History and Impact

MESA celebrates a growing network of food system changemakers and resilient communities around the world.

Our History

MESA celebrates over two decades of championing ancestral knowledge, spurring innovation, and cultivating community between growers, global citizens, and organizations advancing agroecology to rebuild a healthy, just, and joyful food system. Alarmed by the increasing incidence of pesticide-related medical claims made by trainees in the “conventional” agriculture exchange program where she first worked with after college, and inspired after speaking with an organic farmer, Lauren Augusta founded MESA in 1994 to promote sustainable farming solutions throughout the world. In 1997, MESA became the U.S. Department of State’s first and only J-1 program sponsor devoted exclusively to sustainable agriculture training and cultural exchange. Two decades and thousands of exchanges later, MESA has grown into a well-respected partner in the global food movement.

Our Impact

Since our founding, MESA has facilitated thousands of agroecology exchanges among farmers, researchers, activists, and innovators from 50 countries on 300+ host sites through our flagship International Exchange Program.

MESA has provided over $200,000 in micro-grants and stipend support for graduates of our SF Bay Area program, and to Stewards and Hosts through our SPRIGs (Sustainable Projects Recognizing Innovation and Growth) to support ecological farming and food justice projects in Armenia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Georgian Republic, Ghana, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United States.

MESA collaborates with mission-aligned U.S. nonprofits and institutions, and has partnered with sustainable farms, NGOs, university programs, social movements, and other well-regarded allies in the fields of sustainable agriculture, agroecology and cultural exchange to facilitate, deepen, and enrich our experiential learning programs.

From starting women-led cooperatives and heirloom seed banks to organic farmers’ markets and online courses in participatory plant breeding and agroecology, MESA’s network continues to foster creativity and collaboration between farmers, educators, advocates, and innovators.

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