More than 6,500 people have signed a petition for Lee and Collier county school districts to cut ties with its vendor, Oakes Farms.
The petition comes after the Naples business’ owner, Alfie Oakes, made a controversial Facebook post calling the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement hoaxes.
Both school districts said they know about the post – and the petition. Lee County said it’s reviewing its contract with Oakes Farms, and Collier County said Oakes Farms “was used as a stop-gap measure” to feed families when their usual distributor, Sysco West Coast Florida, was unable to meet demand, and they will be using other distributors this summer.
Oakes told WINK News that the thousands of people reacting angrily to what he wrote don’t know him.
“When I wrote the Facebook post, I could not even imagine it being interpreted in any way as racist,” he said.
Oakes said on Facebook, in part, that the “COVID19 hoax did not work to bring down our great President and now this…the black lives matter race hoax…REALLY.”
“Police lives matter, all lives matter, and the rule of order above all matters,” Oakes said during an interview with WINK News.
“Everyone that knows me knows that I’m the farthest thing from a racist. I have 2,300 employees of all different races and ethnicities.”
Oakes employs those people on his three farms, including one in Collier County where Oakes has a contract with the school district.
“It’s a tragedy what happened to George Floyd, 100 percent, it’s a tragedy, but it does not warrant, you know, defunding the police department or having no law and order,” Oakes said.
The businessman is well known, especially in Immokalee. Just this month, he joined the effort to feed thousands of hungry families. People line up in their cars every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for help.
“A lot of the people on these posts are from other states that were making really nasty comments, and there is a lot of local people that maybe see things differently and that’s the great thing of our country,” Oakes said.
Oakes said he judges every person like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., asked all Americans to do during his “I Have a Dream” speech: by the content of their character.
Statement from Collier County School District:
“The District’s food distributor is Sysco West Coast Florida. The distributor was unable to supply certain products and unable to package them individually to distribute to needy families. Oakes Farms was used as a stop-gap measure, in April and May. We are utilizing the USDA FFAVORS (Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Order Receipt System) program for the month of June to provide produce. In July, Sysco has advised they will be able resume meeting our produce needs.”