“We are militantly organic. Every single solitary item in Food and Thought is organically grown. We refuse any product labeled ‘all natural’.”
R.I.P. organic farmer Frank Oakes, founder of Food and Thought, Naples, Florida.
Frank Oakes was one of the most important people in my life, even though I had only known Frank for a few years and not real well at that. For me, Frank ranks in importance with Joel Salatin, Mary Enig, Sally Fallon, Nina Planck, Michael Pollan and Joe Robinson in terms off the food we eat and healthy living in general.
Just a few days before Frank died, I had a chance to visit with him at Food and Thought. Debbie and I were in Naples to visit Matt and Allison and to be part of what turned out to be a jam-packed Cato Institute policy get-together. I had a Cato pin on my lapel, and Frank, a very Libertarian sort of gentleman, came over for a chat, as was his norm throughout the day with the thousands of Frank Oakes supporters. Frank was nothing short of a Johnny Appleseed, loved and admired by everybody. Not used to seeing me in a sport’s coat, Frank teased me about looking like an IRS agent there for an audit. The next day, Debbie, Matt, and I were sitting at a table near the door when Frank came over to chat. He told us a quick story about Florida Governor Rick Scott and his wife prior to Frank knowing anything about Rick’s run for governor. A rare stormy day in Naples had created a bit of a shuffle in Food and Thought, and Rick and Mrs. Scott quickly offered their seats so those coming in from the rain could find seating. Frank spoke warmly of Rick Scott, who would soon become Florida’s governor.
Outside the store, Frank showed me beautiful, huge heads of organic lettuce and cabbage, explaining that one of the five acres of his Naples farm was devoted to lettuce and that he could harvest as much as 48,000 heads per planting. If he wished, he even could get five plantings a year. Flaps down, that’s about a quarter of million heads of lettuce, or enough to feed Collier County. Frank told me that all the yak about not being able to feed the world organically was just so much bull. For years, I have seen the veritable mountain of fresh produce laid out at Food and Thought and was shocked to find that such abundance came from only five acres.
Largely due to Frank’s influence, Debbie and I have a slightly more modest organic garden operation on our mini plot (raised beds and pots) here in Key West. We are not quite up to speed with Frank, but we continue to try hard and to learn. Even on our small scale, it’s quite a bit of fun to daily harvest vegetables from our own garden. Quite healthy as well.
Matt and Allison visited Frank often. Yesterday, Allison sent Debbie an email with the news: “So sad. I need to tell the kids. Emma (10 years old) drew pictures for him over the years and wants to work there or on his farm when she’s older. It has been a great family place for us. He was a true patriot and contributed in so many ways to improving people’s minds and bodies.” As Matt said, Frank was such a good guy who cheerfully disdained the same b.s. we all do.
So, thank you Frank Oakes for all you taught my whole family. We’ve learned a lot from you. And in coming years, we will all continue to stop at Food and Thought every chance we get.