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Families out of work after Collier commissioners close farmer's market

There's a fight brewing in Collier County. A Golden Gate farmer's market is now closed, forcing entire families out of work.


COLLIER COUNTY, Fla – There's a fight brewing in Collier County. A Golden Gate farmer's market is now closed, forcing entire families out of work.

"This is their bread and butter and now they have no job," said Farmer's Market manager Joey Rakow.

All eight members of the Cruz family work at the Farmer's Market on Saturday at the Golden Gate Community Center. It is their only source of income, and now, it's gone.

Collier commissioners voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday to temporarily ban the market. Commissioner Tom Henning claimed the market hurts nearby store owners and shouldn't be allowed on county owned property. WINK News uncovered, the county allows several other Farmer's Market on its property every week.

"This is the point I don't understand," said Rakov. "The Government Center has one every Friday afternoon on county property and then there's one on Sunday at Sugden Park. Those were not shut down, but we were targeted and I'm just wondering why."

Diego Vasquez lives in Golden Gate. He says he thinks the commissioner has other motives.

"It kind of looks like it's based on something else, kind of like race or something like that," said Vasquez.

Nick Lafakis who owns Niko's Kitchen says because of the ban, he's out hundreds of dollars each week.

"On a normal Saturday we draw in anywhere from $500 to $750," said Lafakis.

Lafakis sells food at the market to get enough capital to eventually get his own storefront for the restaurant and catering business.

"We're trying to help out the community. We're offering a service to a low income community that they desperately need and I can't understand why it would get shutdown," said Lafakis.

Neighbors who frequent the market, like Annie and Skip Riffle don't understand, either.

"I don't think it's fair to them. They work hard for a living, really hard and they're not gypsies. They're human beings earning a living," said Annie Riffle.

The Riffles say the market is affordable and accessible for people in the area living on a low income and closing it, is hurting them too.

"By shutting down this market, he is technically unemploying about 50 people," said Farmer's Market manager Neomi Rakow.

Lafakis tells WINK News with the market closed, he may not turn a profit this year.

"I'll be going without a paycheck four or five months because one market got shutdown," said Lafakis.

Vendors will be holding a peaceful protest at Golden Gate Community Park at 9 a.m. on Saturday. County Commissioners will vote on the issue at their next meeting on February 10th.

WINK News tried contacting Commissioner Henning for comment, but did not hear back from his office.

BY NICOLE PAPAGEORGE