About Us

The seeds that continue to grow MESA.

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

Lauren Augusta Founder, Executive Director

Lauren founded and serves as Executive Director of the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), the first U.S. State Department-designated training and cultural exchange program to promote sustainable agriculture. She has worked in the nonprofit and agriculture sectors since 1985. During the 2020 pandemic, Lauren initiated the launch of MESA’s Agroecology, Farming and Food Pathways (AFFP) program which brings historically underserved beginning farmers, gardeners and learners together to foster community and career pathways in agroecology. Lauren believes in the power of connection to build healthy communities through sustainable farming and food systems.

<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">Sabrina Smelser</span> <span class="position">Programs & Partnerships Coordinator</span>

Sabrina Smelser Programs & Partnerships Coordinator

Sabrina’s work with MESA is supported by her diverse set of interests and lived experience in education, healthcare, and agriculture. Since earning her bachelor’s degree in Biology from UCLA, she has pursued an intentionally winding path, leading her from patient care in various medical facilities to teaching in youth educational settings. Most recently, her year-long stint of work at a wholesale nursery in Los Osos, CA nurtured her love for plant cultivation and ignited a deep curiosity in sustainable agriculture, which led her to pursue a year-long fellowship with a land trust based in Shasta County.

From these experiences working and living in socially, politically, and environmentally distinct communities throughout California, Sabrina celebrates a deepened relationship with these parts of the earth and holds the belief that any true environmental healing depends on social change that centers questions of equity. She holds particular excitement for the potential of urban farms to create physically and emotionally nourishing green spaces in urbanized areas and serve as epicenters of community building. She looks forward to contributing and learning from the wonderful MESA community of team members, partners, and program participants.

<span class="name">Sarah Leslie</span> <span class="position">Program and Development Lead</span>

Sarah Leslie Program and Development Lead

Sarah has a background in environmental sciences, sustainable agriculture, and community engagement. While earning a BA from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, Sarah began to see how inextricably involved food and agriculture are in contributing to environmental and social catastrophes. She saw agriculture as being both the biggest culprit of harm and having the most potential for ensuing change. As Sarah’s interests in food systems deepened, she traveled to Costa Rica and Jamaica to learn traditional-natural medicine and beekeeping. She worked at numerous organic farms in both California and Colorado, ranging from inner-city urban gardens to rural-mountain ranches. Sarah has dedicated the past few years to learning traditional, agrarian practices, and helping farmers design sustainable and profitable systems that serve their communities.

Sarah is passionate about educating and inspiring people to connect to their own, unique relationship with the earth. She studies and practices preserving traditional knowledge through seed saving and native ecosystem restoration. Sarah advocates for the blooming of countless community and cultural spaces where agriculture and food are at the center of connection and regeneration. She is a talented writer and community-builder and hopes to aid organizations and individuals in reaching their impact and financial goals.

<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/Fellowship mentors

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

Frida Endinjok AFFP Facilitator & 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 Master Gardener Volunteer, a member of the Nature in the City Working Group of the Milwaukee City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity, the vice chair of the City of Wauwatosa Sustainability Committee, and a board member of Friends for Health in Haiti.

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

Mabel Trigueros CSUN Workshops 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 Fellow. 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">Moises Munoz Plascencia</span> <span class="position">Lead Instructor, Los Angeles Region AFFP Cohort 5</span>

Moises Munoz Plascencia Lead Instructor, Los Angeles Region AFFP Cohort 5

Moises was born and raised as a first generation Mexican-American in Santa Ana, California. A proud alum from Santa Ana College, the University of California Santa Cruz, and California State University Long Beach, and California State University California Fullerton. At the University of Santa Cruz, Moises worked with Community Agroecology Network, an organization that promotes agroecology in Central America and Southern Mexico. He conducted his thesis on an urban horticultural space in Santa Ana, in which he developed a theory known as cultural plant memory. Moises has worked on sustainability, nutrition, and food justice issues in the Orange County for 12 years. Moises has collaborated and worked for various non-profits, official city projects, and collaborated with various entities to promote a healthy and holistic methods for sustainable community. Moises is a part time professor of Anthropology at various universities and community colleges. As an instructor the most critical thing is culturally competent and applicable education. Moises believes agroecology and anthropology helps establish queries that lead to careers and social change.

<span class="name">Dena Brummer</span> <span class="position">Agroecology Fellows Mentor</span>

Dena Brummer Agroecology Fellows Mentor

Dená Brummer, cook, food stylist, teacher and writer, epitomizes the modern chef. What ties these roles together, besides an immersion in the world of food, is her unyielding desire to educate and empower her community through health-focused cuisine. After a 15-year career in communications/marketing, she decided to take a detour into the world of food and enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education to study Health Supportive Culinary Arts. Since 2018, she has been on a journey to combine her two passions - food and storytelling - with the intent of creating work that inspires, creates community, and raises cultural, social and environmental awareness. Today, she runs a teaching garden at the City of Hope and works as a private chef. When she is not consumed with all things food, you can find her gardening, hiking and exploring the world with her 15 year-old daughter.


board members

Susan Coss, Chair

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.

Lauren Anderson, Secretary
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.
Scott Murray, Treasurer
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.
Samuel Kangethe, Director

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.”

Waheed Khawrin, Director

Waheed’s personal statement: I have 3+ years’ experience of working with non-profits. I have worked with two non-profit organizations: ANHDO (Afghanistan National Horticulture Development Organization) and CoAR
(Coordination of Afghans Relief) in Afghanistan. In my work with ANHDO I assisted in program
coordination and carried out community development-related project activities which involved agriculture extension and working closely with cooperatives. I have worked with CoAR as member of an educational training team which involved supporting agriculture schools in rural areas. I joined MESA in 2018 as an agriculture Steward and hosted by The Natural Grocery Company (NGC) in El Cerrito. The experience at NGC not only helped me to learn more about sustainable agriculture practices that farmers are using to provide healthy food to the communities while preserving the natural environment but, also helped expand my network with organic agriculture farms which were the primary and preferred purchasing source for the NGC. MESA’s stewardship and NGC experience provided me a better understanding of supply chain in organic agriculture sector.
My knowledge, experience and involvement with non-profits particularly MESA throughout the years
will be beneficial to support MESA’s mission.

Rosi Quinones, Director

Rosi’s personal statement: In 2009 My University in Lima-Peru was MESA’s in country partner and my professors introduced me to MESA’s staff in Berkeley, while traveling in the US, I decided to volunteer at MESA and that was the beginning of a great relationship, in 2014 I became a MESA Steward, interning at the Natural Grocery Store as well as the MESA office, later I helped MESA create the Outbound program, where we hosted US stewards at MESA’s Alumni farms in Peru. Most recently I helped MESA’s urban agroecology students by presenting about organic certification. I currently live in Oakland with my husband and kids but have stayed connected to MESA’s work throughout the years and have had the privilege of meeting MESA’s network farmers in both the US and Peru.