People Who Strengthen CNGA and the Industry

Each year, CNGA recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to CNGA and the industry. Award winners are nominated by CNGA members. The following awards are presented to individuals each year at the annual Industry Celebration:

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.

2021 Award Winners

Ron Arpin, Little Valley Wholesale Nursery | Hall of Fame Award
Ron has worked for Little Valley for over 40 years and plans to retire in 2022. Ron began his career working at a garden center in Salina, Kansas where his interest in horticulture started. After graduating from college, he moved to Colorado where he worked for Western Evergreens in Golden before he was hired at Little Valley in 1981. At Little Valley he advanced from propagator to the nursery manager where he currently oversees the greenhouse, field, container production, and the B&B departments. In 1997 he played an essential role in planning and constructing new greenhouses. He is an expert on potting media nutrition, chemistry and diagnosing diseases & pests.

Ron has led many education seminars at Pro-Green and CNGA workshops, currently serves on the noxious weed board, and has been a boy scout troop leader for over 25 years. He is an advocate for the employees at LVWN and has created a welcoming culture for all. Outside of work he enjoys hiking, biking, and traveling, all of which he’s sure to enjoy in retirement!

Dennis Hill, Bookcliff Gardens (retired) | Hall of Fame Award

Dennis came to Grand Junction in 1978 from southern California and started his own landscaping business for a couple of years, then joined Bookcliff Gardens in 1980. He became a partner in Bookcliff Gardens in 1983 and was co-owner and manager of the nursery, greenhouse and retail store until 2019 when he and Dan Komlo sold the operation to Rick & Steph Griggs. Dennis officially retired in July, 2021.  

Dennis was a CNGA member for more than 35 years and was named Nurseryperson of the year in 1999. He served on CNGA Board, often making the drive to the Front Range for meetings and returning home the same day. He taught Master Gardener & Advanced Master Gardener classes and was a speaker for numerous conferences and events including Landscapes West, Pro Green Expo and the Western Colorado Soil Health Conference. For decades, Dennis wrote a weekly newspaper column for the Daily Sentinel and hosted a live call-in radio show to talk about gardening. Through it all, Dennis was passionate about his work - “I love horticulture and the constant learning that goes with the field. I love to learn, and I love to teach. But the best part of my job is working with people.”

Here's to Dennis Hill, the most trusted plant guy western Colorado has ever had and a true champion of Colorado’s nursery & greenhouse industry

Carol Clifford, James Nursery | Horizon Award

Carol started at the nursery in 2017, taking over as office manager after the manager at the time had a serious injury. After a year, Carol moved outside to work with perennials and within a year took over the management including orders, monitoring water and quality control, including dead heading, pruning, etc. Carol is an extremely hard working, reliable and valued employee that comes to work every day with a smile and a positive attitude.

Gracyn Kanan, CCNP, Echter's Nursery & Garden Center | Horizon Award

Gracyn was hired in March of 2020 and immediately hit the ground running, helping to process, pick, and deliver hundreds of online curb-side orders each day, as necessitated by the pandemic. Her positive attitude and exceptional work ethic were key components to Echter’s success during this tumultuous time. By spring of 2021, she was promoted to assistant manager of the Nursery Department and buyer for the Perennials Department and she is currently working towards her CCNP certification. She has a natural aptitude for horticulture, provides impeccable customer service, and is ready to help where help is needed, and always with a smile.

Molly Kincaid, CCNP, Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery | Horizon Award

Molly exhibits all the best qualities we hope for in our fellow horticultural professionals. In her first full season she was faced with some truly trying challenges with weather extremes and supply chain break downs, and fought through those to successful ends. She has great perseverance, always displays boundless enthusiasm and initiative, and has excellent interpersonal skills. She has been absolutely fearless in diving into her role as head of container production and has become a technical expert in this area. She is developing a great professional support network and seeking to become an ISA certified arborist. Molly has made the company better for her presence here.

Ezequiel Villanueva, Global Green Education | Exemplary Service Award
Ezequiel is a bilingual science educator and for the past several years he has brought his skill to our industry by offering CNGA's Greenhouse Certification classes in Spanish. This has been especially useful in training the diverse workforce in the green industry. While at Arbor Valley Nursery he conducted research with NRCS grant funds to determine best practices for the water and soil needs of trees and shrubs for Colorado conditions. His educational experience here and abroad as well as his experience with grant funding is a valuable tool for CNGA. Ezequiel is always willing to volunteer his time and expertise whenever needed. 

Exemplary Service Award - Young Hort Professionals Group
Ashley Brinegar, Botany Lane Greenhouse
Nicolette Malfitano, Tagawa Greenhouse Enterprises
Michael Schleining, Arbor Valley Nursery
Jason Shimmel, Arbor Valley Nursery
Collectively, this group has shown an outstanding level of dedication to the Young Hort Professionals program, and especially the high school outreach program - Plant Ahead. Since 2019, they have met several times/year for planning meetings to launch and implement Plant Ahead. They have made personal profile videos, developed an introductory Powerpoint, created and published a Plant Ahead newsletter, conducted in-classroom presentations to two different high schools and led site tours for one of the high schools to a wholesale nursery and wholesale greenhouse. More presentations are already scheduled for 2022. They are a tribute to the passion, commitment and energy that will drive the future of our industry. 

Previous Award Winners