The Queen Creek Botanical Gardens inspire and educate about elegant edible plants, showing the future of sustainable food production in landscaping. The 10-acre Gardens feature the only fully-operational industrial-age water mills in the American Southwest, shops, and themed demonstration gardens. The Gardens will provide a place to escape, enjoy the beauty of nature, and learn more about food security through community resources. Fruits, vegetables and other food produced at the Gardens will be available for purchase at the gift shop, or through a weekly produce-subscription service.
Unique among botanical gardens, all of the plants in the gardens are edible －fruits, vegetables, herbs or edible flowers have been individually selected for their aesthetic style and elegance.
Future developments at the Gardens include a reception center, and state of the art conservatory with an education center and expanded exhibits.support the gardens
Our mission is to exhibit excellence in the world-class artistry, innovation and practice of elegant, edible landscaping to educate and inspire sustainable applications, including hyper-local food production, at home and in communities worldwide.
To accomplish our mission, we:
- Model hyper-local, sustainable food production practices
- Develop educational programs and services that teach regenerative sustainability
- Exhibit plants, designs and artistry that inspire others
- Collaborate with nature, people and organizations
- Show enthusiasm for what we do and who we serve
- Cultivate innovation and research into new and proven methodologies
Lonnie McCleve, Founding Director
Lonnie McCleve is founding director of the Gardens. A land developer by trade, he is passionate about finding ways to provide needed amenities to the public and supporting the Queen Creek community. As a cancer survivor, Lonnie credits his recovery to a change in his diet to eating clean, plant-based foods that were as close to their natural state as possible. Realizing how essential this is for the local population’s overall health and well-being, Lonnie began to look for ways to teach and increase hyper-local food production while providing a world-class botanical garden to the town and surrounding communities.
Justin Rohner, Executive Director and Founder
Justin Rohner, is executive director of the Gardens, where he is responsible for all operational aspects of the gardens. As founder of Agriscaping Technologies, Justin has helped people around the world grow their own healthy, fresh foods at home for more than 25 years. He is a passionate educator, artist, and entrepreneur with an engineering mind. His professional enthusiasm centers around improving self-reliance, sustainable food, and family, and was named one of Arizona’s Top 35 Entrepreneurs under 35 by The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com for his work improving local food access & sustainability. Justin began his career in landscaping at the ripe age of 9, working summers and weekends at a small 9-hole, executive golf-course in Mesa, Arizona. He earned his BA from Arizona State University and a Masters from the University of Santa Monica.
Britney Rohner, Administrative Director
Britney Rohner is responsible for all administrative and office management systems, including customer service, information technology, logistics, accounting and human resources. She has more than 20 years of experience in the home and garden industry, managing the operations of multiple companies, including as account administrator for Agriscaping Technologies. Britney specializes in optimizing business systems. She has a passion for gardening and education. She has been heavily involved in the education industry, as a certified educator for Gilbert Public Schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Phoenix. She is a mother of four children, multiple animals, and her elegant landscape full of food.
Chris Walker, Director of Marketing and Sales
With more than 20 years of experience in strategic communications and marketing, Chris has directed the communications efforts for dozens of public and privately-held organizations. He is also a passionate gardener and lives on a small one-acre hobby farm. Chris comes to the Gardens from For Immediate Release, a communications consultancy where he was vice president and managing partner. Previously, Chris was a senior director at SecureAuth, where he led efforts to launch the company’s new brand. Before that, Chris led the inbound marketing and social media divisions of Connect Marketing where he was a partner in the agency and as Phoenix office manager. Chris also worked at Brodeur Partners, Novell and taught Internet marketing at Utah Valley University. Chris has developed the communications strategies for multiple IPOs, divestitures and acquisitions. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University.
Aaron Nelson, Perennial Production Manager
Aaron is the Perennial Production Manager in charge of ensuring optimal perennial plant health and production of all specimen plants and tree nursery stock in the greenhouse as well as on the grounds of Queen Creek Botanical Gardens. He is an edible orchard specialist, with a background in organic pest control for food production, culturing beneficial microbes, fungal inoculation, plant nutrient optimization, specialty crop and sub-tropical fruit production and propagation. He left the medical field to venture into farming and plant propagation, starting from gardening for a local restaurant, and on to organic crop production and fruit tree management. He organized and implemented the very successful nursery at Russ’ True Value, an all edible nursery that specialized in unique food producing plants & trees. He enjoys helping other growers find ways to increase productivity and find strategic methods to grow successfully in the Arizona Desert.
Kaley Necessary, Field Horticulture Supervisor
Kaley is Field Horticulture Supervisor and is passionate about sharing the joy of growing food with others. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University where she majored in Biology with a minor in International Community Development. Kaley specializes in developing and teaching skills in sustainable agriculture and holistic community development. She spent time developing programs and educating farmers and community leaders in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Uganda, and through her work with World Hunger Relief in Waco, Texas. Kaley previously worked for her Alma mater, managing a university training farm, coordinating a CSA program, and teaching undergraduate biology labs.
Matthew Lucas, Greenhouse and Propagation Specialist
Matt is responsible for the Gardens’ greenhouses, aquaponics systems and nursery, including plant production, propagation and sales. He is also responsible for overall plant health and the organization’s integrated pest management system. Prior to the Gardens, Matt was in management at A&P Nurseries where he was responsible for the production and propagation of plants specific to the southwestern region, greenhouses and pest management systems. Matt has held other management and education roles throughout his career, including work with the YMCA and serving as a mentor with Future Farmers of America. He formerly served as treasurer with the FFA & Alumni Association and is a current member of the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Association, member of the Southwest Aquatic Society, and member of the Arizona Rare Fruit Growers Association.
Luis Romero, Assistant Microbiologist and Sustainability Specialist
Luis Romero is Assistant Microbiologist and Sustainability Specialist, responsible for increasing plant production, workplace efficiency and overseeing the Gardens’ sustainability initiatives and certifications. He is also responsible for ensuring the Gardens are the most sustainable in the state. Luis brings with him nearly a decade of experience in microbiology, education and the biological sciences, including botany, entomology, mycology and marine biology. He has worked in both government and academia for organizations including Arizona State University, Chandler-Gilbert Community College and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Luis is an Arizona native and holds a bachelor of science degree from Arizona State University.
Darren Medeiros, Install and Field Technician
As Install and Field Technician, Darren is responsible for the installation of plants and hardscapes in the Gardens. He is also responsible for the Gardens’ aquaponics systems, fish, shrimp and other aquatic animals. Darren has nearly two decades of experience as a technician with multiple environmental certifications. He is an avid gardener with experience growing tropical fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs and other plants. Darren attended Truckee Meadows Community College focusing on the Culinary Arts.