Community outrage over a Facebook post some said is racist led to another organization cutting ties with Oakes Farms in Collier County.
The controversy started when Alfie Oakes, owner of Oakes Farms, made a Facebook post calling the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement “hoaxes.”
A petition went up calling for the school districts in Lee and Collier counties to cancel their contracts with Oakes. The Collier County School District on Tuesday said it would be conducting business elsewhere for the summer.
Lee County School Board member Gwyn Gittens responded to the situation by saying, “If we legally can cut ties… We have a lot of young people looking at us and watching what it is we do and how we handle situations … I do not want to in any way, shape or form, pay a dime to that company,” she said.
“The things that were said in that post, they were horrible,” Gittens said. “Being black myself, it’s hard to read where someone just belittles someone for their own, you know, purposes.”
She added, “Don’t even say the name, I don’t even say the name of the company because I don’t want to give them any more publicity.”
Oakes told WINK News his post wasn’t meant to offend.
“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,” he said.
Gittens isn’t having it. She wants the School District of Lee County to find a way to legally cut ties with Oakes Farms, and that’s not all, “If we can just cut ties because it doesn’t say one way or the other and I know Collier County did so I don’t know why we couldn’t.”
Frank Rincon, director of the Benison Center in Immokalee, didn’t wait to distance himself or his organization from Oakes, who has been helping with food distribution. When Rincon saw the Facebook post, he knew he had to take action – and fast.
“I didn’t sleep all weekend and then not knowing where we were going to move to … it was pretty hectic.”
He found a new partner to help distribute food to those in need: Lipman Farms.
“The people that serve in Immokalee, for the most part, I would say they all serve here not because they have to, but because they want to.”
The School District of Lee County said they are reviewing their contract with Oakes Farms.