Keynote Speaker Linda Barnes and Mark Runquist 

Linda Barnes and her husband Mark Runquist, along with their three children, live in a restored farmstead in rural Iowa and are stewards of high hopes gardens, LLC. They operate a small diversified farm reminiscent of the self-sufficient farms of years gone by, but incorporate modern features such as wind energy and a farm blog. Linda proposed and founded a certified organic 140 acre “incubator” farm adjacent to Marshalltown Community College where she teaches biology, developed the program curriculum, and raised over $700,000 to make the farm a reality.

Linda holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Iowa State University, and was granted seven US and international patents for biotechnology before switching her focus to sustainable farming. She and her husband are one of the first partners in Wholesome Harvest Organic Meats, an organic meat co-op that distributes products nationwide. She has recently visited rural agricultural enterprises in Mexico and in Costa Rica. She is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames and is a frequent presenter to the Fellowship and to local service and clubs and Midwestern farming conferences.


Here is an audio recording of this presentation which begins with an introduction by the Rev. Brian Eslinger, UU Fellowship of Ames, Iowa: download MP3 (67 MB)

Judy Lecturer Singer/Songwriter Peter Mayer 

Singer and songwriter Peter Mayer is well known to UUs in our area. He is the author of the well known and much loved song Blue Boat Home.

Peter writes songs for a small planet—songs about interconnectedness and the human journey; about the beauty and the mystery of the world. Whimsical, humorous, and profound, his music breaks the boundaries of “folk”, and transcends to a realm beyond the everyday love song, to a place of wonder at the very fact of life itself.

Peter began playing the guitar and writing songs when he was in high school. He studied theology and music in college, and then spent two years in seminary. After deciding that the priesthood wasn’t for him, he took a part-time job as a church music director for 8 years, while performing at clubs and colleges and writing and recording his music. In 1995 he quit his job and started touring full-time. Since then, Peter has gradually gained a dedicated, word-of-mouth following, selling out shows from Minnesota to Texas, New England to California. He has eight CDs to his credit, and has sold over 50,000 of them independently.


Please note: The video and audio below are presented by special arrangement with Peter Mayer. Please do not embed or otherwise redistribute them without permission.

Here is an audio recording of this presentation which begins with an introduction by Gina Dugan and Stan Nichol, co-chairs of the Annual Conference Program Planning Committee: download MP3 (61 MB)

Saturday Night Entertainment Singer/Songwriter Sara Thomsen 

Sara Thomsen is a singer-songwriter with a soulful voice, poetic lyrics, and haunting melodies. Her music comes from the heart, and that’s where it takes you. With a voice richer than the best mid-west soil, her songs carry you inward and outward—in, to the particulars of your own life, and out into the shared humanity of us all. Her performance style is easygoing and full of humor and depth, capturing the audience’s full engagement. Sara’s music gently enfolds and unfolds the listener.

Sunday Music

The service on Sunday morning will feature several music groups, including the Conference Choir, which invites all interested Conference attendees to participate. The Choir will rehearse the “Rainforest Song” by Jim Scott, selected by Karen Bauman, Music Program Administrator at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth.

Karen will contact music directors throughout the Prairie Star District so music can be purchased and rehearsed.

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