Advisory Board Directory

  

 
 

Alberto “Alby” Arazoza, Chairman

President and Owner Arazoza Brothers

Alby is President of Arazoza Brothers Corporation. The business is at the forefront of landscape installation, maintenance, environmental services, and irrigation. Their extensive experience is drawn from over 30 years of elaborate horticultural work on projects ranging from new developments to refreshing existing designs to the longest roadways in the state of Florida. Arazoza Brothers are recognized as one of the top complete-service landscape companies in the country. Alby has a Business degree from The University of Florida. 


Erik Tietig, Past Chairman

Owner Pine Island Nursery and Miracle Fruit Farm, LLC

Erik Tietig is the co-owner and CEO of the Miracle Fruit Farm and Vice President of Pine Island Nursery.  He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and is a second-generation nursery professional specializing in fruit crops. His recognitions include the FNGLA Young Nursery Professional of the Year, Southern Nursery Association Young Nursery Professional of the Year, and the OFA National Young Farmer of the Year. He also serves on numerous volunteer boards. Most notably as the President of the Dade County Farm Bureau, Chairman of the University of Florida’s Tropical Fruit Advisory Board, and Past Chairman of the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center’s Advisory Board. 


Jorge Abreu

Director of Agriculture for District 9 at Miami-Dade County

Jorge Abreu was born and raised in Miami. He received a Master's Degree in Business Administration from FIU, Bachelor degrees from the University of Florida in Environmental Horticulture & Animal Science and is a graduate of the esteemed Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources. He worked for Altima International Group LLC and owned and operated, West Kendall Nursery, Inc. in South Dade. He has served Miami Dade County FNGLA, as Chapter Director, President, Past President and member, Miami Dade Agricultural Practices Study Board, and CARET (Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching) serving as a delegate for UF/IFAS & land grant universities. 

 

Salvatore Finocchiaro

Owner S&L Bean Farms

S&L Bean Farms was established in 1989. Sal Finocchiaro continued the business as a second-generation vegetable grower. Currently, he grows 100 acres of field-grown palm trees, 15 acres container nursery, and has 100 acres set aside for CBD hemp. He is the President of the Dade County Farm Bureau and an Advisory Board Member for UF/IFAS TREC. For the past 12 years he has supported pest management research studies in his fields that have provided valuable information for developing Integrated Pest Management programs against both vegetable and hemp insect pests.
 

Robert Fishman

Partner ThinkLAB Ventures

Robert Fishman is a native of South Florida. Robert works for ThinkLAB Ventures, LLC. Robert Fishman helps manage a diversified set of investments for ThinkLAB Ventures, LLC that ranges from approximately 1,600 acres of farmland in Homestead and Unincorporated Miami-Dade County, a long-term leasehold at the Opa Locka Regional Airport, and a large portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other real estate holdings.

Robert began his business career on Wall Street at JP Morgan Chase after receiving a BA at the University of Pennsylvania. He left the firm to pursue an Executive MBA at the University of Miami, which he completed in 2011.   

 

Mick Gnaegy

Owner Mix'd Greens

Mick Gnaegy has owned and operated Mix’d Greens, Inc. since 1982. Over the course of his agricultural career, Mr. Gnaegy has propagated plants, designed and installed landscapes, and offered irrigation and aquatic services, ISA Arborist tree Services, ground maintenance services, and environmental restorations. Currently Mix’d Greens grows 10 acres of container-grown trees, 70 acres of field-grown palms and trees, and 20 acres of mango and avocado groves; the business specializes in native trees and shrubs.

Mr. Gnaegy is a member of FANN, the Florida Native Plant Society, UF/IFAS Commercial Ornamentals Advisory Committee, Dade County Florida Farm Bureau, the South Florida chapter of FNGLA, and a Trustee of the South Dade Chamber of Commerce. He has served as President of the Miami-Dade chapter of FNGLA since 2019.

 

Kim Hosang

Director of Sales and Client Relations, KimSue Foliage

Kim Hosang is a native of Miami, Florida. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Agriscience and Engineering Magnet Program at Coral Reef High School and is a University of Florida graduate. Currently she is the Director of Sales and Client Relations at KimSue Foliage, a third-generation, family-owned and operated business founded by her grandfather and parents. KimSue Foliage specializes in indoor ornamental foliage and tropical plants catering to the niche industries of interiorscape, plant shoppe, florists, and independent garden center markets.

Ms. Hosang is a past officer of the Miami-Dade FNGLA Board of Directors and presently serves on the UF/IFAS Ornamental Advisory Committee and the Farm Credit’s Young, Beginning and Small Farmer Advisory Committee.


Charles LaPradd

Agricultural Manager for Miami-Dade County

Charles LaPradd was born in Homestead, Florida, to a pioneer family whose roots date back to the 1800s in southern Miami-Dade County. He has worked at all levels of agriculture, including growing, sales, marketing and shipping tropical fruits, vegetables and foliage plants.  In May of 2005, Mr. LaPradd was appointed as the first Agricultural Manager for Miami-Dade County, a position he still holds.  In this position, he acts as an advocate for Miami-Dade County's agricultural interests and serves as a single point of contact between the agriculture industry and Miami-Dade County.  Mr. LaPradd holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Central Florida and an Associate of Arts from Miami-Dade Community College.

 

Peggy Machin

Landscape Inspector

Peggy Machin is a Landscape Inspector with close to 10 years of experience in the areas of plant identification, landscape installation, and adept at providing value engineering. Since 2017, she has been a Miami-Dade AGRI Council Board member and currently holds the Treasurer position. In 2014, Peggy became an FNGLA Miami-Dade Chapter Board Member having been the President of the Board and currently holding the Treasurer position. Peggy is the President of the Board in the Landscape Inspectors Association of Florida. She was a committee member organizer of the FNGLA/IFAS Great Southern Tree Conference and is a certified Arborist and Landscape Inspector.

 

Mike Merida

Senior Director Costa Farms

He received his Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) from the University of Florida. Currently, he works as the Senior Director, Foliage Operation for Costa Farms where he manages over 800 acres of production. His primary responsibilities include managing growing practices, pest & disease management, field scouts, the potting department, live goods receiving, standards and process improvements, budgets, and perpetual inventory.

 
 

Martin Motes

Owner Motes Orchids

Dr. Martin Motes is widely regarded as the foremost expert on vandas in the world. His published articles on vandas include descriptions of several new species, among them, V. mariae, for his wife of more than 40 years, Mary. His nursery, Motes Orchids, specializes in unique vanda hybrids of his own creation.

In 2009, the species Vanda motesiana was named in his honor. Martin founded the Redland and Tamiami International Orchid Festivals, the largest orchid events in the United States. He is a Research Fellow at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens and is a consultant on Fairchild's Million Orchid Project, which aims to restore native Florida orchids to Miami-Dade County. 

 

Teresa Olczyk

County Extension Director and Extension Agent IV, Miami-Dade County

Teresa Olczyk has been with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension Office since 1995, becoming the Director in 2010. She provides leadership for close to 40 Extension faculty and staff helping them to deliver relevant research-based educational information to the residents, government entities, and businesses of the county. Additional responsibilities include educating Miami-Dade County government administration and elected officials about the role and responsibilities of the Extension Service in Florida and in Miami-Dade County.

 

Mark Philcox

Owner Grove Services, Inc.

Mark Philcox started working at GSI in 1972 as a tractor operator. Mark became General Manager in 1977. Mark and his wife purchased the company in 1984. Together they manage the day-to-day operation. GSI is now one of the leading grove management and harvesting companies in South Florida. Mark serves on TREC’s Advisory Board and had the vision more than 10 years ago to generate funds from the Tropical Fruit Groves at TREC. He came up with a plan to harvest and sell the fruit, and generate income for the center. These funds have assisted the Tropical Fruit Program, and sustained it during times of budget constraint. Currently, the fruit sales program from Grove Services helps cover the high prices of fertilizers and pesticides.

 
 

Barney Rutzke, Jr.

Owner Railroad Nursery

He is a member of a family that has been farming and ranching in Florida since 1907. He has been a member of Dade County Farm Bureau. He has served on the Florida Lime and Avocado and Administrative Committee and the Miami-Dade Agriculture Advisory Board. Currently, he serves on the Miami-Dade Urban Expansion Area task force. He is Immediate past president of Miami-Dade FNGLA Chapter. Presently, he is serving on the 2018-2019 Board serving as Miami-Dade Representative Board of Directors for the State FNGLA and he is an Advisory Board Member for TREC.

Barney is well versed in all areas of field crops, fruit crops and nursery business in the state of Florida through his personal farming experience.


Peter Schnebly

Owner Schnebly Winery and Miami Brewery

Peter Schnebly has been living and working in South Florida for over 37 years.  He is dedicated to improving South Florida and especially the Redland (Miami's Countryside) area. Peter set a goal for starting an agro-tourism business based on his farms in the Redland of South Florida.

Sustainable farming became a top priority as Schnebly wines are made from only the finest fruit. Each mango, lychee, guava, passion fruit, and Carambola is personally picked for fermentation. In 2011, he dived into craft beers and in 2014 he created the RedLander Restaurant, kick-starting the culinary farm to table movement in the Redland and South Dade. The Schnebly name is now synonymous with all three brands. The vision of creating an agro-tourism destination has almost been fully realized.

 

Mark Wilson

Owner Greendale Nursery

Mark Wilson runs the 30-acre Greendale Nursery in Homestead, Fla., produces plants that are sold throughout North America and also exports plants to customers on Caribbean islands. He sells to garden centers in the southeastern U.S. and Canada, to theme parks near Orlando, and to resorts in the U.S. and the Caribbean. With his company’s reputation for quality control, his is one of few firms allowed to export to certain Caribbean islands. Wilson is focusing now on using social media to reach and deliver plants to members of the millennial generation. Mark has been a director of Florida Farm Bureau, served on the Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida and chaired the state committee for USDA’s Farm Service Agency

 

Lydia Borgatta

Managing Director -Investments of Wells Fargo Advisors 

Managing Director of Investments at Wells Fargo Advisors. She specializes in providing financial, investment and funding advice and tending to the specific needs of business owners including managers of operating accounts, retirement and pension plans, and credit arrangements. Her clients include privately held firms, principals of operating companies and C-level executives of publicly held companies.

Ms. Borgatta is a proud member of the U.S. delegation to the O.E.C.D Insurance and Pension Committees and serves as a technical advisor on cross-border issues relating to corporate securities and insurance investment assets. She is past Chair Elect of the American Benefits Council.