Prairie Oaks Institute

cultivating the earth, rejuvenating the spirit


Board of Directors

Chris Johnson, President, St. Peter

Ben Hilding, Vice President,  New Prague

Kelly Karstad, Secretary, St. Peter

Kim Devine Johnson, Treasurer, St. Peter

Board Members

Kathy Farmer, Belle Plaine

Board Member Biographies

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 is the principal of 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.

Ben Hilding is a native of Hudson, WI, where he graduated from Hudson High School in 2006.  After graduating from Hudson, Hilding went on to Gustavus Adolphus College, where he graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion. He and his wife, Alicia, both went on to Luther Seminary where they each received their Masters of Divinity degrees, and are now ordained pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Ben and Alicia Hilding moved to New Prague in September of 2017 after serving together at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria. They are now co-pastors at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of New Prague.

Ben believes in the importance of community engagement, responsible leadership, and service to the world. He has been working on a Masters of Arts in Leadership degree from Augsburg University. He and Alicia are proud parents of two daughters.

Kelly Karstad is the Accessibility Resources Coordinator for Gustavus Adolphus college.  Her primary task is to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the college’s curriculum, programs, and services.

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.

Kathy Farmer is a senior technology manager focused on technology adoption and process with an eye to developing  positive models of human/machine interaction.

Kathy 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.

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