Prairie Oaks Institute

cultivating the earth, rejuvenating the spirit


Board of Directors

Kathy Farmer, President, Belle Plaine

Chris Johnson, Secretary, St. Peter

Kim Johnson, Treasurer, St. Peter

Board Members

Jill Fischer, Mankato

Sheila Harris, Bloomington

Cindy Johnson, St. Peter

Kelly Karstad, St. Peter

Board Member Biographies

Kathy Farmer is a senior information technology manager for Cambria and has extensive experience in public, private and non-profit organizations with a focus on project management, system implementation and application support.

Kathy has lived in Belle Plaine since the mid-1980s with her family, husband Tim Lies and six children. With an interest in building sustainable and supportive communities, she has been active in public policy advocacy, political organizing and direct action. Most recently she has been working with the local food shelf to engage food shelf users in community gardening.

Kathy joined the Prairie Oaks board in June 2010 and is currently serving as Board President. She believes Prairie Oaks is bringing together people and organizations that share a common vision of building systems and communities on a human scale and preserving our natural environment.

Kim Devine-Johnson is co-founder of Prairie Oaks Institute (along with husband Chris Johnson), having grown up on the century farm that became the Prairie Oaks farm campus. Mother of three, she works as a pediatric physical therapist at Pediatric Therapy Services, Inc., Mankato, Minnesota. She is an active member of her church and community. Environmental stewardship and conservation practices are an important focus for Kim, along with nurturing what makes her heart sing and supporting others to do the same.

Chris Johnson is proud to be co-founder (with Kim Devine-Johnson) of POI.  Much of his work here grows from the same roots as a nearly 30-year career in teaching, mentoring, speaking, writing, facilitation, and consulting.  He’s recently launched a new endeavor called The Milkweed Group, LLC, whose mission is to create safe, courageous spaces that nourish inner wisdom, sharpen clarity of purpose, and fuel capacity to live and lead for a better world.

He has been active with state, regional, and national projects around issues of  vocation, calling, and purpose; life transitions; leadership development; personal, social, and ecological sustainability; experiential learning; civic engagement; and spirituality in life and work.  He’s a Circles of Trust® facilitator in association with Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage and Renewal, and facilitates several Courage retreats at POI (and elsewhere) each year.

Originally from a dairy farm-family of six kids, he’s now a proud parent (with Kim) of their three children and lives in St. Peter.


Jill Fischer

Sheila Harris

Cindy Johnson is professor of biology and environmental studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. She is a self-proclaimed “plant pusher” with passion for plant biology, ecology and the importance of wild beings in our world. She has a soft spot for all things wild and is especially interested in species conservation and recognition of the role non-human species play in the natural world. Cindy believes that to live deeply within the natural world is to savor the breath within each of us that cycles among all living beings, rocks and clouds. Cindy is especially interested in prairie restoration at Prairie Oaks Institute.


Kelly Karstad

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