Our Story

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!

Board of Directors

Jason Jensen, Chair

Margo Farnsworth, Vice Chair

Tom Jacobs, Treasurer

Bob Berkebile

G. David Gale

Kathy Gates, Founder

Carolyn Kusmin

Susan Lordi Marker

Gina Miller

Marion Pierson, MD

Kristin Riott

Eric Tschanz

Our Staff

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.

Grace Suh, Outreach & Marketing Manager

Grace joined Deep Roots in November 2023 and leads the native landscape tour program. Coming from a background in video production, publishing, and marketing, she is thrilled to apply her storytelling and audience-nurturing talents to such a meaningful cause.

Grace was born in Seoul, South Korea, learned English in the ESL program of the Chicago public school system and studied literature at Barnard College. She moved to Kansas City with her partner and their two young children in 2007 and still feels incredibly blessed by the privilege of growing her own garden and watching birds right outside the windows.

Her favorite plant is Phlox divaricate and her favorite bird is the Tufted Titmouse.

P.J. Born, Land Manager

P.J. joined Deep Roots in December 2023 as the Land Manager for the Shawnee Mission Environmental Science Laboratory (SMESL), a project funded by the Shawnee Mission School District. PJ manages 22 acres including a woodland, prairie, a pond, and a small stream.

P.J. retired from teaching in the spring of 2023.  Over his 32-year career he taught Life Science at Highland Middle School in the Turner School District and spent his final 27 years teaching Environmental Education at Shawnee Mission South High School where he also managed the Environmental Science Lab.

Learning about nature while using the SMESL as an outdoor classroom has been a personal highlight.  P.J. shares his love of nature with his wife and 4 grown children.

Our Projects

Plan It Native Landscapes Conference
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

Gale Communities

Prairie Birthday Farm

Our Partners

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!