Our Team

About Us

The seeds that continue to grow MESA.

mesa team

<span class="name">Lauren Augusta</span> <span class="position">Founder, Executive Director</span>

Lauren Augusta Founder, Executive Director

Lauren Augusta is the founder and Executive Director of the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), the first exchange program designated by the U.S. Department of State to promote sustainable agriculture. She has worked in sustainable agriculture and the nonprofit world for nearly three decades. During the 2020 pandemic, Lauren initiated the launch of MESA’s Agroecology, Farming and Food Pathways (AFFP) program which brings historically marginalized beginning urban farmers, gardeners and learners together for education, professional development and community. Lauren believes in the power of connection to build healthy communities through sustainable farming and food systems.

<span class="name">James Sarria</span> <span class="position">Education & Outreach Director</span>

James Sarria Education & Outreach Director

James is the Director of Education & Outreach at MESA, an alum of MESA’s Bay Area Farmer Training Program, and an Instructor for both TAAP and the Perucano Fellowship in Applied Agroecology in Peru.  James’ interest in agriculture stemmed from work on his family garden in Alabama at the age of 11, and his passion for agroecology began as a student activist at the Hunger Gathering, a global conference to protest the Global Food Summit at the FAO in Rome, Italy in 1996.  After field work and experiential learning at the Friends World Program, James landed at the University of California at Berkeley (CAL) where he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in forest conservation and urban agroecology.  His interest in academic research at CAL was sparked during a field research project on medicinal plants in Trujillo, Peru as a MHIRT Fellow.  In 2016, James founded the Centro de Innovación en Sistemas Alimentarios Sustentable (CISAS), a program of Instituto Perucano founded in Iquitos, Peru.  His farming practices are based on family and community farming models practices for subsistence, in addition James has a particular passion for value-add product development.

<span class="name">Maria Franco</span> <span class="position">Global Programs Strategist & Latin America Representative</span>

Maria Franco Global Programs Strategist & Latin America Representative

Maria Franco is Global Strategist and Latin America & Caribbean Representative for SAGE, MESA’s Global Exchange Program. She has experience in project development, applied research and technical assistance in the topics of Youth, Sustainable Food Systems, Coffee Value Chain and International Development. Maria has worked in multiple organizations at a local, national and international level for the promotion and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. She holds a Bsc in Chemistry and a Masters in Coffee Economics and Science. Based in Peru, and is currently a MA candidate in Government and Public Policy with a focus on Sustainable Development and Social Inequalities in the Andean Region. Maria’s aim is to keep providing equitable and more inclusive opportunities along the Food Value Chain for the Latin American and the Caribbean continent.

<span class="name">Jordan Inzunza</span> <span class="position">Community Food Project Coordinator</span>

Jordan Inzunza Community Food Project Coordinator

Jordan trained in forestry at University of California Berkeley where they found a passion for fire ecology and indigenous stewardship of ecosystems in California and the Western United States. For the next year they will be serving with a Berkeley-based nonprofit, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA). As a GrizzlyCorps fellow their work at MESA includes supporting programs to fund and support underrepresented peoples in farming and food pathways work. Some of these programs include on-farm training in Florida, a year-long beekeeping apprenticeship in Richmond, CA, and a slew of classwork to train people in Agroecology in California and across the country. Jordan took an indirect path to UC Berkeley, being accepted as a re-entry student whose professional career had more relevance to educational work. With this basis they hope to bring a focus on community education and traditional ecological knowledge to their work in ecosystem management and food pathways. What matters to Jordan most is family, friendship, and building relationships in communities; this is part of why they chose to work with MESA and GrizzlyCorps.

<span class="name">Rylee Scofield</span> <span class="position">Development & Partnerships Associate</span>

Rylee Scofield Development & Partnerships Associate

Rylee is MESA’s new Development and Partnerships Associate. In 2016, they received their BA in Sociology from San Jose State University, where they cultivated their passions for international development, intercultural exchange, decolonization, and mental health. In 2017, Rylee taught English, Health and Sanitation in rural Moshi, Tanzania, where she realized her love for East African language, dance, and music. Rylee then joined the Peace Corps as a Literacy Specialist in rural Bukedea, Uganda. After exposure to agriculture systems in East Africa, they completed their master’s degree in international agriculture and rural development from Cornell University. At Cornell, their focus was on women centered agribusiness and decolonizing coffee supply chains in Uganda. Rylee also conducted research on the resilience of a female owned dairy farming business in Maun, Botswana. They are passionate about uplifting marginalized communities globally at the grassroots level.

<span class="name">Jacqueline Gauthier</span> <span class="position">Admin & Creative</span>

Jacqueline Gauthier Admin & Creative

Jacqueline began volunteering with MESA back in 2016, soon after she moved to the Bay Area from Guelph, Ontario, Canada. She has a Masters of Science in Environmental Science and four years of experience as an Environmental Consultant. Now a contractor, she brings her consultant, administrative and graphic design skills to the plate. She is an avid cyclist and can be found biking along the Berkeley/Oakland hills and trails and beyond. 

Agroecology instructors/Coordinators

<span class="name">Michael A. Smith</span> <span class="position">Lead Instructor, SF Bay Area AFFP Cohorts</span>

Michael A. Smith Lead Instructor, SF Bay Area AFFP Cohorts

Since 2005, Michael Smith has served as Pastor of McGee Avenue Baptist Church where he founded the Center for Food Faith & Justice (CFFJ) in 2014 as a nonprofit community-based organization in response to the local needs of food sovereignty, healthy equity, affordable housing, workforce development and community food security through urban agriculture. Since 2012, Pastor Michael, as he is affectionately called, has also served as Adjunct Professor of Environmental Ethics at American Baptist Seminary of the West. During that time he taught more than 100 classes and workshops on urban gardening, food sovereignty, and sustainable farming practices to more than 300 students, including over 500 veterans, homeless, transitional or formerly-incarcerated adults and 1,500 high-risk youth. Michael earned his undergraduate degree in International Relations and Sustainable Development from San Francisco State University, and began working as a supervisor at the East Bay Conservation Corps upon graduation where he eventually became the Deputy Executive Director. Michael has a long history of federal grants management, urban gardening and workforce development for high-risk populations. Pastor Michael holds a Master of Divinity Degree (M.Div) and Master of Arts (MA) in community leadership from American Baptist Seminary of the West. Pastor Michael is excited to partner with MESA in the AFFP where he can meet and learn with a powerful group of students, farmers and community activists.

<span class="name">Mabel Trigueros</span> <span class="position">Lead Instructor, Los Angeles region AFFP Cohorts</span>

Mabel Trigueros Lead Instructor, Los Angeles region AFFP Cohorts

Mabel represents MESA’s partnership with CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability in Northridge, CA. Mabel is an entrepreneur and small business owner of Mabel’s House of Petals located in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, CA. She is a U.S Navy Combat Veteran, avid gardener and community volunteer who is focused on utilizing her life experience and education toward the betterment of her family and community. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Phoenix and a Teaching Credential in Career Technical Education Agriculture and Natural Resources (CTE ANR). She has over 12 years of homestead gardening experience and is also a motivated Agroecology Farming and Food Pathways Student. Mabel’s dedication to horticulture dates back to when she found herself searching for an outlet from the day-to-day stresses of working within the Military Industrial Complex. Needless to say, her passion for horticulture has led her on a continuing journey of green consciousness, education and community involvement.

<span class="name">Frida Endinjok</span> <span class="position">AFFP Fellowship Coordinator </span>

Frida Endinjok AFFP Fellowship Coordinator

Frida served as Lead Instructor for CSUN-Institute for Sustainability’s first AFFP Cohort, and has since joined our team of talented TAAP instructors. Frida is a Global Health doctoral student at Oregon State University. She has a bachelor’s in Nutrition and Dietetics, which fuels her passion for sustainable food systems. She is part of the Zoom/Pandemic Class of 2020 with a Master of Public Health from California State University, Northridge. During her undergraduate, she developed the “Let’s Grow Healthy” program that delivers hands-on garden enhanced nutrition education at local schools. At CSUN, she coordinated the MMC Wellness Garden that offers gardening workshops, produce, and projects for the CSUN community. She is a co-founder of the Food Recovery Network chapter at CSUN with the goal of diverting edible food from the landfill to food insecure people. Frida is always looking for opportunities to use her voice and make a change.

<span class="name">Katherine Riebe</span> <span class="position">Senior Instructor, TAAP</span>

Katherine Riebe Senior Instructor, TAAP

Katherine has more than 20 years of experience teaching English to speakers of other languages. That, in addition to living in the Middle East and Africa, has given her a strong background in interacting with different cultures and peoples. She believes strongly that food and nutrition insecurity are significant obstacles to peace and well-being for hundreds of millions of people. Her goal is to collaborate and journey with others to tackle socio-environmental problems, especially at the intersection of WASH, nutrition and agroecology. Katherine has a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign Language & Intercultural Studies, a Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding and an Interprofessional Graduate Certificate in Public and Population Health. She is a member of the Land Use, Urban Agriculture & Reforestation Working Group of the Milwaukee City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity, a member of the City of Wauwatosa Sustainability Committee, and a board member of the Food, Faith & Farming Network.

<span class="name">Lance Anderson</span> <span class="position">Lead Instructor, San Diego region AFFP Cohorts</span>

Lance Anderson Lead Instructor, San Diego region AFFP Cohorts

Lance is Agricultural Water Management Program Director for MESA partner Mission Resource Conservation District (MRCD) in Fallbrook CA. Lance has more than 10 years of experience in production agriculture, working extensively in the development and management of micro-irrigation systems in California. Lance is a Certified Agricultural Irrigation Specialist and Certified Irrigation Designer, and has managed MRCD’s Mobile Irrigation Lab since 2013. He has assisted countless agricultural producers in San Diego and Riverside counties with improving the efficiency of their irrigation systems, which means he is an expert in running water uphill. He is responsible for keeping pace with regulations affecting San Diego Ag to be a resource for farmers, and assists growers with Best Management Practices for growing crops in San Diego County. Lance holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English from National University and a certificate in Irrigation Design and Management from California State Polytechnic University’s (San Luis Obispo) Irrigation Technology Research Center. Lance grew up in Escondido, getting his first taste of farming by working alongside his grandparents on their avocado grove that they established in the 1940’s. After studying at Fresno State, he spent 10 years farming in the Central Valley; growing grapes, blueberries, peaches and plums. Lance returned to Agriculture after teaching for 8 years, and frequently speaks at seminars hosted by UC Cooperative Extension and Industry grower groups.

KEY PARTNERS

board members

Lauren Anderson
Lauren developed an interest in food and agriculture during her time as a geography and political science major at Bucknell University. She later went on to get a graduate degree in geography from Penn State, where the focus of her research was agricultural supply chains and stakeholder decision-making for farm-to-school programs. She now feeds her passion for agriculture through participating in an Oakland community garden and serving on MESA’s board of directors. Lauren currently works as a Program Manager for Environmental Defense Fund’s Oil & Gas Program.
Samuel Kangethe

In Samuel’s words: “As a child of peasant farmers I was directly involved in gardening activities since my early childhood. My parents struggled to feed us and barely met the family basic needs due to meager income they got working as laborers in the neighboring large scale export coffee farms in Thika township Kenya. Things were not different in the other homes and there was rampant poverty in our community despite the hardworking nature of our people. This childhood experience prompted me to pursue a training in sustainable agriculture and after my graduation from Manor House Agriculture college, Kitale Kenya in 2001. I have never looked back and been a crusader of agroecology and sustainable food systems and social injustice in our local communities. I have been involved in grassroots community food sovereignty activities, social and food injustice and I have networks with Agroecology farmers and changemakers across the world, more so in Africa and the United States Of America. In 2016 MESA sponsored me to attend a 8 month stewardship at Ecology Action- Golden Rule Research farm Willits CA. I had an in-depth and hands-on experience on Grow Biointensive agriculture which is an organic agricultural system that focuses on achieving maximum yields from a minimum area of land, while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and sustaining the fertility of the soil. In 2020-2021 I joined the MESA NLP program. I acquired skills on organic produce sales, marketing, distribution, purchasing and advanced training in sustainable supply chain management. I had an opportunity to be enrolled in an introductory course on agroecology, urban gardening and other development skills. MESA’s AFFP course also covers understanding the intersections of environmental justice, food sovereignty. Currently I am the founder and working with CESBA-KENYA a Community Based Organization which we work with local small holder farmers goal is to address Kajiado and Nairobi county community food insecurity issues, rampant malnutrition among young children, brought about by poor farming practices, climate change and create more food sufficient and resilient households through economic strengthening strategies and sustainable ecological food raising systems.”

Susan Coss

Susan Coss is a long time marketing and communications strategist in the sustainable food and beverage worlds. She is co­founder of North of the Border Adventures, a media, events and consulting firm. Previously, she was the Director of Marketing and PR for CUESA, the organization that runs the world famous Ferry Plaza Farmers market in San Francisco. She was also a co­founder and former director of the Eat Real Festival, an annual food event in Oakland and Los Angeles CA that drew more than 250,000 people in its first three years. She was also part of the team that brought national attention to the “food movement” through Slow Food Nation. She has spent time in Mexico since 2003 and has established relationships within the food world all over California and Mexico. She has a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Scott Murray
A former MESA Host, organic farmer, and sustainable development consultant, Scott has 32 years of organic agricultural production experience in the United States and Mexico. Scott’s recent project experience includes the restoration and development of an organic agricultural project and education program on a 250-acre historic farm owned by the County of San Diego. Scott designed and built a 15-acre organic farm supplying the boarding high school on site and selling to the Whole Foods stores of Southern California. Scott has served as an elected California Conservation official for the last 12 years managing a $ 3.5 million dollar annual budget for conservation projects in North San Diego County. Scott serves as the president of the South Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council which covers two-thirds of California’s population. He has worked extensively on conservation projects with the National Resource Conservation Service in California. He specializes in farmland preservation projects utilizing Smart Growth Principles.
Bill Nunes

Bill’s entire working life has had some connection to the family farm. Childhood chores on the farm progressed to adult responsibilities and eventually Bill managed the dairy and walnut operation for the family. Meanwhile he ran a photography studio in Gustine for 30 years and spent short stints with the US Postal Service and the local newspaper.

 

As the family phased out of “conventional” farming Bill began growing and selling vegetables from about 2 acres carved out of the original family farm. Using regenerative practices, Bill has cut outside inputs to a bare minimum while reducing pest and disease problems. Contented Acres Produce operates a semi-weekly farmstand, and runs a small CSA.

 

Bill has hosted five different MESA stewards from four countries with financial support from Gustine Rotary Club. Working with farm stewards has amplified Bill’s passion to support small farms feeding their local communities worldwide. MESA programs facilitate the commingling of the best of ancestral knowledge and modern sustainable technologies.

 

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