Prairie Oaks Institute

cultivating the earth, rejuvenating the spirit

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Miles for Monarchs at Prairie Oaks October 6th!

Prairie Oaks is excited to partner with the Monarch Joint Venture to host a Miles for Monarchs family fun walk event. We hope that you’ll join us for a fun Sunday afternoon (October 6th) from 2-4. Following the amazing migration journey monarchs make from Minnesota to Mexico, you’ll learn all about monarchs and get to visit the great building and nature spaces at Prairie Oaks. There will also be other fun educational stations and time for exploring the Prairie Oaks property!

Registration FREE, but we request a donation of $15/individual, or $35 per family to help support our prairie restoration project at POI. Find us on Facebook and RSVP to our event if you are planning to come!

You can donate here:

The funds raised for this event will be put towards monarch butterfly conservation at Prairie Oaks and on a national scale. With a new sewer project causing the front lawn and pasture to become a construction zone, we are planning to restore this space back to a native prairie habitat that is beneficial to butterflies and other pollinators, and it will have a path that better connects our property! Join our Miles for Monarchs event Oct. 6th to help support the project, or if you can’t make it, please consider a donation!

Please contact Wendy or Dana with questions:,

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Our friends write…

Here at Prairie Oaks we are all about creating spaces for community, connection and reflection. We often stand in awe of the creative and life-affirming work of those who share their gifts with POI and the world. In these fractured and challenging times, we need that more than ever. 

Nature’s Depth is a blog written by dear friend to Prairie Oaks, John Palka. He describes himself as a neuroscientist who loves plants and ponders big questions. 

His monthly blog is always of interest and we thought you would enjoy his Rumination on Autumn. Linger a bit and dive into the the rest of his Ruminations and Explorations while you are there. John sees the world with a nature lover’s heart and a scientist’s mind and we’re thankful he is a member of the POI family.

Leslie Pilgrim, founder and director of Neighborhood Greening believes that your own backyard is fine place to start thinking about environmental stewardship. Her organization is dedicated to community environmental education and stewardship – one neighbor and one neighborhood at a time.

Leslie is also the editor of The Butterfly Effect, a quarterly journal dedicated to highlighting and celebrating neighbors stepping up together to be better stewards of our natural world. You can subscribe on the site so you never miss an issue and also read featured articles, including this July post on “42 to Ways to Green Your Neighborhood!”

Thank you John and Leslie for sharing your love of the natural world in so many beautiful images, words and actions. 

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Children’s Day Camp at Prairie Oaks on July 22!

It’s not too late to sign up for Time on the Land a children’s camp sponsored by the Minnesota Farmers Union and Prairie Oaks Institute on Friday, July 22nd.

Learn about bees and bird song, then get the kinks out with some outdoor yoga! After a light lunch we’ll head out on the hay wagon to the Granary where those fun MFU camp counselors will lead the group in cooperative leadership games and crafts.

Time on the Land will be held Friday, July 22, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Prairie Oaks Institute in Belle Plaine at the Farmhouse, 1100 W. South Street.

The day camp is for children ages 5 through 12. The camp is $5/child, 2 or more children from the same family, $10. Please pre-register by July 19th. Campers can register at Eventbrite. Or leave a message at 888-472-7110 or email and fee will be collected on the day of the camp.

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Courage to Teach Retreat June 26-28!

“Breathe, trust, and hold the space open for the U N I M A G I N A B L E to flow into your experience.” Happiness Project.

What in your life…

  • is flourishing and in full bloom?
  • needs tending or extra care?
  • needs to be weeded or cut back to make room and space for what’s needed.

Do you…

  • crave a chance to explore big ideas in a safe space with like-minded colleagues?
  • want to “reconnect what you do with who you are?”
  • hope to return to your work with renewed energy?

The “Taking Care of Self” Retreat offers a quiet, supportive space for such exploration. Surrounded by the abundant of summer, this retreat offers a place of self care in community in the midst of our hectic world.  It’s an opportunity to explore your own sense of identity, purpose, and calling; to reweave the deep connection between your “soul and role”; and to renew your capacity to live and work from a place of wholeness and authenticity.  Grounded in the truths of your own stories and questions, and guided by the Circles of Trust® model and the bestselling books A Hidden Wholeness and The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer, this retreat invites you slow down, partake in healthy food, rest and gentle movement while you reflect on your own beginnings and endings.

Some additional details:

We’ll begin with dinner Sunday evening, June 26 and end shortly after lunch on Tuesday, June 28.  We will gather in community at Prairie Oaks Institute, at the edge of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, just southwest of the Twin Cities.  The retreat will be led by Laura Kinkead, a leadership development consultant and Courage and Renewal® facilitator-in-preparation Patti Hoffman, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

We are able to make this life-giving opportunity available for a cost of only $255* because of support from the Center for Excellence and Innovation at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The registration fee includes lodging, meals, materials, and program. A lesser rate of $175 is available for commuters or those wishing to camp onsite or make their own lodging reservations. Accommodations at Prairie Oaks are double occupancy. (*Limited financial support may be requested from CETL for MSU faculty and staff.)

Please let us know well in advance if you have any dietary restrictions.  You’ll receive further details about what to bring, how to prepare, and so on, from the facilitators in early June.

Space is limited to 15 participants, so please register early (by June 8th at the latest) or at


Laura Kinkead, MBA is a leadership development consultant. Her work includes executive coaching, leadership and team development, and organizational and individual renewal. She works with teams and individuals to build leadership capacity and the ability to deal with change, conflict and ambiguity. Laura also facilitates Courage to Lead retreat series for teachers, health professionals, leaders and other service professionals. She has facilitated The Courage to Imagine retreat series for medical fellows through the Archibald Bush Foundation and she has been a member of the community faculty at the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota where she led a renewal retreat series for health professionals. Laura studied Adaptive Leadership at Harvard University and teaches a graduate program in leadership at Concordia University. She has an MBA from the University of St. Thomas and is a partner in the leadership development firm, The Collabrium.

Patricia Hoffman and her husband Allen live in rural Courtland, Minnesota along the banks of the Minnesota River where they raised four children. She currently works as Director of professional development for faculty and staff at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has been an educator of English learners, students with special needs, and foreign language learners in the K-12 setting and abroad as well as taught in teacher education at the University. She is grateful to her family and students for preparing her for the joy of becoming a life-long learner.

What are the benefits of Courage to Teach?

CTT helps each educator strengthen his or her sense of identity and integrity. Men and women, individuals of all backgrounds and belief systems, experienced educators and novices—each has a unique experience based on the questions she or he brings. Across the nation, educators report common powerful benefits:

  • a renewed passion for teaching
  • strengthened relationships with colleagues
  • increased commitment to vocation
  • more time spent reflecting on professional practice
  • improved relationships with students
  • revitalized capacity as leaders for educational change.

For more information about Parker J. Palmer and the Courage to Teach, as well as the Circles of Trust approach, please visit the website for the Center for Courage and Renewal

We look forward to having you with us!


“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher….”

~ Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscapes of a Teacher’s Life



Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 6:00 PM – Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 2:00 PM (CDT) – Add to Calendar


Prairie Oaks Institute: Harvest House – 1200 West South Street, Belle Plaine, MN 56011 – View Map

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Wintering Through: Exploring Your Life’s Calling in the New Year

The rigors of winter are accompanied by amazing gifts….
Times of dormancy and deep rest are essential to all living things.
Winter clears the landscape…giving us a chance to see ourselves and each other more clearly, to see the very ground of our being.

~ Parker J. Palmer

One of the gifts of winter in these climes is the way the world around us slows and stills.  For many creatures winter is a time of hibernation or migration; seeds cast in the abundance of autumn lie dormant, waiting for spring.  It is an inside time for curling up by the fire, a time of deep replenishment and reflection – often hard to come by amidst the hectic pace of our days and the relentless attention to the communities, causes, and people we care about.

“Wintering Through: Explore Your Life’s Calling in the New Year” is an opportunity to experience the winter gifts of stillness and rest, of renewed clarity and mindful presence.  Grounded in the truths of your own stories and questions, and guided by the Circles of Trust® model based on the work of author and educator Parker J. Palmer, this Courage and Renewal® Retreat invites you to step with intention into a place apart, to pause from the frenetic pace of your regular days, and to explore in fresh ways the Big Questions of your lives – questions of identity, meaning, purpose, and calling.

WHEN: 9 A.M. – 4:00 P.M., SATURDAY, JANUARY 30, 2016

FACILITATORS: Cindy Johnson, Professor of Biology & Environmental Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College &  Chris Johnson, Courage & Renewal® Facilitator; founder & principal of The Milkweed Group, LLC

COST: Sliding scale $85-$135, includes Lunch and Materials; OPTIONAL OVERNIGHT LODGING IS AVAILABLE Fridya or Saturday for $45.

Click here:  Wintering Through