RuralX takes pride in bringing in local, regional and national speakers with diverse backgrounds and a shared passion for rural success.

Chef Sean Sherman :

Chef Sean Sherman

Chef Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, SD, has been cooking across the US and Mexico for the last thirty years. His main culinary focus has been on the revitalization and evolution of indigenous foods systems throughout North America.  In 2014, he opened The Sioux Chef as a caterer and food educator to the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area.  In 2015 he and his partner Dana Thompson helped to design and open the Tatanka Truck, which features pre-contact foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories.  Chef Sean and his vision of modern indigenous foods have been featured in numerous articles and radio shows, along with dinners at the James Beard House in Manhattan and Milan, along with teaching and sharing his knowledge to gatherings and crowds at Yale, the Culinary Institute of America, the United Nations, and many more. The Sioux Chef team of twelve people continues with their mission to help educate and make indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible through the recently founded nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS). Learn more at

Laura Zabel :

Laura Zabel

Laura Zabel is the Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts, a nationally recognized leader on artist-led community development, creative placemaking and creative cross-sector collaboration. The economic and community development agency helps artists make a living and a life and offers programs that help communities connect to the creative power of artists. Springboard’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Guardian and directly impacts over 25,000 artists each year in their home state of Minnesota. Through national tools and training Springboard’s programs have been replicated in over 80 communities across the U.S. and internationally.

Laura has been honored with numerous awards, including the Gard Foundation Award of Excellence and the Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship for her work with Springboard. Zabel is currently a BALLE local economy fellow and a creative placemaking policy fellow at Arizona State University.

Kalen Taylor :

Kalen Taylor

Kalen Taylor is the Executive Director of Purpose Construction, a social enterprise trades training program and commercial contracting company. Purpose Construction provides targeted training and employment to people with barriers to employment, including recent immigrants, refugees and people transitioning out of the justice department, while offering market-rate commercial contracting services. Kalen Taylor is also a co-founder of Aki Foods, an Indigenous-owned social enterprise that works with First Nations to strengthen healthy local food systems. Through Aki Foods, Kalen led the development of the Meechim Farm, Canada’s largest remote First Nations community farming project. The Meechim Farm continues to raise over 1,000 pastured chickens annually, selling affordable meat and eggs to local community members, and farming produce and raising traditional medicines on 17 acres in Manitoba’s remote North.

Tim Lampkin :

Tim Lampkin

Tim Lampkin is the co-founder and CEO of Higher Purpose Co. a nonprofit social impact agency building wealth in communities of color across Mississippi by supporting the ownership of land, businesses, and homes. The Mississippi Business Journal selected Lampkin as one of the 2019 Top Entrepreneurs in the state. Ashoka and American Express recognized him in 2018 as an emerging innovator addressing the racial wealth gap in the United States. An BALLE and Movement Voices Fellow, he has a decade of community development and entrepreneurship experience. He previously managed the Racial Equity Program for the Mississippi Humanities Council which won the national 2018 Schwartz Prize. Lampkin also worked for Southern Bancorp to implement several community initiatives and assisted rural entrepreneurs at Delta State University. He continues to produce narrative change documentaries highlighting relevant Mississippi topics. Lampkin serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Community Development Advisory Council. He is a proud HBCU graduate of Mississippi Valley State University and is currently finishing a Doctor of Education degree at the University of Arkansas.

Our 2019 Sponsors

RuralX would like to thank the many sponsors working to help our rural communities thrive.