Our Founder and Executive Director
Susan Nemcek was born in 1960 in southern Minnesota to parents who had recently emigrated from Europe. Her father was Hungarian and her mother German. Even as a child, she envisioned a life of travel and of helping others. At 16, she began working at a home for developmentally disabled children where the “institutional” conditions and the unfortunate death of a dearly-loved resident led her to become active in the fight for the rights of the underprivileged and the “de-institutionalization” movement of the 1980s. At the age of 20, she traveled to Switzerland, where she spent six months studying under a student of Maria Montessori and working in a school for emotionally disturbed and autistic children. Upon returning to Minnesota, she became the co-director and behavioral program specialist for a group home for severely disturbed and autistic children.
In 1983, after graduating with a degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, Susan moved to Colorado. That same year she became the director of the Parenting Program at the Driekurs Relationship Center where her primary responsibility was to teach a “Positive Discipline Program” in schools around the nation. In the late 1980s she supervised the staffs of several group homes serving developmentally disabled adults in Boulder, Colorado. In 1990, she began working as a case manager for adolescents living in therapeutic foster care, and in 1993 she became the Residential Director of the “Inn Between,” a transitional housing facility serving the homeless.
Around the same time, Susan opened her own import business, Small Circle Imports, to buy and sell craft items from around the world and promote fair trade opportunities in third world countries. The driving principle behind this effort is that “the circle” is indeed small and that the more we can do to promote local and global community, the better off we all are. This vision has led her to places such as Turkey, Morocco, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. Susan has established working relationships with women’s craft cooperatives and organic and fair Trade coffee companies. She also learned about and practiced the healing and spiritual modalities of the places she has visited.
Susan has further actualized her passion for helping people through her practice of homeopathy. Since she studied and received her certification at the Colorado Institute of Classical Homeopathy in 2003, she has pursued an active and successful practice. In 2005 she began teaching homeopathy as a member of the faculty of The Institute of Life Energy Medicine in Tucson (specializing in miasmatic treatment and case management) and was soon promoted to Assistant Principal. In 2007 she became the director of Willow Farm Healing Arts, a facility with a vision of providing community access to a full spectrum of alternative health care and wellness services. Her responsibilities at Willow Farm include providing affordable homeopathic treatment, overseeing the ongoing educational workshop series (involving experts on herbal medicine, nutritional education, family organic food options, permaculture and emotional healing, among others) and overseeing the on-site community garden.
As the Farm vision evolved, Susan felt the need to complete her study in chaplaincy at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe and was ordained in 2014. Her thesis focused on the denial of death in America and how the vision of Willow Farm meets our end time as a sacred transition rather than a medical condition.
Susan sees contemplative practice as a process “giving no fear” to life and our experience. Making a discipline out of “watching one’s own thought” and being as sensitive as possible to what is being communicated by the symptoms and descriptions of human suffering.
Molly Baldrige has lived in Hygiene, Colorado since 1989. With a BA and an MBA from Yale, Molly has worked in the field of finance since she began her career in agricultural mortgage lending in 1978. After making field loans for insurance companies through Western Farm Management in CA and CO, she worked as Assistant to the Administrator of the USDA’s Farmers Home Administration in Washington, DC. She also worked as an associate in the Boston-based consulting firm, Agribusiness Associates, for Prudential’s agricultural real estate division, and for US Agricredit in the secondary ag mortgage market, developing large scale financing for agribusiness projects and designing diversified agricultural investment funds for institutional and retail investors. During a child-rearing hiatus, Molly worked part-time as business manager for a local start-up herbal extract company and also for Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, CO. Molly has three children and has served on the boards of two different schools. She was a long time board member of Alternatives for Youth in Longmont, CO and Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder. She is currently the Treasurer of the Board of the Hygiene Fire Protection District.
Paul Gyodo Agostinelli
Paul Gyodo Agostinelli, Sensei is a transmitted Zen teacher in the White Plum Zen Asangha, founded by the late Taizan Maezumi, Roshi. He was a Founding Member of the Great Mountain Zen Center in Berthoud, CO and is Founder and Spiritual Director of the Eon Zen Center in Boulder. He leads weekly Zen sittings in the area and monthly Zen retreats at Willow Farm. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from Dartmouth College and a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Chicago. He has had a long career as an Internet Technology entrepreneur, and currently teaches Zen Buddhism as Adjunct Faculty at Naropa University.
Seth Viddal discovered his passion for end of life care serving death transitions in his own family. After careers in the US Air Force, then working with several information technology firms, and then founding a commercial and industrial construction company, he went back to school to study contemplative caregiving. He graduated Naropa University’s Interdisciplinary Studies program in May of 2019. He is a Managing Partner at The Natural Funeral in Lafayette, Colorado, a holistic funeral home which focuses on complete client care and offers natural death care and environmentally mindful options.
Steve Mullins is an accomplished composer, flamenco guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, ethnomusicologist, and teacher. He is a member of the music faculty at Metro State University, and the University of Colorado where he earned his doctorate in ethnomusicology. His compositions have been heard in settings as diverse as television commercials, documentaries, national public radio, silent movies, multimedia flamenco shows, dancing horse performances at the National Western stock show, and concert halls around the world. He has received numerous grants and commissions to compose music for dance productions and other events in Colorado, including a flamenco suite for orchestra (and dancer) performed by the Longmont symphony in 2011. He has managed group homes for Developmentally Disabled adults, and worked in elder home health care. Steve began practicing Zen at the age of nineteen; a student of Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim. He is currently writing a book entitled Only Sound: Zen, Metaphor, and Music.
Howard Shiffman, M.A., brings over 30 years of successful organizational and business experience in human service fields and nonprofits including expertise in executive management, strategic planning, business development, finance, marketing, market intelligence research, fundraising, and board development. Mr. Shiffman presently is a senior associate of OPEN MINDS, a national consulting firm specializing in behavioral health. Prior to his consulting practice, Mr. Shiffman successfully led a number of organizations and programs. He most recently served as the chief executive officer of Griffith Centers for Children, a Colorado COA‐accredited, full-service treatment program for severely troubled youth and their families. He also developed one of the first offense‐specific sex offender programs in the United States. During his 34-years with Griffith Centers he has served in many leadership roles in the child welfare community including president of the Colorado Association of Family and Children’s Agencies, board member of the Child Welfare League of America, and chair for the CWLA National Advisory Committee on Public Policy. Mr. Shiffman was also appointed by the Colorado Governor to serve on a task force to study human services and make recommendations for changes. Mr. Shiffman served as the chairman of the Colorado Continuum Network serving Sexually Abusive Youth and was appointed to the Colorado Sex Offender board representing the interests of adults and juveniles. Before coming to Griffith Centers, Mr. Shiffman was an administrator at Fort Logan Mental Health Center in Denver, leading an inpatient psychiatric team. Mr. Shiffman has studied and practiced meditation for the past 45 years and uses his wisdom in his consultation with organizations and their leaders. Mr. Shiffman holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, with a specialty in Marketing from Rider University. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Colorado Association of Family and Children’s Agencies and is a contributor to Children’s Voice, the CWLA national magazine.