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2017 Leaders and Speakers:

sval-farmerKeynote Speaker: Val Farmer
Dr. Val Farmer is a well-known clinical psychologist and syndicated columnist, specializing in rural mental health and family relationships. His professional background includes a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Arizona in 1976 and thirty-one years of counseling experience in North and South Dakota. Besides his work with marital relationships and rural mental health issues, Dr. Farmer has developed mediation and conflict resolution consultation services to family businesses, particularly farm and ranch families in business together. Dr. Farmer published a syndicated weekly newspaper column from 1984 -2012 that was carried numerous newspapers in United States and Canada including Iowa Farmer Today.


craign-nessanBible Study Leader: Craig Nessan
Rev. Dr. Craig Nessan is Academic Dean and Professor of Contextual Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He teaches courses in the areas of contextual theology, pastoral theology, and theological ethics. Dr. Nessan has served eleven years as a parish pastor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In addition to other articles, reviews, and books, Dr. Nessan is the author of Shalom Church: The Body of Christ as Ministering Community (2010), Beyond Maintenance to Mission: A Theology of the Congregation (2010, Revised Edition), and Transforming Leadership: New Vision for a Church in Mission (2008—with Norma Cook Everist).


Plenary Speaker:  Mary Swander
Mary Swander is the Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa. She has published over thirteen books of poetry and non-fiction, in addition to plays, radio and television scripts and magazine articles. She has appeared in such places as The New York Times Magazine, National Public Radio, The New Yorker, and Poetry Magazine. Swander’s plays Driving the Body Back, Vang, and Farmscape have toured the U.S. including a performance for Secretary Tom Vilsack and his staff at the U.S.D.A. Swander lives and raises most of her own food on a small acreage in the Amish settlement near Kalona, Iowa. She has experienced three generations of land transition within her own family.


jean-sullivanPlenary Speaker:  Jean Sullivan
Jean Sullivan has served as co-pastor and teacher at the United Church (UCC/UMC) of Monticello, Iowa since 1999. Project Coordinator, Heart & Soul Monticello, community development and renewal process to enhance positive relationships and decision making in small rural communities. She has been a team member, principal investigator and presenter around the issues of adverse childhood experiences.


Workshop Leaders:

Amy Larson  has been an office manager, direct sales leader and life coach.  Her ministry has included children’s music, women’s ministry and speaking on physical and mental decluttering.  She and her husband Doug live in rural Appleton, MN.

Martha Brunell – Reverend Doctor Martha Brunell is an experienced pastor in the United Church of Christ, spiritual director, retreat and workshop leader, and writer. Over the course of her ministry she also co-founded a domestic violence agency, served as a hospice chaplain, wrote curriculum, and taught adjunct at Eden Seminary and Aquinas Institute of Theology in Saint Louis. She is currently the pastor of Mayfield Congregational UCC in Sycamore, IL, has an active spiritual direction practice, and leads a number of retreats and workshops across several states.

Carol Stufflebeam – Carol has served rural churches since 1997 and has special training in conflict transformation and healthy congregations.  She currently serves Virginia United Methodist Church in Virginia, IL.

Elan Hacker – Elan is a transplanted southerner, swapping the city life and ocean for the joys of rural living and Minnesota sunrises, 36 years ago.  She is currently serving 3 churches in Southwestern MN and 1 in South Dakota as Vicar.