Participants | Tending the Field


Fred Bahnson is the director of the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is the author of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith (Simon & Schuster) and co-author with Norman Wirzba of Making Peace With the Land (InterVarsity). His essays have appeared in Oxford American, Image, The Sun, Orion, and Best American Spiritual Writing. His work at WFU School of Divinity has focused on training and equipping faith leaders to create “more redemptive food systems.” After graduating from divinity school, he worked as a peaceworker among Mayan coffee farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, and in 2005 co-founded Anathoth Community Garden, a church supported agriculture ministry that he directed until 2009. He is the recipient of a number of grants and awards, including a W.K. Kellogg Food & Community fellowship, a Pilgrimage Essay Award, and a North Carolina Artist Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction from the North Carolina Arts Council. He lives with his family in Transylvania County, NC where they tend a ½ acre permaculture orchard, terraced hillside gardens, and a dwindling flock of chickens.

Matthew Wesley Williams, M.Div., is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE). Matthew is a member of FTE’s senior leadership team and provides leadership, management and oversight for FTE’s strategic initiatives to cultivate diverse innovative leaders for the church and academy. He leads with a passion and interest in leadership formation, scholarship and social change. He brings to this role over a decade of experience within the organization in recruitment, program development and administration. Prior to coming to FTE, Matthew served at the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer at Morehouse School of Medicine. There he coordinated the research, advocacy, and educational initiatives of sixteen community cancer coalitions in ten states in the American South. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center and bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and in philosophy and religion from Florida A&M University. He is a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal and an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).


Elisabeth (Beth) Barksdale is a third year student at Wake Forest’s School of Divinity while serving as the President/CEO of CCI, a national Revenue Cycle Management Firm serving the healthcare industry. Other key positions held by Beth at CCI include Vice President of Business Development, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Vice President of Client Services. Beth is an active member of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and Forum, Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA International).  She has served as an Elder at Highland Presbyterian Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church, chairing both the Worship and Stewardship Committees, and now serves on the Finance Committee and as pulpit supply for Salem Presbytery, a regional mid- council of the PCUSA. Recently Beth served on the Board of Visitors at Salem College and the PTA’s National Board for “Reflections.” Beth is a graduate of Salem College, Harvard Business School’s Executive Leadership program, University of Sewanee’s Education for Ministry (EFM), and will soon complete her MDIV degree with a concentration in Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being.  For her Senior Project this year, Beth designed an integrated theological earth care curriculum for Saint Andrews Sewanee utilizing a farm as the primary teaching place.

Stephen Blackmer is founding executive director of Kairos Earth and chaplain of Church of the Woods. Steve comes to this with 30 years of conservation experience, having founded and built conservation organizations including the Five Rivers Conservation Trust, Northern Forest Alliance and Northern Forest Center. A midlife shift led him to Yale Divinity School and ordination as a priest in the Episcopal Church, carrying the question in his heart and mind: “How can being a priest deepen my work to conserve the Earth? What does the Christian tradition have to offer to this work? How can the Christian tradition be re-understood and re-imagined in a time of need? How can the conservation movement recover its understanding of the Earth as holy ground?”

Rev. Dr. Heber M. Brown, III is the Senior Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore and a Team Leader of Baltimore United for Change – a coalition of activists and grassroots organizations working for social justice. As a clergy-activist, Dr. Brown has demonstrated a deep commitment to a myriad of social justice issues from poverty, to racism, the prison industrial complex, worker’s rights, environmental justice, sexism, food sovereignty and foreign policy. Dr. Brown is a community organizer actively involved in legislative advocacy as well. Between 2009 and 2013, he was a central figure in the campaign to halt the construction of a $100 million dollar youth jail in Baltimore and currently he is working to strengthen police accountability in the state of Maryland. In 2015, he launched the Black Church Food Security Network which links Black Churches and Black Farmers in partnership to create a community-controlled, alternative food system based on self-sufficiency, food justice and food sovereignty. He earned his B.S. degree in Psychology from Morgan State University, a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary.

Nikki Cooley serves as the co-manager for the Tribal Climate Change Program at the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP). She is of the Diné (Navajo) Nation by way of Shonto and Blue Gap, AZ, and is of the Towering House Clan, born for the Reed People Clan, maternal grandfathers are of the Water that Flows Together Clan, and paternal grandfathers are of the Manygoats Clan. Nikki received her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Forestry (emphasis in ecological restoration and traditional ecological knowledge) from Northern Arizona University (NAU). For her undergraduate and Master’s studies she has worked extensively with the Cherokee Tribe of North Carolina, and now works at ITEP with tribes across the nation, including Alaska, on learning about and planning for the adaptation to current and future climate change effects. In addition, as a river guide and cultural interpreter working on the Colorado River-Grand Canyon and San Juan River, Nikki is the co-founder of the Native American River Guide Training Program and Fifth World Discoveries, was the first Native American President and Vice-President of the Grand Canyon River Guides Association (GCRG), and is a former associate director of the Native Voices Program. She also served a six year term as the first Native American to serve on the board of the Grand Canyon Association (GCA). She is very passionate about advocating for and education about the protection and preservation of the environment and its resources. Nikki fluently speaks her Navajo language and culture, and is committed to encouraging people to continue the path of a holistic respect and knowledge towards food and life.

Karen Richardson Dunn is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ (UCC).  She is the creator and facilitator of the UCC Southern Conference’s Creation Justice Network, encompassing North Carolina and Eastern Virginia.  She is a member of the Council for Climate Justice and serves on its steering committee, a national effort of the national United Church of Christ.  Karen also serves on the steering committee of NC Warn’s “Faith in Solar” initiative.  She has also worked as a book and news editor, and as a freelance journalist.  Karen is a member of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, NC.

Darriel Harris joined the Baltimore Food and Faith Project of the Johns Hopkins Center For a Livable Future after 18 months in South Sudan where he designed and implemented a basic health education curriculum that fused Biblical scriptures and health best practices. Through this experience working with faith communities for social change, Darriel discovered the depth of the connection between faith and personal lifestyle choices including health and food. Darriel hopes that through his work with the Baltimore Food and Faith Project, more Baltimoreans will begin choosing foods that contribute to good health and exercise good stewardship over the resources we have been given. Darriel is an ordained minister with the American Baptist Church. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University, and a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Management from The George Washington University. He has substantial managerial and organizational leadership experience and is happy to be back in his native Baltimore after more than 10 years away. In additional to working with the Baltimore Food and Faith Project, Darriel periodically visits South Sudan to continue his previous health efforts. He also enjoys spending time with his family and speaking to area congregations about practical life issues.

Ms. Jillian Hishaw, Esq., is the Founder & Director of F.A.R.M.S., a legal and education non-profit that provides services to small farmers and rural youth in the Southeast. Ms. Hishaw has over a decade of local, state, federal, legal, and non-profit experience in relation to agriculture.  Ms. Hishaw’s expertise is documented in her numerous law review and ABA articles.  Prior to relocating to North Carolina, Ms. Hishaw worked for the USDA Office of Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights.  After leaving USDA, Ms. Hishaw provided legal assistance to farmers during the settlement phase of Pigford and Keepseagle discrimination class actions. Upon completing law school, Ms. Hishaw established the Youth Conservation Corp (YCC), a summer environmental program for teen males and ex-felons in Kansas City, MO. After raising over $100,000 and employing 25 participants, in 2009 the Kansas City Parks Department adopted the program model. Ms. Hishaw has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Tuskegee University and a Juris Doctorate and Legal Masters in Agricultural law from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

Taylor Johnson-Gordon is a Black womanist, food healer, herbalist, and urban gardener. Her work intersects food sovereignty, healing work as a form of political resistance, and the Black Church. Taylor believes that the body is our first site of resistance and her mission is to help black women and girls heal and build physical resiliency through real, affordable food. Taylor teaches adult nutrition in corner stores, supermarkets, churches, housing complexes, and community centers in North Philadelphia with The Food Trust. Taylor is also an afro-vegan and founder of Sistah of the Yam, a webspace and a series of community programs for Black women and girls that prioritize healing, nutritional wellness, and self-sufficiency through the act of growing food and cooking. She is the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Network chapter in Philadelphia and participated in the national Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to Ferguson, MO in 2014. Taylor studied biology at Point Loma Nazarene University and earned her Master of Arts in Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health, with an concentration in Herbal Medicine, from Maryland University of Integrative Health. Taylor is also a 2015 Soul Fire Farm BLFI (Black Latinx Farmers Immersion) alumna.

Rev. Richard Joyner is the Senior Pastor of Conetoe Missionary Baptist Church and Board Chair of Conetoe Family Life Center (CFLC). Pastor Joyner opened CFLC after he noticed that the health issues within the church and town were rampant. He has dedicated his life’s work to taking a comprehensive approach to these challenges. Through his work he has built strong partnerships with local agencies and entities, including public, private, and nonprofit organizations, universities and hospital systems. Pastor Joyner has been recognized for his unselfish and tireless work, helping a community (Conetoe) and the region grow beyond their health and socio economic issues. He has received numerous awards including being recognized as a top 10 CNN National Hero.

Dr. Laurel D. Kearns is Associate Professor of Sociology and Religion and Environmental Studies at Drew Theological School and the Graduate Division of Religion of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. In addition to EcoSpirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth, co-edited with Catherine Keller, she has contributed chapters to volumes such as the Oxford Handbook on Climate Change and Society, the Blackwell Companion to Religion and Social Justice, The New Evangelical Social Engagement, Grounding Religion, Civic Ecology, and Living Cosmology. Her research is focused on the variety of religious, particularly Christian, involvement in ecological issues and movements, environmental justice and diversity in environmental action, and religious responses to climate change, including energy, food, farming and animals. In addition to her teaching and research in religion and ecology, she helps steer the Green Seminary Initiative, and has served on the AAR Religion and Ecology Steering Committee, and the AAR Sustainability Committee. She has worked with the religious environmental group GreenFaith for over two decades. Her decades long involvement in environmentalism has roots in the island where she was born, Sanibel, Florida.

The Rev. Nurya Love Parish is an Episcopal priest and co-founder of Plainsong Farm in greater Grand Rapids, Michigan. Plainsong Farm is a community supported agriculture farm, charitable food ministry, seasonal outdoor chapel, and resource for faith formation integrated with care of Creation. The farm’s first growing season was in 2016. She graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1996, so it only took her twenty years to discern what God was calling her to do and how to begin. Nurya also serves on the Episcopal Church’s Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation. She created the guide to the Christian food movement, which started as a PDF in 2015 inspired by Jewish ecological leader Nigel Savage. The guide moved to a website at the end of 2016 ( and is now in first draft form. The goal is to provide a nexus for the discovery and sharing of work at the intersection of discipleship, food and agriculture, health and justice. We’re not there yet, but we’re taking regular small steps in that direction.

Joe Martinez is the Executive Director for CIERTO: The “Centro de Investigación, Entrenamiento y Reclutamiento del Trabajador Organizado” (the “Center for Research, Training and Recruitment of Organized Workers,”) which organizes farmworkers around the world to collaborate with their employers and together engage the global supply chain to identify and implement opportunities to create value. CIERTO is driven to improve the supply chain through the professionalization of farmworkers for the dignity and value of all. Joe previously worked for the United Farm Workers as their Mexico Program Director. Joe attended the University of Washington and lives in Tacoma, WA. Joe enjoys playing the drums, hiking and spending time with his friends and family.

Ched Myers is an activist theologian who has worked in social change movements for 40 years. With a degree in New Testament Studies from the Graduate Theological Union, he is a popular educator who animates scripture and issues of faith-based peace and justice. He has authored over 100 articles and more than a half-dozen books, including Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (Orbis, 1988/2008); The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics (Tell the Word, 2001), Ambassadors of Reconciliation: A N.T. Theology and Diverse Christian Practices of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking (with Elaine Enns, Orbis, 2009), and Our God is Undocumented: Biblical Faith and Immigrant Justice (with Matthew Colwell, Orbis, 2012). Most recently he curated, edited and contributed to an anthology entitled Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice (Cascade Press, 2016). Most of Ched’s publications can be found at Ched is adjunct faculty at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon, SK, and has taught at many seminaries around the U.S., Canada and Australia, most recently United Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. Ched has worked with a variety of social justice organizations, including the American Friends Service Committee and the Pacific Concerns Resource Center. He has co-founded several collaborative projects, including the Sabbath Economics Collaborative; the Bartimaeus Institutethe Word and World School; the Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice; and the Watershed Discipleship Alliance. Ched currently works intensively mentoring young faith and justice leaders, and is President of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition. He and his partner Elaine Enns, a restorative justice practitioner, live in the Ventura River watershed in southern California and co-direct Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries.

Elaine Nogueira-Godsey is a Brazilian Assistant Professor of Theology, Ecology and Race at Methodist Theological School of Ohio, whose research is focused on the intersection of Postcolonial Theory, Ecofeminism and Liberation Theology. Dr Nogueira-Godsey lived for the past 19 years in South Africa and recently migrated to the United States. Living and working in a multicultural and interreligious context has helped shape her research interest in advancing an ecofeminist critique that is postcolonial in scope. She has contributed in advancing the field of Religion and Ecology through her published work and as an active board member of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture (ISSRNC) as well as an Assistant Editor for the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture (JSRNC). In South Africa, she worked closely with Angolan and Mozambican refugees in the townships of Cape Town. At the University of Cape Town (UCT), she served as managing editor of the Journal for the Study of Religion and research coordinator for the Institute for the Comparative Study of Religion in Southern Africa (ICRSA), headed by Professor David Chidester. She makes use of postcolonial theory to research the relationships between Ecology, Gender and Race in the Christian Traditions, with a focus on Third-World contexts, particularly Latin America and Africa.

Roberto Nutlouis is Diné (Navajo) from Pinon, Navajo Nation. He is of the Tódích’ií’nii (Bitter Water) clan, born for the Tótsohnii (Big Water) clan. Roberto received his Bachelors of Science in Applied Indigenous Studies from Northern Arizona University (NAU) in 2005, and he is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities from NAU. Through his involvement with Native Movement, the Indigenous Youth Coalition of Pinon, Indigenous Community Enterprises, and BMWC Roberto Nutlouis has been actively involved in the sustainable evolution of Black Mesa and the Navajo Nation for several years. His experience and expertise includes work in environmental justice, food security, energy efficiency, housing, and youth leadership development. In his spare time he likes to work on food security issues and traditional knowledge in agriculture with local Native youth, and he enjoys hiking, river rafting, camping, and reading. Roberto works out of BMWC’s field office in Pinon, Arizona. In his position he oversees BMWC’s field office and the Restorative Economy Program, which includes the Food Sovereignty and Navajo Wool Market Improvement Projects.

Jose Oliva was born in Xelaju, Guatemala, on November 15, 1972 to Myriam Gonzalez, a popular educator.  As a result of Jose’s mothers’ involvement in social justice issues, they were forced to flee Guatemala in 1985.  Once in the U.S. Jose went to work at the Midwest Latino Research and Policy Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago under the direction of Dr. Aida Giachello.  He then was called to be Executive Director of Casa Guatemala where he began to organize day-laborers in Chicago’s street corners. He founded the Chicago Interfaith Workers’ Center and then became the Coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice’s National Workers’ Centers Network. In 2008 he became the coordinator for the Workers’ Alliance for a Just Economy, a program of the Center for Community Change. Jose served in several leadership positions at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the national organization of restaurant workers. Jose is the Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a national coalition of food-worker organizations that collectively represents over 300,000 workers.

The Rev. Nathan T. Stucky, Ph.D., hails from south-central Kansas but lives in Princeton, NJ, where he serves as Director of the Farminary Project at Princeton Theological Seminary. An ordained Mennonite (Mennonite Church USA), Nate’s work with the Farminary integrates theological education with small-scale, regenerative agriculture at Princeton Seminary’s 21-acre farm. He has a special interest in the role of community formation and Sabbath in the education of pastors, church leaders, youth ministers, parents, and young people.  A musician, frequent retreat speaker, and farmer, Nate holds a B.A. in music from Bethel College (Kansas), and an M.Div. from Princeton Seminary.  Before coming to Princeton Seminary, Nate worked in youth ministry and farming.  He and his wife, Janel, are the happy parents of Joshua, Jenna, and Isaac.

The Rev. Stuart Taylor is a long time peace and justice activist who has worked in Central America with Witness for Peace and along the US/Mexico border with No More Deaths. He is currently pastor of Elkin Presbyterian Church in Elkin, NC and is coordinator of Watershed Now a 501-C3 that is dedicated to preserving and protecting local watersheds that sustain the life of his community. He is adjunct faculty at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, currently teaching a course on Watershed Discipleship inspired by Ched Myer’s theological / bioregional vision.  Stuart is most happy when he is hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains or kayaking North Carolina’s rivers.

Rev. Anna Woofenden is the founding pastor of the Garden Church in San Pedro, California, re-imagining church as an interconnected organism, worshiping, loving and serving together while transforming a plot of land into a vibrant urban farm and sanctuary. Anna received her Master of Divinity from Earlham School of Religion, a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies, and is an ordained minister in the Swedenborgian Church of North America. Anna has a passion for spirituality, justice, food, the earth, beauty, compassion, and community, and is driven by a calling to re-imagine church.