The Oakes Farms produce stand tradition continued for decades under grandpa Oakes’ watchful eye until his son Frank relocated operations to East Ft. Myers in 1976. Frank and his children ran the new produce stand for 10 years before relocating to Naples where Frank opened several open-air produce markets around Collier County.
Fascinated by the character of farmers he’d met as a child, Frank’s teenage son Alfie opened a wholesale produce business in Immokalee, and began farming in Charlotte County until a debilitating frost destroyed his crops in 1989.
Young and ambitious, Alfie traveled to Honduras where he established connections with local farmers and brokered a deal to import tomatoes to Florida. Over the next eight years, Alfie traveled around the country brokering deals for farmers. During that time he also expanded his wholesale business in Immokalee and began to farm again.
In 1998, Alfie took a hiatus from farming to run the retail produce store on Davis Boulevard while Frank explored a new hobby: organic farming.
Alfie’s wholesale business continued to flourish, and in 2000 he purchased five trucks and began shipping produce to clients in the Northeast.
In 2005, Alfie forged a long-lasting business relationship with Incredible Fresh and was able to procure better quality raw product for its large suppliers than the company’s current national provider. This steady and growing volume helped Alfie quickly grow the wholesale side of the business.
During this period, Frank’s passion for 100 percent all organic farming consumed his focus and blossomed from a hobby into a profitable business with a very loyal client base. He sold his organic produce at several markets including Oakes Organics, Nature’s Garden and Pine Ridge. Frank’s amiable and passionate personality allowed him to quickly become a local personality and expert in organic and sustainable gardening. His knowledge and influence made him an advocate for better standards in nutrition and a much sought after speaker and organic gardening consultant.
In 2005, Frank opened Food & Thought, a militantly organic produce market, juice bar, restaurant, and retail health food store in the heart of Naples. The store quickly became a hub for anyone looking for a healthy lifestyle in Naples.
Alfie was also making a name for himself on the wholesale side of the business and by 2007 he was brokering all of Fruit Dynamic’s products. Then in 2009, Alfie was at the right place at the right time when he purchased a 10-acre foreclosed farm on the courthouse steps. It included a greenhouse and aquatic farm.
In 2011, Alfie purchased interest in Fruit Dynamics and a year later became its sole owner. But Alfie’s most significant investment came in 2012 when he convinced his father’s partner to sell out to him. Frank continued to oversee operations at Food & Thought, while Alfie made sure the organic produce was delivered daily.
The community’s heartbreak when Frank suddenly passed in 2013 helped Alfie recognize the true impact and value of his father’s work. He also realized that many of the same principles that compelled his father also drive him in life and business.
As the head of the family and business, Alfie is committed to keeping his father’s spirit alive and intends to innovate and diversify the company’s services based on the needs of its discerning wholesale partners, the growing food service industry and its ever-loyal retail and restaurant clients.
In 2014, Oakes Farms added aquaponics farming of shrimp and tilapia to its menu of services. A year later, the farm began to raise chickens in order to harvest eggs for sale through its retail stores.
In the coming years, Oakes Farms plans to expand its Seed to Table educational outreach program and build a large retail market in northern Collier County.