Team

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.

 

Board of Directors

Molly Baldrige

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.

Kathy Gambino

Kathy Gambino is a Registered Nurse who has specialized in the area of home care and hospice for ten of the last twenty-two years. She has served in both nursing and administrative roles as Case Manager, Admissions Coordinator, Patient Care Coordinator, and Quality Assurance Coordinator. Kathy recently completed her Master of Divinity degree at Naropa University with a concentration in inter-faith chaplaincy. She is currently working as a Spiritual Care Coordinator with Suncrest Hospice in the Longmont area. She holds certifications in Contemplative End-of-Life Care and Level 1 Meditation Teacher Training, and has taught meditation classes at Longmont United Hospital and the Longmont Senior Center, as a PrestigePlus Wellness nurse. Kathy has enjoyed volunteer work at Willow Farm, as a Naropa Death Café organizer, for the Conversations on Death Symposium, with Boulder County Aids Project, and Boulder County Open Space.

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.

Kim Sorden

Kim has dedicated her early morning hours to sitting zazen for nearly two years now. However, her connection with Willow Farm began over a decade before, when she had need of a homeopath for her son, Sebastian. Susan Nemcek became her family’s saving grace in her attentive care and compassionate service. As soon as the zendo was built at Willow Farm, Kim was there to experience ritual in a way which spoke very deeply to her. When she attended the first end-of-life care workshop she recalls, “It touched a part of my heart I did not know I had.” Serving is fulfillment for Kim—she devoted eight years to PTO boards and six years as a board member of Longmont’s Firehouse Art Center. The successful twenty-year journey of building her own business, Magic Fairy Candles, can rightly be attributed to Kim’s spirited connection to community and family. She leads regular, weekday meditation each morning inside a cozy room tucked into the workings of her candle shop. For Kim, the passion she has for bringing people together, for creating healing, for fostering generosity, is each time born anew inside the moment of awareness that is her practice.


 

Advisors

Steve Mullins

Steve Mullins is an accomplished composer, flamenco guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, ethnomusicologist, and teacher. He is a member of the music faculty at the University of Wyoming, 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.

Tim Pargee

Tim Pargee has been an integral part of Willow Farm since its inception. He started his career as a professional photographer for the military, filming people, processes and documentaries. After the military, he continued with a commercial photography career until he moved to Colorado. In Colorado, he put his artistic and organizational abilities to use building log homes. For a time, Tim farmed in eastern Colorado, and then returned to building houses. From there, he moved on to building bridges, including the one through Glenwood Canyon. Tim currently helps individuals fix their homes and their land and is a caretaker of some mountain land. For Willow Farm, Tim runs the Nature Team, which includes overseeing and working the land, irrigation systems, buildings and anything else that needs a craftsman’s expertise and touch.

Howard Shiffman

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.

Ellen Williamson

Ellen Williamson is recently retired from a 34-year career in high tech companies where she enjoyed positions in Information Technology Systems Administration, IT Management, Operations Management, and Customer Experience. She spent many years mentoring and creating Women in Technology support teams. Ellen has had a decades-long passion for Nutrition, Cooking, Holistic Health, Herbology, and Natural Medicine and is currently attending Bauman College in Boulder for her certification in Holistic Nutrition Consulting. She is an avid runner, gardener, golfer and hiker, and recently took up road bicycling. She also practices meditation and loves to read. Ellen lives in the foothills of Loveland with her husband of 17 years. She has two grown step-sons residing in Ft. Collins and Houston.