Oakes Farms Expands Acreage, Cooling

Oakes Farms Expands Acreage, Cooling

IMMOKALEE, FL — With new acreage, Oakes Farms Inc., is expanding its presence in south Florida’s fall, winter and spring vegetable deals.

The growing and shipping part of the south Florida retail and distributing operation is also enlarging its cooling capacities.

After a long absence, the Naples-based company in 2012 returned to growing with 100 acres of vegetables including bell peppers, cucumbers and squash.

Today, it grows on 768 acres which includes mature greens and vine-ripe tomatoes, eggplants, watermelons as well as organic items.

Last fall, Oakes Farms constructed an 80,000-square-foot cooling operation which expands capacity from four coolers to six.

It is also constructing a tomato repacking building. Oakes doubled its truck bays from six to 12, said Alfie Oakes, founder and chief executive officer.

In the fall, Oakes Farms entered a production partnership with M. D’Ottavio Produce Inc., Vineland, N.J.

The two companies have been doing business for years and the venture should allow each to supply the other product during off-seasons, Oakes said.

The expansions more than double Oakes’ operations which began with retailing and then moved into wholesaling and repacking. It transitioned from primarily selling Florida produce to Northeastern customers to growing its own vegetables.

Total company sales have grown from $2 million with 30 employees in 2008 to more than $100 million and more than 600 workers today, Oakes said.

“It’s been a real crazy growth,” he said. “We are a young, growing company that has a lot of energy. I feel as if our farming operation is still in its infancy. We are an aggressive company and we plan to expand in that area. There is a lot of demand and a lot of room for growth.”

Oakes Farms distributes using more than 70 trucks.

Its 10-acre organic farm grows blueberries, peaches and leafy greens, including kale, which it sells in its seven retail stores.

Fruit Dynamics is its fresh-cut processing division while Oakes Farm repacks tomatoes.

Oakes opened his first retail store in the mid-1990s after leaving cucumber and squash farming following 1989 freezes.

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