• Founder and Co-Executive 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.

  • Co-Executive 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-stakeholder 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.

  • International Programs Intern

    San Francisco, CA

    Elsa Yarell CalvilloElsa Yarell Calvillo

    Born and raised in Mexico and California, Elsa joined the MESA team in June 2013 as the International Programs Intern.

    Having spent her  much of her youth in farmers markets in and around Southern California, Elsa has been dedicated to food justice from early on. After obtaining her undergrad from San Francisco State University in Environmental Studies, Elsa took off in youth development and curriculum development work focusing on environmental issues and urban farms. Elsa's days at the former Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco were spent teaching Permaculture Bootcamp Courses and digging her hands in mulch. A recent grad from SIT Graduate Institute, she focused her master's thesis on bilingual curriculum for an American Youth Leadership Program driving American and Peruvian students to explore sustainable food systems and food sovereignty in Peru. 

    Elsa is enthusiastic about directing her program and curriculum design skills into MESA's International training programs. If she's not eating good local food, you can find her hiking around the greater Bay Area or off on an international adventure.

  • IT Wrangler

    Emeryville, CA

    Natalia Pinzon JimenezNatalia Pinzon Jimenez Natalia began providing web and IT support to MESA in the Fall of 2013. With a diverse background in technology, farming and agronomy research, Natalia hopes to support organizations like MESA create direct solutions to prevailing environmental problems.


    Currently, Natalia is pursuing a Doctorate in Agroecology through SOCLA and the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia - her motherland.

  • Program Coordinator

    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 with a local campesino-a-campesino-affiliated organization of indigenous farmers where she learned how to farm with zero irrigation. Michelle is excited to work with MESA, promoting sustainable agriculture and encouraging both farming and cultural exchange.

    Michelle is currently working as full-time-mommy, though it is not uncommon for her to sneak into the office, baby strapped to her hip, lugging a laptop out of her diaper bag to tinker with MESA's website.



Thanks to you, we've raised above and beyond our goal in MESA's first ever crowdfunding campaign. Our deepest gratitude goes out to our 236 supporters and to the amazing team who helped make this campaign possible.