world’s ecosystems. He impressed upon the group the importance of saving this precious resource, and the species that rely on it in the process. The members were so inspired by Doug’s program that a club task force was organized to ‘be pollinators’ for native plants in Kansas City.
Partnering with Powell Gardens, the Westport Garden Club learned more about native species and experimented with them in their own gardens. They organized presentations by Doug Tallamy and Roy Diblik to inform and inspire the public. They hosted municipalities, architects, landscapers, elected officials, conservation agencies, nonprofits, and local businesses to discuss the importance of mobilizing Kansas City to appreciate and preserve its prairie roots. Out of that first presentation, a series of conversations eventually gave birth to a new organization called the KC Native Plant Initiative.
The Garden Club’s enthusiasm and persistence grew into a collective impact organization, one united behind a shared vision of beautiful, native landscapes connecting heartland communities where nature and people thrive together. Deep Roots is a collective impact organization of multi-sector Partners. Together with our Partners, we work to increase native plant landscapes. Our mission is to encourage the appreciation, conservation, and use of native plants in the heartland through educating, collaborating, and facilitating the planting of regenerative native landscapes that are essential for a healthy planet.
Today, under our new name, Deep Roots KC is teaching people that What You Plant Matters!
Jason Jensen, Chair
Tom Jacobs, Treasurer
Margo Farnsworth, Secretary
Kathy Gates, Founder
G. David Gale
Marion Pierson, MD
Stephen Van Rhein
Stacia B. Stelk, Executive Director
Stacia became the first Director of Deep Roots in November 2017. Stacia’s responsibilities include overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization but also capturing the energy and imagination of Deep Roots volunteers to increase native plant landscapes.
Stacia has a B.S. in Systematics and Ecology from the University of Kansas and an MPA in Non-Profit Management from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Among Stacia’s career accomplishments is launching Ripple Glass which increased Kansas City area glass recycling rate from less than 4% to more than 20%. Stacia enjoys nature, reading, exercising, and spending time with her husband and two daughters.
When Stacia needs inspiration, she looks out her office window to watch all of the action in her native plant garden. It’s a pollinator party out there!
Denna Nachlinger, Administrator / Community Organizer
Denna joined Deep Roots in January 2023. She provides us organizational support and maintains our records and databases. She works with our workgroups and committees to ensure we are scheduled and organized. Additionally, she helps track volunteer hours and provides support to many of our exciting programs.
Denna has a BS and MBA in Accounting from Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business. Denna started her career in accounting and project finance which evolved to project management of IT system implementations and enhancements. Most recently, she administered CRM databases to support efficient sales teams and reporting.
Denna has a lifelong love of the outdoors, nurtured from growing up on a farm. She enjoys her home vegetable garden and is expanding her native plant gardens at her home in Parkville.
Cydney Ross, Outdoor Education Program Manager
Cydney joined Deep Roots in March 2023 in a cooperative position with the Missouri Department of Conservation at the Discovery Center. At Deep Roots, she leads volunteer groups, fields trips and other outreach activities. At the Discover Center, she stewards 9 acres of native plantings and shares the space with visitors during tours, classes and events.
Cydney earned a BFA in ceramics from Kansas City Art Institute in 2013 and maintains a fine arts practice in ceramics and mixed media. Cydney chose to embrace her love of nature with her position at the Anita B. Gorman Discover Center. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and a Missouri Naturalist with the Osage Trails Chapter.
Cydney has always had a naturalist spirit, with her earliest memories hiking, floating Missouri rivers, camping with her family, and gardening with her mom. Her endless curiosity, stewardship for the earth, and background in the arts encourages her to inspire folks to connect with nature. She proudly leads LGBTQ+ inclusive nature programs throughout the Kansas City area and is a self-proclaimed “native plant nerd”.
Chris Cardwell, Program Manager
Chris joined Deep Roots in April 2023. He leads our Nature Advisors program as well as other outreach programs. Chris brings a wealth of knowledge and passion that he shares to all our projects and volunteers.
Chris earned a BA in Art History and French at the University of Kansas. While there he also started his native plants journey. His career highlights so far include establishing the Green Stewards program at Bridging the Gap, running his own residential landscaping company and being an urban conservationist with Miami County.
Growing up in the smoky hills of northern Kansas, exploring the grassland ecosystems, instilled a quiet song in the back of Chris’s head. It continues to inspire him. He loves to explore nature while hiking, kayaking and running with his family.
Ongoing Education for Professionals and Homeowners
Deep Roots’ committees present workshops for homeowners, gardeners, and large and small scale landscape professionals. Register for upcoming programs on our Events page, or receive new events in your email by subscribing to The Pollinator.
Case Studies – Coming Soon!
Loose Park Monarch Demonstration Garden and Jean Mary Love Blackman Native Shade Gardens
Homeowner Roberta Vogel-Leutung
Shawnee Mission Park Native Prairies
Shawnee Mission School District Center for Academic Achievement
Prairie Birthday Farm
Together with our multi-sector partners, we work to increase native plant landscapes. Our mission is to encourage the appreciation, conservation, and use of native plants in the heartland through educating, collaborating, and facilitating the planting of regenerative native landscapes that are essential for a healthy planet.
Deep Roots’ Partners consist of small and large businesses, municipalities, state government agencies, parks departments, not-for-profit organizations and individuals. Partners collaborate to share resources, opportunities, and create synergy to plant more native species and provide education that results in more native landscapes.
This section is under construction, check back soon to meet our Partners!