Members of our Pacific Gold Agriculture team have deep roots in the farming community, many of whom grew up on family farms.  We incorporate innovative technology with a traditional hands-on approach to orchard management, while working in close collaboration with our local communities, our customers, our partners and our investors. 
 
 
 

Team Members

 
 

BEN KING – Chief Executive Officer

Ben oversees all orchard management and investment related activities for PGA and the affiliated companies.  He brings with him more than 40 years of agriculture experience.  

In 2002, Ben also co-founded MCP Asset Management, which managed over $5 billion in alternative investment assets for Asian Institutional Investors with offices in Chicago, Tokyo and Hong Kong. 

Ben brings his deep knowledge and experience in both agriculture and asset management to offer global investors accessibility to highly productive tree nut related management and investment, while maintaining a focus on sustainability, transparency and accountability. 

Ben earned his B.S. and J.D. from University of California, Davis where he was awarded a Departmental Citation in Agricultural Economics.  He earned his M.B.A. from California State University, Sacramento.  Ben developed a passion for trees and sustainable agriculture growing up and working in Colusa County, California where his family has been farming for over 150 years. 

He is currently a member of the Water Education Foundation and both the Colusa County Farm Bureau and Kern County Farmers Bureau. 


 
 
 

MARK FRANCIS – Chief Financial Officer 

Mark is responsible for the financial management of PGA and the affiliated entities, managing the overall debt financing and creditor relationships, and spearheading the orchard and asset acquisition process including due diligence, finance sourcing and project management.  Mark has more than 30 years of international finance and capital market experience, more than 20 of which involve direct agricultural finance transactions.  Mark has originated, designed, and provided all levels of business and project finance, as well as capital market management both domestically and internationally with a focus across the broad spectrum of agriculturally related companies. 

Mark earned his B.S. degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder and his M.B.A. from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona.  He has taught classes in business and finance at the Leeds Business School at the University of Colorado Boulder and in agricultural finance at California State University –Chico.  Mark has volunteered his time in Central America to assist microfinance groups in establishing credit policies and sustainability training for their local agricultural development programs.  Mark developed his passion for sustainable agriculture growing up and working in North Dakota where his family had farmed for more than 60 years. 


 

MAMI HIDAKA – Chief Operating Officer

Mami oversees strategic business development for PGA and the affiliated entities.  She brings with her 19 years of experience developing businesses within investment firms, working closely with institutions as well as family offices/ultra high net worths.  Mami’s role at PGA involves working closely with the CEO to define the strategic vision and structure for the vertically integrated companies, incorporating the operational and investment needs of partners and clients.  Prior to joining PGA, she was a Senior Vice President at TCW helping to build out their alternative investment business.  Mami has been involved with alternative investment products since she started her career in finance at Morgan Stanley in the Private Wealth Management Group, previous to which she was an on-air television and radio journalist in Japan. 

Mami received her MBA from INSEAD and her B.A. in Political Science from Duke University where she currently serves on the Annual Fund Advisory Board and the DukeNY Board.  She also serves on the Chairman's Advisory Board at Hudson Institute.

 

BLAKE DAVIS – Head of Orchard Operations

Blake is responsible for managing the operations teams at all PGA orchards.  He also leads PGA's technological innovation initiatives to expand our sustainability efforts and further educate our clients on best practices.  Prior to joining Pacific Gold Agriculture, Blake was with Helena Chemical Company where he was crop consulting in tree nuts, citrus, grapes, and stone fruit as well as in irrigation, fertilizer usage and pest management.

Blake studied at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California.  He holds accreditations in pest control management from the Department of Pesticide Regulations.  He has also served as a member of The Almond Board of California’s Leadership Program. 

 

MIKE POWELL – Head of Operational Projects

Mike is responsible for leading operational projects statewide, implementing orchard management improvements at customers' orchards as well as operational upgrades at PGA.  Mike orchestrates the logistics for services ranging from harvest, foliar spraying and pest control advisory to larger projects including tree removal/planting, irrigation project installation, and processing facility enhancements.  He works closely with all PGA teams for smooth execution.  Mike returned to his hometown of Visalia in 2005 to bring his skills to orchard management.  Prior to working on projects in orchard operations, Mike was a geotechnical engineer in Maryland working on structural projects coast to coast before which he was involved with construction projects all along the US east coast. 

 

CHRISTIAN EMRICH – Head of Processing

Christian oversees production at our pecan processing facilities, the largest in California, which processes more than half of California's pecan production.  He works closely with PGA’s sales and logistics teams to coordinate the processing and delivery line with the sales process and verifies that customer orders are filled accurately in a timely manner. 

He also manages the quality control process at PGA, ensuring product safety and regulatory compliance with FDA food safety standards.  

Christian has 28 years of experience in processing, production and logistics management in the food and beverage industries.  Prior to joining Blain Farming Company in 2006, Christian developed his skills as a logistics manager at Odwalla, a Coca-Cola Company, and Harris Ranch Beef Company.  He began his career at PepsiCo where he spent 15 years working in production management at Frito-Lay plants in California. 


 

ERIN STEIDLMAYER – Head of Business Operations & Compliance

Erin oversees the day-to-day operations at PGA offices, including legal, human resources, and business development matters.  Prior to joining Pacific Gold Agriculture, Erin worked as a Senior Licensing Consultant at Oracle America, Inc., a global software company. 

After receiving her B.S. in Psychology at University of California, Davis, Erin earned a J.D. from the Santa Clara University School of Law where she was awarded a High Tech Law Certificate. 


 

RODERICK JAMES – Head of Sales

Roderick manages the sales process at PGA, working with customers on sales terms and logistics.  Roderick has 22 years of experience in sales and logistics.  Prior to joining Pacific Gold Agriculture, he was with Atlas World Food & Agriculture as the Director of Logistics for their Vernon, California facility.  From 2005 to 2008, he also held Senior Supervisory and Quality Control Lead roles at Cooking.com’s distribution center in Ontario, California.  Roderick started his career as a sales representative for Color Bright Studios. 

Roderick has a degree in Supply Chain Management from Chaffey College.  While being a native of Southern California, he spent summers working on his grandfather’s farm in Marianna, Florida on peanut, corn and soybean fields as well as with cattle and pigs. 


 

LARRY SALOPEK – Head of Marketing, Pacific Gold Nut Company  

Larry sources and sells in-shell nuts for Pacific Gold Nut Company, Inc., Pacific Gold Agriculture’s tree nut marketing affiliate.  He works directly with growers throughout the United States to identify quality nuts for his domestic clients.  Larry has 20 years of experience in the agriculture business.  He has been involved in the entire value chain from planting trees to marketing tree nuts which allows him to offer his customers comprehensive insight into the business.  He was also a Peace Corps volunteer focused on organic and sustainable farming.

Larry received both his B.A. in University Studies with Honors and his M.B.A. in International Management from University of New Mexico.  He was raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico surrounded by farming having been born into a pecan farming family.  Larry is fluent in Spanish.