Okay, let’s go through this one more time. The three people associated with Rawesome Food Club were arrested today “on criminal conspiracy charges stemming from the alleged illegal production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese and other products,” according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.  

There’s nothing that I’ve been able to find about fraud or misrepresentation in connection with selling chickens. There’s nothing about libel or defamation. If those charges do show up, then they’ll have to be dealt with.

James Stewart, manager of Rawesome Food Club, on the job in happier times. (Photo by Jennifer Sharpe)According to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, in the action today against Rawesome manager James Stewart, farmer Sharon Palmer, and Palmer associate Victoria Bloch Coulter, “The issue seems to be the club’s use of a herdshare or boarding agreement for its dairy goats.: It’s thus the latest in a string of enforcement actions against herdshare arrangements in California…except in the other cases, the herdshares were hit with non-judicial cease-and-desist orders, and in this case, those involved were arrested with bail recommended or set at between $60,000 and $123,000, according to the FTCLDF.   

What I’m getting at here is that the stuff in the web site Milk Farmer linked to so far has nothing to do with this case. To get wrapped up in that stuff is to get distracted from what’s really happening here: an armada of local, state, and federal agencies, led by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are coming after private food organizations with the intent of intimidating the members and depriving them of their food. The apparently significant amounts of food that were confiscated Wednesday belonged to the members. It’s food that can’t be replicated in any supermarket, including that of Whole Foods, which is just down the street from Rawesome.

I’ll add that I am familiar with a good deal of the circumstances surrounding the “Unhealthy” site put up by Aajonus Vonderplanitz. I have spoken with Sharon Palmer and Vonderplanitz about it, along with a number of others. And I’ll tell you, I don’t know what to make of it, which is why I haven’t written about it. It strikes me as a classic he-said-she-said situation.

What I think doesn’t matter a great deal. Much more important, the 2,000-plus members of Rawesome are familiar with the situation. Last fall, Vonderplanitz invited members to review the investigative report about Sharon Palmer that is posted on the site. From what I understand, Palmer sued Vonderplanitz for misrepresenting her on the site, and an agreement was reached out of court whereby Vonderplanitz would remove the site…which obviously hasn’t happened yet.

The larger point here is that the charges and counter-charges should generally be matters for the members to handle. People join food clubs in large measure to have some say and control over their food choices. If someone screws up in handling things, as may have happened at Rawesome, then it’s up to the members to either change the club’s approach–perhaps change suppliers–or quit the club and find another that seems better. The lesson is NOT, as Concerned Person says, to get the government involved to “protect” us poor little helpless people. We’ve had way more of their regulatory protection than we need, and look where it’s taken us–to the point where they are stealing our food. (Certainly, if there were crimes committed either involving  food contamination or handling of finances, then law enforcement should investigate or become involved.) All the while, a corporation like Cargill makes dozens of people sick for months with bad ground turkey, and goes its merry way without even a recall.

Victoria Bloch Coulter selling eggs from Sharon Palmer’s farm at a Los Angeles area farmers market. (Photo by Jennifer Sharpe)From what I understand, not many members have dropped out of Rawesome, though I don’t have exact figures. The disagreements apparently drove James Stewart and Aajonus Vonderplanitz, the co-founders of Rawesome, to split up, and Vonderplanitz went off to help start a new club…which is just as it should be in a country that supposedly allow freedom of association. It should be noted that Vonderplanitz sent out an email early Thursday asking Rawesome members to appear at the arraignment and make a claim for their food. He is also organizing a rally before the arraignment, at 7:30 a.m.–all to be held at 210 West Temple, Division 30, in Los Angeles, the site of the arraigment, which is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

The law enforcement and regulator types likely aren’t caught up in the background I just related, however. They are mainly focused on depriving us of our food choices, and thus of our food rights.

The good news out of all this is that the matter of herdshares and private food associations might well come before a California judge. It doesn’t help to let unfortunate infighting within Rawesome distract us from the issues at hand, and those are very serious. The best thing food rights supporters can do is show up tomorrow at the arraigment of Stewart, Palmer, and Coulter, and let the authorities know the people are watching.