Oakes Farms buys Pacific Collier Fresh Packinghouse

Oakes Farms buys Pacific Collier Fresh Packinghouse

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Oakes Farms Inc. is expanding packing operations by purchasing a longtime Immokalee packinghouse.

On June 15, the grower-shipper of vegetables took possession of the dormant Pacific Collier Fresh Co., packing operation that closed in 2011.

The building adds 70,000 square feet of capacity and during the summer, Oakes Farms plans to renovate the building and relocate the company’s farming offices from across the road.

The operation packed bell peppers and squash and since closing was used by Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Companies Inc.

Oakes Farms outgrew its older line and plans to pack bell peppers and specialty peppers on the new line and pack tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and other items in the older building.

The company also plans to install new packing machinery and the equipment can pack 1,000 bins a day compared to the 300 bins a day the company’s older line handled, said Alfie Oakes, founder and CEO.

The new building includes seven refrigeration units which gives Oakes Farms 11 coolers and between the two buildings, the company can operate from enough cold storage to ship up to 200 loads a day, he said.

Oakes declined to state the purchase price.

Oakes Farms also increased acreage from around 1,000 acres last season to 1,500 acres.

Last fall, the firm entered a farming partnership with M. D’Ottavio Produce Inc., in Vineland, N.J., and to help supply summer product, is considering forming grower partnerships in Georgia and the Carolinas, Oakes said.

“Our immediate goal is to broaden our customer base by increasing the quality of our products, closing gaps and having a continuous supply of products from the beginning to the end of the Florida season,” he said. “This past season, we had such a huge growth from the previous season. I’m overwhelmed and amazed by how far the company has grown in the last 10 years.”

Oakes Farms also plans to construct an employee gym in the building and expects to begin operations at the new facility by early fall.

In the past, Pacific Collier Fresh’s owners, the Barron Collier Cos., shared ownership with Palmetto-based Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd.

Oakes Farms is a grower, shipper, repacker, tomato repacker, wholesaler, fresh-cut processor and retailer.

Two decades ago, Oakes bought products from Pacific Collier Fresh before leaving farming after 1989 freezes destroyed production.

Oakes later opened a retail store in Naples and then moved into wholesaling and repacking.

He recently expanded from brokering and selling to growing and shipping his own vegetables.

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