Penn State Extension launches "Keeping it Green" podcast

Updated Mar 31, 2023
Flower garden with water feature
Penn State Extension

A new Penn State Extension weekly podcast, titled “Keeping it Green,” is aimed at ornamental plant professionals and enthusiasts.

“We started this podcast as a way to share interesting conversations with horticultural professionals from Pennsylvania and beyond,” said Margaret Pickoff, horticulture extension educator based in Bucks County. “This is for folks working in the green industry, in ornamental and commercial horticulture, and for anyone who likes growing plants.”

Pickoff hosts the podcast, joined each week by a rotating co-host from Extension’s green industry team: Tom Butzler, Sandy Feather, or Tim Abbey.

With a conversational tone, the podcast draws from the knowledge and expertise of Penn State Extension educators, Penn State faculty members, and industry leaders.

“We interview guests about what they do, what plants they work with, and what interesting things they’re seeing in their line of work,” Pickoff said.

A recent episode featured Frank Pizzi, former horticulturist at Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. Pizzi discussed the world of plants in zoo settings and the transformation of zoo exhibits from concrete and ceramic tile buildings to enclosures aimed at mimicking the animals’ natural habitat. While many homeowners and plant professionals wrestle with damage caused by rabbits, groundhogs, and deer in the landscape, Pizzi had to manage and protect the plants against the likes of rhinos, gorillas, and giraffes.

The podcast also covers design, installation and maintenance, plant selection, pests, and other current horticulture topics.

In one episode, Vinnie Cotrone joined the hosts to discuss his role as an urban forestry extension educator. The conversation focused on how perceptions of urban trees have changed over the decades, ecosystem services these trees provide to communities, and some of the biggest stressors trees face in urban environments.

Another episode showcased Jim MacKenzie, president and co-owner of Octoraro Native Plant Nursery. MacKenzie shared insight on labor issues, sustainability, and mentorship within the industry.

In addition to featuring guests, the podcast offers a glimpse into life as a green industry extension educator. For example, the hosts discussed the items they always keep in their car for site visits regarding plant concerns. The educators share their backgrounds, interests, and what they encounter throughout their workday. The hosts also regularly talk about what they see in the landscape as extension educators, such as the effects of drought.

Each host brings a unique perspective to the podcast. Pickoff provides education, outreach, and support for green industry professionals and other growers in southeastern Pennsylvania. She teaches topics in invasive plant identification and management, pesticide safety, and management of ornamental landscapes.

Butzler is a horticulture extension educator in central Pennsylvania. He has helped vegetable growers, landscape and turf professionals, and area farmers with production and pest management issues. Butzler also teaches beekeeping classes to youth and adults.

Feather provides educational programs and technical assistance for green industry professionals in southwestern Pennsylvania. She coordinates and teaches programs on integrated pest management, organic land care, ornamental plant identification and usage, and proper cultural practices, including pruning, planting, and sustainable landscape design.

Abbey is the commercial horticulture educator based in York County. His main responsibility is to educate nursery and landscape care personnel on the basics of establishing an integrated pest management program in York and neighboring counties.

Podcast episodes run about 45 minutes. Episodes are available on the Penn State Extension website, Spotify, or anywhere podcasts are found.

Alexandra McLaughlin with bio that reads 'This article was authored by Alexandra McLaughlin who writes press releases, news stories, and features for Penn State Extension'

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