• Founder and Operations Director

    Oakland, CA


    With a career devoted to international training and cultural exchange, Lauren served nine years as assistant director at a "conventional" agriculture exchange program before founding MESA. Alarmed by the increasing incidence of pesticide-related medical claims made by trainees, and inspired after speaking with an organic farmer, in 1994 Lauren incorporated the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture, Inc. (MESA) to promote sustainable farming alternatives throughout the world. Lauren holds a B.A. in Russian Language & Literature from the University of New Hampshire at Durham, which sparked her initial interest to pursue a career in cross-cultural exchange. In 1996 Lauren successfully negotiated the lengthy, "Kafka-esque" designation process for J-1 Training and Cultural Exchange Program status with the United States Information Agency (now under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State), and has since acted as MESA's executive director. When not wearing her MESA hat, Lauren devotes time trying to answer that age old question of "Mommie, what's for dinner?" for her two sons, ages 9 and 12.

  • Development Director

    Berkeley, CA

    Leah joined MESA in 2004 and now serves as Co-Executive Director. Her Humboldt farmland roots instilled a love for food and farming practices that nourish people and the planet. Leah moved to the Bay Area in 1999 to pursue degrees in Environmental Policy and Spanish at UC Berkeley. She has lived in South and Central America as well as Southeast Asia working on behalf of social, environmental and food justice initiatives. As a result of her travel and work experiences she gained insight into myriad traditional agricultural practices, implications of a globalized corporate food regime and the value of farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange, agroecology and unconventional multi-interestholder collaboration. Her past work experience includes program development for the International Institute for Bengal Basin which focused on pollution mitigation for farmers and rural communities in Bangladesh, fund development for the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and supply chain review for Scientific Certifications Systems. Leah is a co-founder of Wild and Radish, LLC, and developing a 10-acre urban farm and eco-village in El Sobrante, CA. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Planting Justice, an Oakland non-profit creating green jobs and democratizing access to affordable, nutritious food. Climbing rocks, yoga, milking goats and befriending bees are frequent sources of fascination.

  • Communications Director

    Berkeley, CA

    Michelle RosesMichelle Roses

    Michelle is a Bay Area native who is proud of her roots, but dreams of working abroad with MESA Stewards. 

    During her college career at UC Berkeley, she helped start a food co-op (the “Local”) for students, faculty and community members on campus. Since 2007 she has been involved in local farmers’ markets and has worked on a small organic farm run by one of the first migrant Latina farmworker-turned-owner women in the Central Valley. After graduating in 2009 with a B.S. in Conservation and Natural Resources, Michelle traveled to La Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca, Mexico for a research project under Dr. Miguel Altieri on native corn varieties. She lived and worked for five months with a local campesino-a-campesino-affiliated organization of indigenous farmers where she learned how to farm with zero irrigation. In 2011, Michelle spent a month in Peru, traveling the country to meet MESA Steward alumni, forge new relationships, and visit exciting community projects. Michelle loves working with MESA and incorporating her experiences to promote sustainable agriculture and to encourage farming and cultural exchange.

    Michelle has been on board with MESA since 2010 and has taken on projects ranging from graphics and web design to donor cultivation and event planning. She's always looking for a challenge at work and beyond—some of her current projects include raising a bilingual (at least!) 2-year-old along with her hardworking and dedicated partner, and trying to maintain three of her neighborhood's gardens.




  • Education Director

    Emeryville, CA

    Natalia Pinzon JimenezNatalia Pinzon Jimenez Natalia joined MESA in 2013 to offer emergency IT support. Now, as director of education, Natalia is thrilled to engage with MESA's network both online and on the ground. She spearheads the development and managment of MESA's online learning platform  and the Certificate in Applied Agroecology. Natalia is enthusiastic about her involvement in MESA's new beginning farmer training program where she will be able to support fellow immigrants in realizing viable farm business.


    Natalia immigrated to the US from Colombia at a young age. She comes from a lineage of software developers and agriculure enthusiasts. She's blessed to be able to combine these two interests at MESA; where her respect for agroecology need not be held back. As secretary of the Latinamerican Scientific Society of Agroecology she frequently looks for ways to integrate agroecology research & education into MESA's work.

  • Media Manager
    Berkeley, CA

    Stephanie is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) with a B.S. in Development Studies along with her minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. Her studies focused on international rural development policy with a regional focus in Southeast Asia as well as sustainable agriculture/agroecology. She joined MESA as a Capacity Building & Fund Development Intern in August 2014 and is a supporting team member in providing grant development, communications, and administrative support. While completing her undergrad and beginning her work with MESA in the fall of 2014, she was a Managerial/Leadership Intern with the Student Organic Garden Association (SOGA) on campus where she was actively involved with volunteer, liaising, and grant committee work on food justice/sovereignty issues and community building with the Gill Tract Farm, the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC), and the UCB Food Pantry. In addition, she was simultaneously involved in the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program with Sean Burns, Ph.D., on a long-term book project in exploring knowledge production in SF Bay Area progressive social movements around food justice over the past half-century. A passion for food, nutrition, and the environment from a young age has influenced her dedication to contribute in cultivating a sustainable and just global food system.


Your support towards MESA’s scholarship program will go beyond changing one farmer's life.

Look at Peris Wanjiru Nderitu from Kenya.