Litchi_chinensis ‘Mauritius’_lychee

About Us

Founded in 1955, the Rare Fruit Council International, Inc. (RFCI) is a non-profit organization that promotes the development and use of tropical fruits in South Florida. The RFCI is headquartered in Miami, Florida and has chartered several chapters and affiliate fruit clubs. Florida’s benign climate is conducive to growing many tropical fruits that cannot be successfully cultivated anywhere else in the continental United States. 

We also teach members and the general public methods of propagation and the cultural requirements of fruit trees. The Rare Fruit Council is indebted to its many worldwide members for donating seeds, scions, and plant materials to achieve this goal. At our monthly meetings we host a guest speaker, a plant swap, and a fruit-centric pot luck. We hope to see you at our next meeting.

Our Board Members

Steve McNally


Before joining the RCFI in 2008, Steve acted as a Huey Helicopter Crew Chief in the US Army. A decorated combat veteran and avid tropical fruit grower, Steve currently works in as a sales and project manager for a commercial roofing company.

Matthew Snow, MD

Vice President

When Matt isn’t busy practicing medicine, you’ll find him on his farm – Sunshine Organics – in Homestead, FL where he grows a wide variety of cultivars of tropical fruits, including mango, wax jambu, carambola, Annona, and avocado. Matt acted as RFCI President from 2011-2020.

Laura Buksnaitis


Laura loves fruit, especially for breakfast. While berries are her morning favorite, her yard bestows a wide variety including loquat, mango, dragon fruit, longan, orange, and lime that she enjoys year round. Laura has been in accounting for 20 years, currently at a local University.


Gary Winston


A learning lawyer/farmer, with the dream of a blooming vineyard, Gary has served on the Rare Fruit Council board of directors for many years. His diverse expertise has proven valuable in guiding the club through the various challenges its faced. 



Maurice Kong

Director, previous President

Originally from Jamaica, Maurice joined the RFCI in 1993 (President in 1996), and introduced improved cultivars of mangoes and other tropical fruits collected from the Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia.

Efrain Santiago

Director, previous President

Efrain, a happily retired cabinet maker, has been a member since 1977, making him one of our longest running members. During the 1990s, Efrain acted as RFCI President (’91-’92) and was interviewed for a television spot about the council.

Voting Committee Members

Dr. Steve Vernon

Events Chairman

Dr. Stephen Vernon is a recently retired Clinical Pathologist who has a variety of interests revolving around tropical fruits, with special interests in Dragonfruit and Pineapples. He is a Volunteer at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden nursery and at Fairchild Farm in Redland.

Jeff Stone

Membership and Program Chairman

As our program chairman, Jeff does an excellent job scheduling our great speakers. If you have a special request for a topic, make sure to mention it to Jeff during our next meeting.

Pablo Zepeda

Media Chairman

Pablo is a cofounder of Dade Plant Co, and has a passion for growing aroids and bananas. When not growing plants, Pablo scours the world for the most exclusive fabrics.

Non-Voting Committee Members

Rafael Santangelo


Carla Hatten MSN, RN, CGRN


Carla, who has a Masters in Nursing and is a Nurse Manager, grew up on a farm in Sacramento, CA. She enjoys growing tropical fruits and vegetables in the Redlands and organic blueberries in NC.

Meylin Aoun

Assistant Secretary

Daniel Calzadilla

Assistant Membership and Newsletter