Meet the Team

As editor and publisher of GrowerTalks and Green Profit, I’m proud of the staff here at Ball Publishing, and with good reason: You won’t find a sharper, tighter, more dedicated crew anywhere! We’re lean (there’s just seven of us, plus two off-site, full-time freelance editors) but we’re good—fast, efficient and responsive to your needs. They keep things operating smoothly while I’m touring greenhouses in Alaska, China and other far-flung locales. In fact, I suspect things work MORE smoothly when I’m on the road! — Chris Beytes

Paul Black, Publisher

Joined us in 2005

As publisher, Paul occupies one of most important seats here at Ball Publishing, overseeing all our advertising and sponsorship sales. But while he’s got 20 years of professional sales experience, including a stint in technology sales for the grocery industry, he’s a horticulturist at heart, having graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in environmental science. He keeps busy with a wife, two kids, and a guitar. He also enjoys coaching his son and daughter’s sports teams, and serves his community as a board member of the Geneva Baseball Association.

Kim Brown, Account Manager

Joined us in 2010

Kim has one of the biggest jobs: advertising sales—which she does alongside Paul Black (they make a colorful duo, eh?). Kim is an account manager veteran: her background includes sales for HGTV Network, The Family Channel, and A. C. Nielsen as well as planning and buying national media with stints at J. Walter Thompson and DDB Needham Worldwide. She believes in creating advertising plans that meet an advertiser’s specific needs and will assist in growing their businesses for the long term. She has two middle initial (“R” and “L” – Real Lucky to work here?), but if that is her most serious quirk, she'll be considered the normal one here.

Adriana Heikkila, Sales /Trade Show Coordinator

Joined us in 2005

A Chicagoland native, Adriana is Ball Publishing’s sales assistant. And being the oldest of seven kids, she’s ideally suited to keeping our two sales people, Paul and Kim, on track. Plus, her education is in communication and advertising, so if you’re an advertiser, Adriana is the real power in the office to get things done for you. When she’s not keeping the sales department on track or coordinating Ball Publishing’s trade show exhibits, Adriana likes nothing more than to root for the White Sox or spend time entertaining family and friends, or outdoors in her garden ... unless there's a good reality TV show on, that is. She admits to a bit of an addiction to them.

Anissa Lobrillo, Graphic Designer

Joined us in 1999

Words are fine, but to really make them sing you need a beautiful design, and that’s what Anissa has been doing for Ball Publishing since 1999. Nobody has a better grasp of clean, attractive, functional and readable design for the greenhouse trade. That's why we put her in charge of our 2008 redesign—only the second major redesign of GrowerTalks since it was founded in 1937.

While she has scaled back her duties with Ball Publishing to stay at home with her kids, Anissa still does the monthly design of Green Profit on a freelance basis, and she's still treated like one of the staff.

Jennifer Polanz, Managing Editor-at-Large—Green Profit

Joined us in 2012

Jennifer comes to the magazine with nine years of green industry experience ranging from editor of a garden center trade publication to freelance writing, editing and public relations for industry businesses. She has traveled extensively to garden centers around the U.S. and abroad to find new solutions for retail profitability and to uncover upcoming trends. Jen has a Master's degree in Journalism from Ohio University and currently resides in a Cleveland suburb with her husband, two children and a cat.

Chris Truesdale, Creative Director

Joined us in 2008

The "other Chris" (but certainly not Number 2) has been a graphic artist for 30+ years, working for Ball Horticultural Company since 1998. When Chris isn't working with her "electronic easel," she enjoys spending time and traveling with her daughters Rose and Margaret. She helps out at her sister's wine store on occasion, which has earned her a wide knowledge of the finest vino. And Chris is a Broadway in Chicago season ticket holder, so she can often be spotted catching a show with friends in the downtown theater district.

Allison Westbrook, Customer Service & Circulation

Joined us in 2014

Allison comes to us from inside the Ball Corporation. She was looking for new challenges, and we had two: manage our customer service efforts and our enormous readership database. Those could be considered two full-time jobs, but Allison does both with class and aplomb. In addition, Allison is taking on new challenges in the editorial sphere by writing for GrowerTalks and Green Profit, as well as being the editor of the Hort Calendar newsletter. Allison grew up gardening with her family, which instilled in her a love of plants that culminated in a hort degree from Purdue. She has worked in many facets of the industry, including landscape design, plant sales, garden center management and marketing. A bookworm at heart, it was natural that Allison combine her passions for literature and horticulture in a role at Ball Publishing. She lives in Warrenville with her husband, Ian, and their pug, Iggy. In her spare time she cooks, reads and sings in a cover band.

Ellen C. Wells, Editor-at-Large—Green Profit

Joined us in 2008 (but has freelanced for us since 2005)

We consider Ellen an expert in horticulture, as she has a master’s degree in horticulture from Cornell University. But writing is her real talent and calling, and so she applies her knowledge of green industry with her love of storytelling into the perfect retail communications package. A city girl, Ellen lives in downtown Boston where she can vigorously root for her beloved Red Sox. It’s also a convenient location for her to cover the active northeastern horticulture industry. That’s why her weekly news and commentary e-mail. BuZZ!, will often include references to both. She also keeps our readers up to date on the world of tropicals with her bimonthly newsletter, Tropical Topics.

Mark Widhalm, Photographer

Joined us in 2008

Mark joined the BP staff with the re-design of GrowerTalks and Green Profit, capturing the interesting photos you see on the covers and inside our magazine every month. Mark has been working for our sister company—Ball Horticultural—since 2004, coming from the world of dinosaurs and mummies as a photographer for the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois before that. But don't be fooled by the Ray Bans and soul patch—Mark's a family guy who enjoys spending time with his "smokin' hot wife," Lynn, his two children, Julia and Peter, and his 100-pound Labrador named Otto. He always seems to be working on a new improvement for his house and is an avid cyclist.

Kathy Wootton, Production Manager

Joined us in 1991

“Hooty,” as she’s affectionately known to us, has the longest track record of any of us, having joined Ball Publishing even before it was Ball Publishing. In fact, she is the only staffer to have worked on the original pocket-sized GrowerTalks. She started out as Vic Ball's editorial assistant but soon took over responsibility for the production of each issue—which means coordinating advertising material, creating the layout for each issue based on ad pages and editorial needs, and working with the printer to get each issue printed and mailed. It’s an enormous job, but nobody has done it longer or better. In her spare time, Kathy leads a quiet life of family, gardening and reading.

Jennifer Zurko, Managing Editor—GrowerTalks

Joined us in 2009

Before Jen joined the Ball Publishing team, she worked in the Marketing Department for Ball Horticultural Company. But her first love (and what she actually went to school for) is journalism, so she’s been happy to be doing the two things she loves: writing, reporting and talking to people in the industry. When she’s not handling the day-to-day business of cranking out a magazine (and keeping Beytes in check), she can be found hanging out at home with her husband, Doug, and daughter, Olivia. They spend a lot of time with friends and family and can often be seen attending concerts and sporting events—especially to cheer on the Chicago Bears (for better or worse), Cubs and Blackhawks. She's a huge music lover and has been known to sing a karoke tune or two.

Chris Beytes, Editor

Joined us in 1993

As your faithful scribe, I’ll put myself last and least among the crew above because I couldn’t do it without them. However, I have learned a little bit about the industry since starting my horticulture training in 1981 at the University of Florida, where I earned a degree in journalism and a minor in ornamental horticulture. My wife, a UF hort grad, and I opened our own wholesale greenhouse in Merritt Island, Florida in 1983, two weeks after graduating. Called Indian River Ornamentals, we grew weekly potted plants for the local florist and garden center trade—not an easy thing to do in hot, humid, bug-infested Florida! (You haven’t seen whitefly on poinsettia like I have!) I’ve been with Ball Publishing since 1993, where I started as Managing Editor of GrowerTalks. I helped design and launch Green Profit, and I've served in every editorial capacity possible with GrowerTalks, Green Profit and FloraCulture International, and I now occupy the hot seat of Editor. But my passion will always be visiting and writing about greenhouses and garden centers around the world. I had the pleasure of working with the late Vic Ball for four years, and there was no finer mentor. If you don’t know me from the pages of GrowerTalks, you probably know me from my weekly news and commentary e-mail, Acres Online, which reaches more than 27,000 industry folks around the world. I’m known for a uniquely irreverent style—I can ask the tough, controversial questions, but I look for the light, humorous side of the industry, too. Oh, on the personal side? A wife (Laurie) and an excess of grills, guitars, drums, garden implements and power tools.