Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You and Abandon Rawesome


There are lots of people who justifiably wish all the conflict and legal stuff associated with Rawesome Food Club would just go away. Even those who are sympathetic wish it weren’t so messy.

If only Sharon Palmer wasn’t involved. If only Aajonus Vonderplanitz hadn’t gone public with his accusatory web site. If only James Stewart weren’t so loyal to Palmer. If only…if only…

In going through such mental calisthenics, it’s easy to lose sight that the government–it’s hard to say which agency or locale because so many different entities have participated in the get-Rawesome campaign–is determined to throw the book at everyone involved. And that’s the part that is essential to remember.

Why would they be going after felony violations in connection with the allegedly illegal distribution of raw milk? Why would they be filing several dozen felony counts against Palmer and Stewart in California’s Ventura County in connection with mortgages and loans in connection with Palmer’s acquisition of the farm, when there are much less painful remedies?

The fraud-related charges against Palmer, as well as James Stewart and Larry Otting, aren’t the result of a devious effort by some to pocket investors’ money and get rich. They grow out of an effort to develop a local farm that would produce organic nutrient-dense foods. The process of raising the money was not unlike effprts that take place all around America every day, commonly known as “informal” or “angel” financing.

Organic Pastures Dairy Co., for one, benefited from such informal financing when it became a raw dairy producer in 2001, as owner Mark McAfee noted in a recent comment: “As I hear people and see people picking up stones and throwing them on the souls of Lucky (Larry Otting) and James….I remember well the beginning days of OPDC when the bank would not loan us a dime because we were producing raw milk. Alta Dena had just closed its doors after years of raw milk torment…James and Lucky deserve credit for raw milk being available in CA. It was their assistance that made it possible.”

I’m not saying that certain technical rules around mortgages and fund-raising weren’t violated in the case of Palmer-Stewart-Otting, but they weren’t of a sort to justify potential state-prison sentences of thirty-plus years for Palmer and Stewart. (Palmer remains jailed as of this moment under the $500,000 bail.) Nor am I suggesting that individuals who loaned money weren’t damaged in not getting their money repaid in a timely way.

Just keep in mind that, unlike most serious frauds, the alleged perpetrators haven’t left town. Indeed, Palmer has retained contact with the borrowers. Nor is this any kind of Ponzi scheme. There are real assets to cover the loans–the Healthy Family Farms property is located in one of America’s wealthiest counties, and my understanding is that it may well have appreciated in value since Palmer took it over in 2008. It is possible to file civil suits and liens to gain financial redress.

Keep in mind as well that Aajonus Vonderplanitz, one of Rawesome’s founders, went to the authorities to file a complaint about his allegation that Palmer was substituting conventional food for organic nutrient-dense food for Rawesome, and in his judgment jeopardizing members’ health. The authorities ignored him, probably laughed once he departed. That’s because the authorities don’t consider such outsourcing a serious matter–they definitely don’t see any health problems associated with consuming lots of conventional food. 

So why, then, are the authorities throwing the book at Palmer and Stewart over the mortgage and loans? For the same reason they did so about distribution of raw milk. First of all, they want to scare away those who may be thinking of setting up a similar kind of farm, with a goal of producing raw-milk cheese, which is how Palmer’s farm started. Next, they want to create confusion in the food movement, via a divide-and-conquer strategy. And finally, they want to assert control, discourage privately contracted food arrangements.

Those of us who believe in food rights don’t need to support everyone involved in the Rawesome situation. Just don’t turn away from the situation. If the individuals here, who took big risks to supply nutrient-dense foods to people seeking them, are locked up, it will cast a pall over the entire food rights movement. The authorities are picking and choosing our battles to an important degree. We can’t make it easier for them.


As you might imagine, I’m relieved that the blog move came off as smoothly as it did. The developers told me not to worry, piece of cake, but I’ve heard that one a few times before.  I appreciate the favorable comments a number of you have posted.  And hopefully those few who ran into glitches are getting them straightened away. Please feel free to send along suggestions for improvement to Andrew Ward, the webmaster (

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45 Comments on "Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You and Abandon Rawesome"

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mark mcafee
March 16, 2012 4:01 pm

If any one knows of some one that is feeling humanitarian…..Sharon Palmer needs someone to post her bond colateral. It would seem to me that some one in LA that was her consumer would be the right person.

joelie hicks
March 16, 2012 4:52 pm

Because I don’t know anyone personally in the Rawsome case, it is hard to judge. This expresses the situation perfectly. Thank you.

joelie hicks
March 16, 2012 4:53 pm

Sorry i do not know how to change the post to my name. I will sign after this.
Joelie Hicks

Amanda Rose
March 16, 2012 5:04 pm

If the hand that feeds you was selling you conventionally produced eggs at a premium when you thought they were something else, you need to find another hand to feed you.

I posted a picture as my avatar as a reminder about why I get so ticked over all of this. I care what I feed the child in the picture (and even another child not pictured). Pictured in the background is my five acres in the Sequoia National Forest. “Know you farmer” has become difficult here in California. My mantra: Become your farmer.

For those concerned that outsourcing issues are causing division, I invite you to close ranks and give the outsourcers some treatment from the inside.


Amanda Rose
March 16, 2012 5:19 pm

Joelie — Go to “My Account” in the top right, then click on the “edit” tab which is on the left near the top. That should allow you to add your name.

mark mcafee
March 16, 2012 5:20 pm

Great new format…excellent job David…love it.

In the classic style of pro-con and con-pro and mostly biased-con….The San Jose Murcery News covered raw milk on its cover today. The story emphasized the recent CDC study that concluded that raw milk is sooooo dangerous and pasteurized milk is sooooo safe. They never mentioned anything about CA raw milk standards or testing. Nothing…not a thing. Never mentioned that 1600 people were sickened in 2006 from pasteurized milk!!! Makes me nauseated.

The CDC study was so biased that it was clear on its face that it was erroneous. The CDC counted numbers of outbreaks and not numbers of illnesses…..and then…cherry picked the dates and data to avoid the 50 deaths from the Jalisco Cheese incident in 1985 and the 3 deaths from Whittier Farms in 2007…all from pasteurized super-guaranteed safe by the FDA dairy products. They fail to mention that “just one of the outbreaks” from pasteurized guaranteed-safe FDA gloried dead milk….sickened more than 190,000 consumers in one fell swoop.

I am sure that this news will stimulate the seekers of truth and our markets will again grow and grow. It was great that several strong raw milk consumers were quoted including Christine Chessen.

mark mcafee
March 16, 2012 5:25 pm

The use of a picture of yourself next to your post really humanizes all the comments…yes….there is a real human behind the words that are written. That matters to me. For anyone that is interested….that is my granson James at 18 months old after his first airplane ride. He has been drinking OPDC raw milk since 6 months old.

He thrives! He is never sick.

Kristen P
March 16, 2012 6:51 pm

I get frustrated with the argument, grow your own, milk your own, become your farmer.
That may be possible in your neck of the woods but I cannot keep a chicken on a patio, or can I? Surely not a goat, and I can grow a limited amount of food. But it’s easy to say grow your own when you have the means to do so. What about the millions of us living in cities?

I live in an apartment in the middle of the city. I did used to buy from Palmer. I currently buy from many other farmers now whom I trust.

TRUST. I keep going back to that word. Why should I support a farmer and a food provider (James) I didn’t trust? What if the hand that fed me BIT ME?

This is a picture of my children. Besides being a mom and feeding my family well, my other passion is photography.

Kristen P
March 16, 2012 6:53 pm

great picture, Mark.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 16, 2012 6:58 pm

“If the individuals here, who took big risks to supply nutrient-dense foods to people seeking them, are locked up, it will cast a pall over the entire food rights movement. ”

David, what risks did they take to supply the foods? Small farmers supply food to people, including raw milk without problems all the time.

“If the hand that feeds you was selling you conventionally produced eggs at a premium when you thought they were something else, you need to find another hand to feed you. ”

Amanda is so right. Honesty, integrity and ethics will keep the food rights movement strong. Word of mouth is very strong and with the internet, regarding those who do fraudulent actions, their reputations with precede them. Those who cheat, lie, etc will eventually fade away, people will stop buying from them.

Kristen P
March 16, 2012 7:02 pm
Kristen P
March 16, 2012 7:08 pm

“‘If the hand that feeds you was selling you conventionally produced eggs at a premium when you thought they were something else, you need to find another hand to feed you.’

Amanda is so right. Honesty, integrity and ethics will keep the food rights movement strong. Word of mouth is very strong and with the internet, regarding those who do fraudulent actions, their reputations with precede them. Those who cheat, lie, etc will eventually fade away, people will stop buying from them.”


Kristen P
March 16, 2012 7:08 pm

David, you really need to stop writing about Rawesome. It is clear from whom you get your information and that it is clearly biased. It’s not Black and White, support them unequivocally or else you don’t support the small farmer/food to table movement. How reductionist of you.

March 16, 2012 8:08 pm

please keep us updated on developments with the Rawsome case. How about a jail-house interview with Sharon Palmer? And Aajonus vonderPlanetiz, too.

“He that is first in his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him” : meaning, the Prosecutor blazed to the skies, nation-wide, how bad they are, … now let’s hear the other side of the story from the mouths of the Accused

Deborah - Pacifica
March 16, 2012 8:11 pm

Dave – I really appreciate your continued updates about the Rawsome situation. There is definitely no other source to get the real information from and I for one truly feel that your information is NOT biased. I think all of your previous journalism speaks for itself. I do know many people that have participated with Rawsome for many years & they do not have the same opinions of James & Sharon that a few here have. Their observations & experiences differ very greatly that these few here. It is them & you that I appreciate all the updates & information from. Thank you for what you do.

March 17, 2012 12:37 am

Why don’t you start a bake sale or something for her, Mark.

mark mcafee
March 17, 2012 4:11 am

A bake sale for Sharon…interesting. That would need to be one huge mega grand bake sale. She needs $500,000 cookies sold at $1 each. The entire Girl Scout regional effort does not do this much.

No person deserves to be in jail for a food related issue….there have been no illnesses. Someone does not want Sharon free….In my book of karma, jail is inhumane and barbaric….not to mention brutal and medieval. Jail is a hold over from the times of kings and feudal lords that used fear of god, public floggings and be headings as a method to keep the minions paying taxes and indentured and scared.

March 17, 2012 3:17 pm

That’s the pot calling the kettle black!

Amanda Rose
March 17, 2012 3:17 pm

With the blog switch over, the OPDC outbreak report passed us by. Bill Marler posted it:—organic-pastures-raw-milk-linked-to-2001-e-coli-outbreak/

At the time of the outbreak I was struck by Mark McAfee’s press comments that left over product from all households had been tested. I asked him point blank about this issue in December in the comments here:

I was surprised by the claim because it is unusual for any product to be left over. The probability of having leftover product in four households would approach zero.

The state report clarifies. There was product left from one family and it was apparently a month old and cultured into kefir. My concern is that the “all products were tested and were pathogen-free” in the 2011 case will become the new urban legend, comparable to the “it was spinach” in 2006.

Families cannot make informed decisions if they are given incorrect information.


March 17, 2012 3:18 pm

In reference to Kristen’s comment: “David, you really need to stop writing about Rawesome. It is clear from whom you get your information and that it is clearly biased. It’s not Black and White, support them unequivocally or else you don’t support the small farmer/food to table movement. How reductionist of you.”

That’s the pot calling the kettle black!

Deborah - Pacifica
March 17, 2012 5:41 pm

Came across this very interesting link & wanted to share it:
Here is a pediatric physician, Lindy Woodard MD, who is a raw milk advocate & prescribes raw milk for her patients. She has been running an alternative practice for over 12 yrs and has seen the significant improvement in her patients when consuming raw milk. There is also a video at this link that is very informative & extremely interesting.

Deborah - Pacifica
March 17, 2012 6:02 pm

Oh my gosh, I just came across a great quote about raw milk & the so called law authorities: “raw milk is like sex…you can give it away, but you just can’t pay for it”!!!

Kristen P
March 17, 2012 7:30 pm

Thanks for banning my comments on your blog and FB page, AM. At least we can still “debate” on Gumpert’s blog.

I spoke with as many people on both sides as I could, including Palmer herself. If you are looking into fraud, you don’t just go right to the source, or the source’s supporters for all of your information, because what are they apt to tell you, AnnMarie?

Kristen P
March 17, 2012 7:32 pm
Amanda Rose
March 17, 2012 7:43 pm

“raw milk is like sex…you can give it away, but you just can’t pay for it”


Kristen P
March 17, 2012 7:49 pm

Time and time again, David, you dismiss potential outsourcing and fraud as trivial when compared to “the movement” or “food rights”. As Sylvia said, the fraudsters eventually fade away when people catch on to their scams and stop buying from them. In fact, a market administrator voiced this same opinion to me recently. Their business suffers to the degree that they are no longer able to make it to market.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 17, 2012 8:24 pm

“You better know what pathogens could be in the milk and what could result,” said McGonigle-Martin. “If you can’t name those diseases and illnesses, then you shouldn’t be making the choice.”

I have heard others state words similar to Mary’s. Couldn’t this be said about any food, water, environment? There was a time I had no clue what pathogens could be in lunch meats, yet I consumed them, same goes for fast/processed foods, as with home canning. Potential contamination is always present.

Deborah - Pacifica
March 17, 2012 10:42 pm

I’ll take one of those T-shirts!!! Where do I sign up, lol!

Bryan - oz4caster
March 17, 2012 11:52 pm

David, your logic makes perfect sense to me. The prosecutors could care less about any possible fraud, but are out to strike fear in anyone who might try to build a food production and delivery system like the one attempted by Rawsome. And how can they get away with posting a $500,000 bail bond for a case like this? That seems absurdly high to me. The possible fraud issue should be handled separately by consumers, with possible legal action if necessary.

Mary McGonigle-Martin
March 18, 2012 1:06 am

Sylvia, tell me another food that is marketed to infants and children as a cure all for all that ails them?

Mary McGonigle-Martin
March 18, 2012 1:12 am

Yes Amanda, the same nonsense as the first outbreak. Mark can’t help himself. He has a pathological lying problem. Most narcissists do.

Mary McGonigle-Martin
March 18, 2012 1:21 am

Mark, the story was written by someone that drinks raw milk. Maybe after talking to a few people that aren’t in the McAfee/WAPF camp, she has a more well-rounded education about raw milk and the risks that are involved. Geez, the outbreaks keep happening Oh, I forgot. The new spin is not the number of outbreaks, but the number of illnesses. Why bother looking at the reality that most raw milk operations are small therefore the number of illnesses will be small compared to a contaminated mass produced food sold across the US.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 18, 2012 2:42 am

There is no such thing as a “cure all” for anything. Baby formula is marketed as “healthy”, with all the chemicals it is toxic.

Kristen P
March 18, 2012 2:48 am

That’s the classic pot calling the kettle black argument, AnnMarie, as expertly referenced here by Emilee:

Oh, the irony!

Luke T
March 20, 2012 7:23 pm

Kristen, do you then agree that a 40 year sentence is appropriate?

Kristen P
March 20, 2012 8:22 pm

I don’t know what an appropriate act of the justice system would be. For sure they are not on trial for the outsourcing I suspect did happen at some point. They are on trial for real estate loan fraud in Ventura and all the raw milk stuff in LA. I just hope that the evidence the DAs office supposedly has relating to outsourced chicken and eggs is made public at some point.

Natural Law Remedy
March 29, 2012 11:46 pm

First, those who have awakened to tyranny but don’t know what to do about it, here is a legal theory: Disobedience is the proper and recommended remedy to any law that is arbitrary, unreasonable, or unjust under natural law which is the foundation upon which the Constitution is based. See video “How to Disobey Unjust Laws”

Second, while raw milk can be regulated, it cannot be prohibited. The Supreme Court of Nevada said:

“In order to prohibit the prosecution of the trade altogether, the injury to the public which furnishes the justification for such a law must proceed from the inherent character of the business. … no trade can be prohibited altogether, unless the evil is inherent in the character of the trade. … The government, under the guise of regulation, cannot prohibit or destroy.” Marymont v. Banking Board, 33 Nev. 333, 351-352 (1910).

From the book “The LAWFUL Remedy to Tyranny,”

A threat to public health is not inherent in the character of raw milk, states safely regulate it without a problem. Government cannot prohibit it.

g gardner
March 30, 2012 4:41 am

I have been drinking your milk for 3 years now and drink 1.5 to 2 gallons a week and have never been sick. Even if I did get sick I would still continue to drink it. So thanks for getting it out there. In response to Sharon I think if she substituted eggs with conventional ones thats unacceptable for people that thrive on the purest non soy/corn based diet they can find. I guess what goes around comes around for some.

March 31, 2012 4:02 pm

Just started to follow this blog. Very excited to help small farmer’s produce the must nutrient dense food possible.

g gardner
March 31, 2012 5:40 pm

The rawsome debacle means the new food clubs have to have some type of legal right to have their own farm ,raise their own cows, raise their own chickens grow their own food … I mean the members arent buying the food they are actually hands on raising and growing the food. So basically cut out the food supplier because the members are the food suppliers.
SO could someone help me with this. If you have a cow on your property and store the milk at what point is it considered retail vs private consumption .

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
March 31, 2012 10:59 pm

I believe with the food clubs, you pay the farmer for their produce. The middleman is eliminated entirely. Sometimes you give the farmer money ahead of growing season so that the farmer can grow and harvest the food for you. The produce/farm is not opened to just anyone, you have to be a member. It is a private agreement between you and the farmer.

With a cow-share you own part or all of the cow. You are paying the farmer to care for your cow which includes milking, no different if you were boarding your race horse on a farm…you pay extra for the farmer to care for the horse and yes, sometimes the mares need milking if the foal has issues. Again the cow-share is not opened to just anyone it is a private agreement between you and the farmer.

I’m sure others can explain it better.

April 1, 2012 12:33 am

“…. at what point is it considered retail vs private consumption?” Two years ago, at the hearing of the Health Authority court case to run our cowshare out of operation, our Agister put that very question to the judge. It was and remains the crux of the whole thing. Her High~and~Mightyness Mirian Gropper, Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, didn’t deign to answer.
but the REAL MILK is flowing today, in BC, because we figured out that the anti-dote to collectivism ( quaintly called by simpletons : ‘social-ism”) is, asserting our right to use and enjoy our private property

June 7, 2012 1:20 am

We have several different issues at play here. One is the unjust government harrassment of producers, sellers, and re-sellers of the kinds of real food many of us rely upon for nutrition. The ongoing imprisonment of Sharon Palmer, the obscene bail amounts, and the recurring imprisonment and atrocious treatment of James Stewart in the most recent incarceration are very wrong indeed. The very reasons that these actions are being taken against them are actually an attack on all of our basic freedoms and rights.
To my deep chagrin however both James Stewart and Sharon Palmer violated my trust and defrauded and stole from me by selling me chicken and eggs which I would never have bought at any price, let alone the grossly inflated one that I paid because of the feeling of trust and friendship which the genuinely personable Mr. James Stewart engenders. I understand why so many can not bring themselves to believe that James Stewart and Sharon Palmer defrauded those of us who purchased chicken and eggs from Rawesome in good faith. The facts about this are the most significant piece of information we have as a reference on the character of these individuals.
On the other hand, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, weird name and extreme dietary beliefs notwithstanding, has been a long-time fighter for the rights of people to choose real, unadulterated food if they believe it is what is best for them. It is because of Aajonus V. that raw milk is ostensibly legal to buy for human consumption here in California. I am not a primal raw fooder (more of a Weston Price convert personally) however I have observed that Aajonus is the one who fought in the courts, for my right to have raw, pasture-fed milk and he is passionate about food quality standards. Aajonus claims that he tried to resolve his concerns about the source of the eggs and chicken with James for months and that James dismissed him and treated him like a troublesome crank. Finally Aajonus put the matter before the Rawesome membership to allow them to review the information and decide what they wanted to do about it. I was buying food from Rawesome because I care about health. The principle of honest representation of the product I was paying top dollar for is more important than the cult of personality or ‘loyalty” to a “friend” who was personally profiting by selling me commercial grade filth with a hug and repeated reassurance that it was the highest quality food to be had.
I do not see this as a “pissing contest” between two business owners. James Stewart and Sharon Palmer committed fraud against their customers… if many of their customers will go to any lengths not to believe that… that is their business, until they use Mike Adams and Alex Jones to misrepresent the whole issue by attempting to character assassinate Aajonus V by inference. Their misplaced sense of moral outrage is what really jeopardizes the future of real food availability. This plays right into the hands of the “divide and conquer” power brokers.
Stand up against the tyrannically unjust charges, bail amounts, jail sentences, abuse in incarceration which have been used against Sharon Palmer and James Stewart because these injustices are directed at our Bill of Rights. Stop insisting that Sharon and/or James are some kind of heroes because they cynically ignored their personal responsibility to their customers, food rights activists who were relying on them to operate from the highest integrity as food providers. They may well be victims but I do not agree that they are heroes.

g gardner
June 7, 2012 2:38 am

My respect and believing mike adams is no more. His ability to get alex jones to post the article on alex jones website made me lose all credibility adams. I believe there is more to the egg fraud than he reported in his article and hope to see it surface at some point in the near future.if the raw milk movement takes a hit I would blame adams and rag type journalism attempted takedown of a.v.
I totally agree with your comment.