For second-generation nursery grower Erik Tietig, loving the job is about more than just the business; it’s about the community. Tietig remembers growing up attending industry meetings with groups such as the Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association alongside his mother, Colleen Boggs, who founded the Pine Island Nursery in 1972.
It was the collaboration seen across businesses that made him fall in love with the nursery industry, and the agricultural sector as a whole, Tietig said.
“It really is a big community, and everybody is open and helpful to one another,” Tietig said. “And I think that is something that’s pretty unique to agriculture that you don’t find in other industries.”
After graduating originally with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida, Tietig returned to Miami, Florida, where he began to work alongside his mother Colleen at Pine Island Nursery.
“First and foremost, I love to work outside, and to be outside, to work with my hands and build something,” Tietig said.
He also valued having the opportunity to work side by side with his mother before her retirement, calling it very fulfilling. Now, Tieitig serves as president of the Pine Island Nursery and also co-owns a separate tropical fruit production farm, Miracle Fruit Farms, with his brother.
While he just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the family-owned and operated Pine Island Nursey in 2022, Tietig is about to have another accomplishment to celebrate – the successful completion of his Master of Agribusiness degree.
“This was the opportunity for me to get a formal education in my field and begin the next 50 years with some new skills and perspectives,” Tietig said.
A professional master’s program, the Master of Agribusiness degree was designed with students like Tietig in mind to provide those with an educational background outside the field of agricultural economics with skills in finance, management, marketing, and economic theory.
As a full-time business owner and operator, he said he enjoyed the fact that the classes were fully online without set meeting times, which allowed him and other students to work on schedules that fit their unique needs.
“For me to pursue a master’s degree and have to go to Gainesville to take courses or take exams, it was simply just not going to happen,” Tietig said. “So for me, it really worked out very, very well.”
In addition to classes in economics, agribusiness finance, and management, students in the program also complete an internship or special project for their capstone experience, which gives them a chance to apply the skills they are learning in the real world.
For his capstone project, Tietig was able to work with UF/IFAS Extension faculty on a current project of theirs in Miami-Dade County.
The Miami-Dade County Regulatory and Economic Resources Department has contracted with UF/IFAS to conduct a study that will describe the current status of the agricultural sector in the county, including recent changes in the industry due to development pressure, assess new agricultural technologies which could impact agriculture in the county, analyze issues related to climate change considerations, and project the number of agricultural acres that will be necessary for the industry to be viable over the next three decades.
“The timing couldn’t have been better,” Tietig said. “You know, it aligned just so perfectly with my coursework, and it’s a project that I’m just deeply interested in anyway. Even if I wasn’t going to be in this MAB program, I would be following that study very, very closely, so actually having an opportunity to work with the faculty and staff there at TREC on the study was really, really fulfilling for me.”
Tietig said that although the program was hard work, he feels experiences in it were valuable and that the skills learned made it worth it.
“Much of what I was learning in my classes was plug-and-play right into the farms,” Tietig said. “I began implementing the skills I was learning in management, finance, marketing, and economics immediately. What I learned in the MAB program will fundamentally change how the farms are managed. It already has in many ways.”