In Death As In Life, Controversy Follows Aajonus Vonderplanitz


Aajonus VonderplanitzFood rights activist Aajonus Vonderplanitz died in Thailand yesterday, and the circumstances of his demise reflect the way he lived–on the edge and shrouded in mystery and controversy.    


The 66-year-old nutritionist was, in some ways, the father of the food rights movement, having fought, often nearly alone, on various fronts over the last 15 years–in Los Angeles, in Washington DC, and in states around the country for legalization of raw milk sales and the rights of farmers to sell nutrient-dense food privately. It was his farm lease and food club models that were the basis of the arrangements used by Vernon Hershberger in Wisconsin and Alvin Schlangen in Minnesota. Those arrangements and a half dozen others were the common thread linking government legal assaults on farmers over the last half dozen years, described in my book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights. Vonderplanitz’s agreements, formed under the auspices of a nonprofit organization he put together known as Right to Choose Healthy Food, mostly stood up well to the legal assaults. 


But Vonderplanitz seemed to be followed by controversy, never more so than when he went after his old partner in arms, James Stewart,  who launched the first Vonderplanitz-conceived private food club: Rawesome Food Club in Venice, CA., back in 2003 and 2004. Vonderplanitz began his assault on his former partner in October 2010, a few months after the initial government raid on Rawesome, accusing Stewart and a farmer who supplied Rawesome, Sharon Palmer, of misrespresenting eggs her farm supplied the food club. 


Eventually, Vonderplanitz would go to the Ventura County District Attorney with his allegations, put up a web site to show off supposed evidence he had against Palmer,  and also file a civil suit against Stewart and Palmer. He abandoned the civil suit a few months ago, coming to a settlement that provided for him to take down the web site. He insisted after the settlement that he had additional evidence and allegations that he wanted to make public against Palmer. 


His seeming obsession with endlessly lashing out at Stewart and Palmer alienated many food rights supporters, and reportedly damaged his nutrition business. He advocated raw foods of all sorts as a means to fight disease and maintain health, and traveled around the U.S. and various parts of the world holding get-togethers where he would teach about his raw food concepts and diet. 

He grew up Richard Swigart, and changed his name in his early twenties. He also said he grew up autistic, and credited raw milk and carrot juice, consumed on the advice of a friend, with helping unshackle him from the effects of the condition. 


Vonderplanitz died in a rural area of Thailand where he had a home, about three-and-a-half hours from Bangkok. According to close friend Larry Otting, Vonderplanitz was seriously injured a few days ago when he stepped out onto a second-story balcony on the house, and it collapsed or a railing collapsed. Vonderplanitz broke his back, and was taken to a local hospital where he was placed in traction. He was in such intense pain that he accepted pain-killing medication, and shortly after, went into a coma and died. 


Otting is planning to travel to Thailand to retrieve Vonderplanitz’s body and bring it back to the U.S. Vonderplanitz has a son, whom Otting said was unable to make the trip. 


While he’s there, Otting says he plans “to investigate the balcony. It was strange that it just gave way like that.” 


Vonderplanitz related frequent tales about mysterious attempts on his life–he figured government or private corporate-hired agents working to derail his food rights activities were behind the efforts. In one episode a few years ago, he said he was tied to his bed in a hotel room in the Philippines while agents injected him with various toxic substances. In another last year, he said an auto he was driving in Thailand was sabotaged, causing it to roll over into a swamp; he and his girlfriend barely escaped from the car before they would have drowned, in his telling. 


Ironically, Vonderplanitz was in Thailand in part because of yet another legal controversy. According to Otting, Vonderplanitz was helping Otting pursue a legal action against a Thai woman whom Otting had purchased a machine to make coconut cream. The woman had failed to deliver the machine after Otting and a group of investors had issued her a check for $5,000, he alleges. 


Otting told me that Vonderplanitz didn’t have a direct interest in acquiring the coconut machine–it was being acquired by a business group Otting was involved with that wanted to produce a coconut cream sorbet. Vonderplanitz “was just a good guy. He was trying to get us a machine.” The machine uses the milk from coconuts to produce a creamier thicker  product than coconut milk. 


Not surprisingly, reactions to Vonderplanitz’s death among food rights supporters varied widely. James Stewart, who adopted some of Vonderplanitz’s dietary recommendations to turn around various health problems he had had, said he had written Vonderplanitz an encouraging note earlier when he was hospitalized. After learning of Vonderplanitz’s death, Stewart wondered if his former colleague “had pushed the karmic envelope” in the controversy over Sharon Palmer. “If he does get reincarnated, he’ll come back and do a better job.” 


Otting said that Vonderplanitz “saved my life. I was headed downhill healthwise back in 1998. Using his diet, instead of losing wight and wasting away, I put on about thirty pounds.” Otting allowed that Vonderplanitz “went a little crazy about Sharon and James. But he felt he was lied to.” 


Otting expects there will be a funeral or memorial service of some kind, probably in Los Angeles, once he returns with Vonderplanitz’s body. 

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24 Comments on "In Death As In Life, Controversy Follows Aajonus Vonderplanitz"

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Amanda Rose
August 29, 2013 3:16 am

I am sorry to hear this news and offer my condolences to his family and friends. Thank you for the update, David.


mark mcafee
August 29, 2013 3:26 am

It is with shock and sadness that I hear of his untimely death. Although I did not agree with all of what Aajonus did …no one can say that he was not an original. I thank him for investing at OPDC as one of our earliest investors and I thank my Karmal soul that he was thanked and repaid in full many years ago.

Rest well….and thank you again for standing up for raw milk in CA in 1999-2000 so that now…all people have access to raw milk in CA for the years to come. You may have consulted with coyotes…but you surely did not deserve to die after falling off a railing in Thailand. Life is delicate and precious…

Shawna Barr
August 29, 2013 3:33 am

Until recently, the name Aajonus Vonderplanitz was unknown to me. However, his ideas and his work were not. In creating community food systems in my small part of the world, both via herd shares and private member food clubs, we have gleaned heavily from the trailblazing work of Rawesome and those who have followed. We may have learned more from their failures than from their success, and there are things about the model that are not worth emulating. However, you point is well taken. He showed a new way for people to realize food freedom, and much about his model has stood. I’m grateful for the risks Mr. Vonderplanitz was willing to take, for better or worse, to demonstrate new ways.

August 29, 2013 5:01 am


Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

August 29, 2013 12:09 pm

My heartfelt sympathy to those closest to him who feel his absence most keenly.

I found Aajonus to be one who had to fight hard to simply live and completely willing to share what he learned that hard way with others. Not stingy but openly helpful. Not willing to cavalierly throw away or reduce the knowledge so gained that allowed him to live. And so he would always fight, but in that manner. And thus he became a bellweather and thus he continues, a bellweather. To call anecdotal is to trivialize and misrepresent.

So who will listen to a coyote now?

Mockers? I don’t think so.

If the mockers could clearly see what they really trust in, it would probably make the coyotes appear to be as Socrates.

The orthodox world is strong in anecdotes and short on reality filled too much by those that have simply found little machines and mechanisms that pour out livelihood money if they follow “the rules” and beat down and oppress anyone they deem threatening to their money mechanisms. What they trust in so doing will simply in turn be their destruction, an unhappy circumstance, a future discovery for themselves if they will not change their ways. Mistake nothing, corporate activity is necessary, money is necessary, all the basic elements of society broadly viewed are necessary. Evil is not. Evil necessarily makes and molds its ways through deceit, twisting, concealment, omission, always guided and governed by pride.

The Bill of Rights is worthy to be protected and preserved.

Check out Dr. Matthias Rath, M.D. “Victory Over Cancer! Part 1:…” and “…Part 2:…” [ISBN 978-90-76332-76-5 & …77-2]. cf. or

At least there was one Aajonus.

My heartfelt sympathy to those closest to him who feel his absence most keenly.

Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

Shana Milkie
August 29, 2013 1:46 pm

Oh my goodness, I’m sorry to hear about this. May his soul rest in peace.

Eaden Shantay
August 29, 2013 3:15 pm

I have known and worked with Aajonus for 12 years. After reading 25 pages of his first book, I knew I had found what I was looking for. I had suffered 35 years with severe food allergies and for the first time in my life, I felt good after eating food – raw food. No Dr., allergist or nutritionist had mentioned trying raw food. It was the holy grail I was searching for. We invited and shared time with Aajonus during his workshop weekends, each of the last 12 years in Cabondale, CO. I have seen his work affect my life and those of many who participated with him. With his iridology, he detected uranium poisoning in my step son Zane, before the symptoms emerged. My wife Deva, went totally primal raw 4 years ago with amazing results. I was so saddened this morning to hear of Aajonus’ death. He was due to return to Carbondale in October for his annual workshop visit. I feel a great loss. He was a true activist, teacher, healer and lover and guardian of the truth as he experienced it. Sometimes he was his own worst enemy but that was also part of his magic. No one could deter him from his quest for healthy raw roods being legal and available for all. My wife and I plan to attend his memorial in LA when it happens as we want to see his great work continue and we also plan to hold a memorial/workshop in Carbondale, CO to show his UCLA video series and share of how his life impacted ours. He was truly a special, special human being. We will miss those late nights, talking about the magic of raw foods. I love you Aaj and wish you a safe journey back to the source of all things. I know our paths will cross again. Thank you so very much. Eaden Shantay (formerly Branden Cohen) Co-Owner True Nature Healing Arts, Carbondale, CO.

August 29, 2013 5:45 pm

The news of the death of Aajonus leaves me greatly saddened. I will be eternally thankful to the universe for connecting me to him and his healing messages. He taught me remedies which I utilized to deliver myself from a sorrowful existence to the full and exuberant life I lead today.

I met Aajonus 11 years ago, when I attended one of his lecture/workshops in Chicago followed by a personal consult. I followed his daily diet recommendations to the letter, with one exception. I had a very hard time with the raw eggs. Blending them in a smoothie was easy for me, but he strongly urged me to eat them Rocky-style. Because the changes I experienced in my health were immediate and extraordinary, I was soon able to muster the courage to confront the eggs.

But I still couldn’t fathom the idea of eating them straight from the shell. I broke two eggs into a coffee mug instead of a glass so that I didn’t have to really look at them. I positioned myself next to the toilet because I was absolutely certain they were going to come right back up. Lo and behold, the experience was quite anti-climactic. For two days I downed my eggs next to the toilet, then admonished myself for being so silly and have been happily drinking my eggs ever since.

This morning, with weepy eyes, I reminisced about my dear friend and guardian angel. It suddenly occurred to me that today would be the day that I would become an egg sucker, and I did exactly that. And from now until forever, I will suck my eggs with a smile and a wink, in honor of the greatest egg sucker of them all . . . Aajonus Vonderplanitz.

Hugs to all of my sad friends,

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
August 29, 2013 6:30 pm

awful sad, never got to meet the man but feel him as my brother. Keep the spirit flowing, it’s congruent.

mark mcafee
August 30, 2013 1:23 am

He had guts…that is for sure. I remember when he showed up at the Senator Dean Florez 2008 Raw Milk SB 201 hearings in Sacramento and walked right up to the “PhD experts panel testimony table” and made himself right at home. No invitation, no permission no nothing! He just did it. That was ballsy Aajonus. Senator Dean Florez had been told plenty of stories of Aajonus and the good senator did not call on the capital security to have him removed and as uncomfortable as it was initially…Aajonus fit right in and after some time actually held his own and did quite well.

That was Aajonus…bless his soul.

Amanda Rose
August 30, 2013 1:45 am

A giant pair, to be sure.

August 30, 2013 4:21 am

There were so many times I would be giving someone advice and really I was just passing on what I had learned from Aajonus. I sent lots of my clients to see him in Malibu because he would always make
great contribution to their health. Aajonus was a maverick, and an avatar. It doesn’t matter that he was not
perfect; because his pursuit of health was an example of perfection! I miss him terribly.

mark mcafee
August 30, 2013 4:29 am

One more story for the ages….my first time that I met Aajonus, James Stewart brought him to the farm in 2002. Aajonus had brought $20,000 dollars in cash with him so we could invest and help buy our first bottle filler capper machine. James introduced Aajonus to my wife Blaine and we all chit chatted for a few minutes. As I spoke with James privately….lo and behold,….Aajonus went over to Blaine and began to stuff $20,000 of $100 dollar bills down the front of her blouse….Blaine, the great sport that she is, went with it and was both shocked, confused and blushing. She had no idea what had just happened. That was Aajonus. Completely unpredictable in almost every way. Blaine shared with me later….saying, “did I look that much like a stripper??? ” We both laughted. What else could we do but laugh it off. Very different kind of guy. No boundaries and few social limits.

August 30, 2013 4:57 am

God bless his soul!
saddened to hear this tonight from my parents!
He’s been a close family friend for the last 16 years!

August 30, 2013 6:01 am

Rest in peace Aajonus…I will always be grateful for the information you shared in your lectures and your books…rest in peace.

August 30, 2013 6:42 am

ingvar, well said.

August 30, 2013 7:24 am

David, Mark, and Shawna, I didn’t know Aajonus but it sounds like he was my kind of guy despite your negative comments.

Joanie Blaxter
August 30, 2013 5:07 pm

This quote is from a friend of mine who knew Aajonous very closely over a number of years, both politically and personally. “Colorful. Controversial. Lightning rod. Passionate. Intelligent. Contrarian. Self-aggrandizing. Hostile. Vindictive. Ruthless.”

It’s my observation that the best use of a contrarian aspect to a personality is when it’s directed at unfair authoritarianism. However, when that character trait is not correctly directed outward, it becomes like an eagle viciously tearing and striking out at those closest to it for no obvious or understandable reason.

August 30, 2013 6:02 pm

Joanie, “Vindictive” is this more talk about James Stewart and Sharon Palmer? Do you know who your friend was referring to? I’m trying to find out where the negative commentary is coming from. Who was the recipient of this vengeance?

September 1, 2013 6:49 pm

It’s a shock to hear of his death. He is someone who has helped so many to “dodge the bullet” of lifelong disease and disability. His iridology skills were phenomenal. His approach to healing and diet was born out of trial and error in his own life. I haven’t seen him in a while, but was told that he continued to look healthier and healthier. Those who have had their lives changed by his approach will continue to demonstrate the wisdom of his knowledge and beliefs for many years to come. He was indeed a rare spirit. I’ll always remember the clear radiance of those blue eyes, a beacon of the possibilities for the rest us who would follow his path. Like any trailblazer, he was a bright light to many, and a target to few. Let all againstness towards him rest now, and our prayers help lift he who has helped lift so many. Thank you, Aajonus.

Eaden Shantay
September 5, 2013 3:34 pm

Memorial/Workshop for Aajonus Vonderplanitz
at True Nature Healing Arts, Carbondale, CO

Honoring a beautiful and courageous soul and leader in the raw food and food rights movement.

Date: October 26th

Schedule: UCLA workshop video: 11am
Raw Food Preparation Demonstrations 400pm
Primal Potluck: 6pm
Gratitude/Memorial Service 730pm

By donation

Carbondale is 3 hours west of Denver, not far from Aspen.
Contact Eaden Shantay (formerly Branden Cohen) with questions,

This was the weekend we were to have Aajonus return for his yearly visit to Carbondale, CO.

Karl Fiord
October 17, 2015 7:26 pm

I am a true believer in the fact that most, if not ALL govt factions do NOTwant us to better ourselves with any or all naturally and/or proven ways to better ourselves or to cure conditions and diseases with any other methods than what THEY advocate, push, and insist, that is ‘legal’ and ‘required’ by them and their standards, almost forcing us to not only do them, but to also pay exorbitant amounts of money and taxing the fuck out of our insurance for! AND suffering horribly, dying a slow and painful death, and being deceitful about it all to manipulate us in their direction of obey! its our way or the highway! highway meaning we WILL make you disappear, much like Aajonus

Karl Fiord
October 17, 2015 7:28 pm

thank you for allowing me to join y’al!

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
October 18, 2015 12:20 pm

Karl, did you pay your membership fee at the door? The best things in life are not free despite what you may have heard. Anyways, welcome to our little white madhouse. Oh and Fiord, does that mean cold rapid river nordic salmon oil or is it just my imagination. I thought there was a j in there.

My taste buds get the best of me sometimes or the milk if not the dog or goat.