These are tough times for Aajonus Vonderplanitz.
Earlier this year, he was kicked out of Rawesome Food Club, the organization he co-founded in Venice, CA, ten years ago, when he objected to the quality of food coming from Sharon Palmer’s Ventura farm. His campaign to discredit her food as having come at least in part from factory sources has mainly served to fuel a huge divide at Rawesome.
I know, there are many Rawesome supporters who feel Vonderplanitz has been such a divisive force that they don’t care if they never hear from him again.
It’s difficult for these people to remember that in many ways, he fathered the current food rights movement that is gathering supporters and influence nearly by the day in response to government outrages. And in some sense, he remains its spiritual guiding force by virtue of his tenacity and special grasp of the legal and political forces at work.
That’s why it was sad to read an email he sent to supporters today in which he bemoaned the sense of humiliation, and even exile, he has experienced in recent days, in the wake of the August 3 government raid on Rawesome.
“On August 4, 2011, I attended the rally and court proceedings. About 80 people attended the protest/rally at the Los Angeles County courthouse regarding the Rawesome Club food-raid. It was a good turnout but no one knew how to organize it or knew what to do to take advantage of the press exposure. About 5 TV networks were there to cover the story. Approximately 25 people remained outside picketing and about 55 people inside. I offered the 4 network TV stations present my comments as President of Right To Choose Healthy Food, since I had built Rawesome. They began to move for taping but when I gave them my name, they refused to receive my comments. Who blacklisted me? Rawesome members or government-controlled media?”
He even felt compelled to deny that he was a turncoat who encouraged the multi-agency raid on Rawesome last week. “I was not privy to the fact that they were going to raid Rawesome again,” he stated.
But he remains the wily resistor, and suggested that James Stewart was out-maneuvered by the government prosecutor when Stewart agreed as part of his bail agrrement to a gag order as well as to not be involved in distributing raw milk. I’m not clear whether Stewart agreed as well to shutter Rawesome–and I can’t ask him to comment officially because he’s under a gag order–although Vonderplanitz says he did, and in the process missed a golden opportunity to become a symbol of resistance:
“When the judge ASKED that if James wanted out on $30,000 bail, would he agree not to handle anyone’s food but his own and close Rawesome, James Stewart agreed.
“Sadly, with all of the cameras rolling and the world watching – the opportunity of a life time for our cause of food-freedom, healthy-food rights and life without disease – we did not have a leader that said, ‘Your honor, I cannot accept your restrictions. There are infants, children, mothers and fathers, entire families as well as individuals who rely on their special food to be healthy and free of allergies and disease. I am simply the manager of Rawesome. Rawesome is owned by its members. I have no authority to close the life-giving food club. Nor would I if I had authority. If you charge me to stay in jail, for them I will do it. Because you don’t supply good food in jail, I choose to hunger-strike until those members who are American citizens can have their food, and you release me.’ ”
I have spoken with farmers who credit Vonderplanitz with “rescuing” them from government shutdown efforts. At this point, I don’t want to name them, for fear in the current climate I would be encouraging the State to come back after them, during this time of Vonderplanitz’s troubles.
Sadly, there’s almost a naivete in Vonderplanitz’s efforts to remind people of his long credentials in supporting food rights, dating back to the late 1960s in support of raw milk, and against Los Angeles campaigns to ban it. He was one of a group of investors to get Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures up and running in 2001, and in 2007 he led a lobbying group that spent several months in Washington trying to persuade senators and representatives to support lifting the ban on interstate sales of raw milk. Its major accomplishment was getting a signed letter from then-Senator Barack Obama affirming the President’s opposition to raw milk; indeed, reading the President’s words (“…the FDA has a responsibility to provide consumer protection.”) in light of the campaign to eliminate raw milk leads me to believe he could well be aware of the current outrages.
The lesson here? Not necessarily that we need unity at all costs. But that it is highly difficult after the fact to repair relationships that are publicly trashed…especially at the time when they are most needed.