The School District of Lee County said it is severing ties with Oakes Farms amid controversy over a Facebook post made by the business owner.
“The School District of Lee County has severed ties with Oakes Farms. The District will soon be working with other suppliers to ensure that fresh fruits and vegetables continue to be provided to our students,” a statement released Thursday said.
The district is the latest to dissociate with Alfie Oakes, owner of Oakes Farms in Collier County, after he 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 “Cut ties with Oakes Farms”.
The Collier County School District said in a statement: “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 to resume meeting our produce needs.”
Protesters who gathered Thursday morning outside the School District of Lee County’s headquarters were glad to hear the district pulled the plug on the contract.
“I wouldn’t want someone being involved or having anything over that has anything to do with our children if that’s how he truly feels,” said Heather Smith.
Felicia Littrell said she’s relieved.
“My fellow protester over here, he made a sign that says ‘racists do not deserve contracts’ and so that’s a big deal for me,” she said.
Protest organizer Lisa Shamma said keeping the contract in place isn’t what the district should stand for.
“Sending the message is a great step in ending systemic racism,” she said.
Oakes said he never received an explanation from the school district in regards to why they cut ties with him.
He told WINK News on Monday that 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.
Frank Rincon, director of the Benison Center in Immokalee, also ended his association with Oakes, finding a new partner to help distribute food to those in need: Lipman Farms.
There will be a protest Saturday at Oakes’ Seed to Table Market on Immokalee Road. The protesters who gathered Thursday at the school district headquarters said they plan to attend.