About Us

The seeds that continue to grow MESA.

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

Lauren Augusta Founder, Executive Director

With a multicultural and multi-generational approach, Lauren has worked in the nonprofit and agricultural training sectors since 1985. As MESA's Founder and Executive Director, Lauren has demonstrated leadership in connecting and cultivating sustainable farmers and food systems leaders across the world. Under her guidance, MESA has facilitated impactful international training and cultural exchange programs, benefiting over 1000 exchange visitors from 51 nations, and over 300 U.S.-based partner farms and organizations. In 2014, Lauren spearheaded an award-winning online platform featuring self-paced, certificate courses in agroecology, organic seed production, and climate resilience. During the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, MESA partnered with mission-aligned nonprofits to adapt and launch USDA-funded projects, including the Agroecology, Farming and Food Pathways (AFFP) program, Training in Applied Agroecology Program (TAAP), Beekeeping Apprentice Program (BAP), and several Community Food Project initiatives, garnering recognition for fostering inclusive learning and advancing sustainable agricultural practices. With a career dedicated to global social and environmental development, Lauren's expertise lies in nonprofit management, program development, fundraising, and strategic partnerships, advocating for positive change through her work and affiliations.

Picture of <span class="name">Jacqueline Gauthier</span> <span class="position">Programs & Administration</span>

Jacqueline Gauthier Programs & Administration

Jacqueline has a Masters of Science in Environmental Science, including a thesis project on modeling the chemistry of phosphates in agricultural soils. Her role working as an Environmental Consultant for four years led her to travel to closed mine sites across Canada to assess the soil and water quality. After moving to the Bay Area in 2016 from Guelph, Ontario she had a sabbatical while waiting for a green card petition to be granted; during this time Jacqueline first connected with MESA to volunteer, lending her administrative and graphic design skills.  Jacqueline is an avid cyclist and can be found riding the roads and trails in the Berkeley/Oakland hills and beyond.

Picture of <span class="name">Emily Kuhn</span> <span class="position">Communications & Programs</span>

Emily Kuhn Communications & Programs

Em joins the MESA team freshly invigorated by an agroecology exchange as a Fulbright researcher in Ecuador. She spent the past year working with Kichwa Indigenous communities to record and reinforce the transfer of intergenerational knowledge within the chakra (ancestral food forest). Raised by chefs, Em’s passion for storytelling and food systems are rooted in an upbringing that centered the sacredness of food. While earning a BA in Environmental Sociology and Spanish from Pitzer College, Em deepened her exploration of family migration stories and foodways through the practice of recording oral histories. Inspired to create more spaces for meaningful storytelling, she co-founded The Outback News, a multimedia platform for Pitzer student expression.

In 2020, Em began her hands-on training at permaculture farms, completing her official permaculture certification in 2022. Using what she learned, Em collaborated with the Robert Redford Conservancy to redesign and execute an overhaul of the neglected Pitzer Student Garden. For her senior thesis, she proposed an intercollegiate Agroecology Curriculum. Em hopes that their work at MESA will continue enlivening the global paradigm shift toward socially and ecologically just food systems.

MESA Ambassadors/Agroecology instructors

Picture of <span class="name">Frida Endinjok</span> <span class="position">Agroecology Instructor </span>

Frida Endinjok Agroecology Instructor

Dr. Frida Endinjok serves as one of our agroecology instructors. She has taught and mentored emerging and current farmers, scholars, and advocates for more sustainable and equitable food systems. She joined the MESA team in 2020 as the Lead Instructor for CSUN-Institute for Sustainability’s first AFFP Cohort and then as our Fellowship Coordinator. Frida's education includes a Ph.D. and master's degree in public health with an emphasis on community health education and a bachelor’s in nutrition. Her experience includes developing and evaluating the “Let’s Grow Healthy” program that delivers hands-on garden-enhanced nutrition education at elementary schools in Los Angeles. Starting and coordinating an on-campus garden that offers gardening workshops, produce, and projects for the community. Starting and leading the Food Recovery Network chapter to divert edible food from the landfill to people experiencing food insecurity. Teaching and mentoring for over five years. Frida is always looking for opportunities to help others discover their passion and advocate for sustainable food systems.

Picture of <span class="name">Dena Brummer</span> <span class="position">Agroecology Instructor</span>

Dena Brummer Agroecology Instructor

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.

Picture of <span class="name">Sarah Leslie</span> <span class="position">Programs Ambassador</span>

Sarah Leslie Programs Ambassador

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.

Picture of <span class="name">Colin Richard</span> <span class="position">Partnerships Ambassador</span>

Colin Richard Partnerships Ambassador

Colin H. Richard is an educator and storyteller active in environmental, sustainability and community development issues. Based in the San Diego area, he has worked and traveled extensively in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Holding a BS in Outdoor Recreation and Leadership/Hospitality and Tourism Management from San Diego State University, as well as certificates in Sustainable Community Development from Village Earth/Colorado State University and Permaculture Research Institute, Colin is a graduate student in social innovation at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. He brings 20+ years of experience in agroecology, conservation and tourism, with a regional focus on East Africa. He is excited to serve MESA with visual media, networking and his love for intercultural relationship building!

Picture of <span class="name">Sabrina Smelser</span> <span class="position">Programs Ambassador</span>

Sabrina Smelser Programs Ambassador

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.

Picture of <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.

Picture of <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.

Picture of <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.

Picture of <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.


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.

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, Secretary

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.

Jorie Hanson, Director

Jorie Hanson has dedicated her entire career to the field of education, working with young people and adults from diverse cultural backgrounds. A particularly relevant experience to MESA was the 12 years she managed a small farm in Clayton, California. During this time, Jorie had the opportunity to host and mentor aspiring farmers from the local community and around the globe through programs like WWOOF and the MESA stewardship program. Her interest in local agriculture and its marketing remains strong. Beyond her hands-on engagement with young people and interns in California, Jorie holds a PhD in research and evaluation and has spent four decades in professional practice, spanning roles in both university and urban school district settings.