A Raw Deal

Photo from Aajonus Vonderplanitz’s website http://unhealthyfamilyfarm.com/ of eggs at Healthy Family Farms in Hohberg Poultry Ranch boxes.

Many of you by now may have heard about a raid conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement on a raw milk buying club called Rawsome, and a simultaneous raid on Healthy Family Farms, which was one of Rawsome’s suppliers. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has filed a 13 count complaint against Rawsome with nine of those counts against Healthy Family Farms. The D.A.’s office alleges that Healthy Family Farms has operated “without any type of license or permit for milk production since 2007″ and that Rawsome “has never had any type of business permit or license.”

While I support the right of everyone to be able to buy raw milk and dairy products, the people behind Rawsome and Healthy Valley Farms may not be the folks to rally around. I’ve heard now from two sources about some serious allegations involving both Rawsome and Healthy Family Farms. Paleo diet activist Aajonus Vonderplanitz paid a private investigator to look into Healthy Family Farms proprietor Sharon Palmer. You can read that report here. The report alleges that Palmer has a long rap sheet, including a felony conviction for elder fraud, grand theft and loan fraud. The website maintained by Vonderplanitz also includes photographs taken at Palmer’s farm showing what seems to be meat and eggs purchased from non-organic wholesale sources in the process of being repackaged as Healthy Valley Farms products. There are also photos of non-organic poultry feed and antibiotics.

This type of fraud, repackaging cheap wholesale food products and passing them off as organic/raw etc. is, I believe, widespread.

That list of reasons to grow your own food, if you can, keeps getting longer . . .

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18 Comments

  1. That is scary, thanks for the update on this.

    We used to frequent farmers markets around L.A. for most of our fruits and veggies. A year or two ago we saw a special on the news here in LA showing the produce was NOT organic and that the farms listed on the sellers sheets either did not exist or were a vacant property in the desert. Instead, sellers were going to downtown LA produce market and buying stuff CHEAP and selling for a premium at a farmers market. We did use our noses though. If you can smell an apple, its more than likely organic. Not very scientific, but we didnt have much else to go on.

    The last time we were at a farmers market last year two guys were selling figs. They has probably 40 big cardboard cases filled with figs and something just seemed funny. These guys handed us a fig to try and said they were JUST PICKED THIS MORNING! I thought that was pure BS, but others were lining up to buy them. When we got close to the boxes, you could see mold covering the figs in these boxes. I asked them about it and they just ignored me. So I asked louder :) and louder :) WHY IS THERE MOLD ON THESE IF YOU JUST PICKED THEM?

    Hey, I dont know if they were organic (i would think figs are, no?) and I dont know if these guys picked them from their farm, a neighborhood farm, or bought them in downtown LA, but I knew they were at least lying about the freshness.

    Bottom line? I grow my own everything now :)

  2. Even legitimate organic products can be contaminated by GMO’s and pesticide. Cross pollination from GMO crops is a big problem and pesticides sprayed from the air can hit “organic” crops even with a buffer zone. So, yeah, that is why I don’t pay the huge markup for organic products.

    Although, I have to admit that I think drinking raw milk from a store is crazy. Drinking it from its point of origin is one thing, but anything that passes through multiple hands and gets transported I think is too high of a risk for contamination. Pasteurization is not necessarily a bad thing.

  3. I can spot a free range egg as soon as I crack it. They won’t get one over on me. That being said, hopefully my chickens will start laying eggs for me any day now (they’re still young)!

  4. If this is true it’s very concerning, obviously I don’t want to be duped thinking I’m paying more for organic food. I still don’t understand all the guns and armor. We are talking about food here not drugs.

    I do however think many raids on raw food providers are uncalled for. For example I doubt the Amish that are raided are doing anything unlawful.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I live on the Westside and was ready to jump on the “poor Rawsome” bandwagon until i started hearing the various stories like this.

  6. Ugh. That makes me sick to my stomach. For people to seek out what they feel is the best for their families and then to be burned like that. And I know that most of us can hardly afford the prices of real food, but we sacrifice in other areas to make it happen. Seriously. This is sickening.

    I don’t have a cow, but I do have a sweet, older woman that I buy my milk from. She hand milks and we get our milk straight from our one cow. She is like a grandmother to our children, and I feel very confident getting our milk from her. I now see this for what a HUGE blessing it is. Thanks for the info.

  7. Call me cynical, but this is exactly why I do not buy any organic food. Quite frankly, I don’t trust any of the organic products in the store to be really organic.

    My three hens eat grass, scratch for bugs, and eat vegetable and fruit scraps. They give me eggs that are pure…lol. I was given figs that have no pesticides. The pears and pecans have no pesticides or fertilizer. As for the rest of my food, I just don’t know.

    I just refuse to buy organic. One CSA owner has people putting signs in the store, advertising her eggs as organic…school teacher and pastor husband… When I questioned her, she said she never told anyone that. Well, why are people making their own signs and saying she said the eggs are organic? See why I do not trust?

  8. Oh man. I hadn’t read much on the story yet but what I’d heard seemed like they were victims. Now not so much. Yikes. Thanks for putting some balance into the debate! Sometimes there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Agreed, another very real reason to grow your own food.

  9. I think Evergreen Acres is the one to rally around. It appears that the California Department of Food and Agriculture is interested in using them as a test case to try to outlaw herdshares. They claim that people who board goats with them may go to their farm to milk their goats, but may not take the milk off the property!

    http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=wm5dahcab&v=001W5XuTI8OwGkAF9LVYckqmJKa0SeBg9KMhDZsFOM_lGOGJBvXaFxbOmYq6D5Cq1VhGRcVd2hAF__VO8ZfhmZCiilvvG9M4QqWd35HjU9bwA6cHJzT7kWvBYugRhxIlZs3bQBQ6yO0Q-thFTtGDpOi9KHx-pbDLsCvkK0hKlZ6ynEMVum_Q05cHLMrurntkpqyOJtsSDGEZCrm-LgDJ7lmQQ%3D%3D

    and here is the link to their petition:

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/3/protect-california-raw-milk-farms/

  10. I just wrote to two local media outlets to cover this story today to get the word out to the consumer, Laura Avery, manager of the Santa Monica Farmer’s markets, was able to confirm via phone that Ventura ag counted 3,000 egg layers in April. Although it appears that she may be harvesting her own, it remains to see if they are “grass-fed” (pastured?) like she advertises. I know a truly pastured egg when I see one, dark orange yolks. I will be trying to go to her farm to confirm this, but for now her FB pictures tell the really story…chickens in dirt given pallets of grass. Not truly pastured. Thank you for writing about this story. I am very angry indeed.

  11. I am glad you made that suggestion at the end to “grow your own food”. That is what it is ALL about along with KNOWING your FARMER. As I read your article I couldn’t help but feel that you may be spreading second hand news and news that may even itself be tainted with un-truths. To me, the only true truth is an experience that I witness and feel myself. But not to say that I can’t have a gut feeling to make a choice. There was a point that I stopped going to RAWSOME because of elements that I questioned to myself and did not feel good about.

  12. It’s really sad in this consumerism society that people will take anyone they can to make a buck. The shoppers have some blame (maybe not in this case) as they do not ask questions as 1916home.net stated above. You must do your own due diligence as there are many “bad apples” out there ready to take you and your money unfortunately. We grow all we can as well in our Canadian climate and since moving to the country looking to buy direct or 2nd from farmers for meat, eggs and other items until we can provide those for ourselves.

  13. I wouldn’t put too much faith in yolk color. Non-pastured eggs are not always pale since they feed the hens carotenoids to darken their yolks. On the other hand, I drive through a pasture full of chickens to buy my eggs and the yolks are not especially dark, although they are certainly not pale either.

    I can say that the shells are MUCH stronger than anything I have ever bought at the store. You’d think commercial breeders would prize harder shells to reduce breakage losses, but perhaps they decided it is not cost effective to feed the improved diet.

    I agree with the comments above — homegrown and locally produced trump an “organic” label any day. There’s little that I buy anymore than doesn’t come from my backyard or a farmer I know lives and produces in the region. None of them are “certified organic,” even when they use the same practices. It’s not worth the paperwork.

  14. I read an article in our city’s newspaper about a catering company which advertised itself as “healthy and organic”. It won several contracts to supply snack and lunch food for private elementary schools in the city. After some investigation, though, they found that the food wasn’t actually organic. They bought it cheap and in bulk, then repackaged it – for example, opening up boxes of granola bars and cookies, taking them out of their individual factory wrappers, putting them into clear plastic baggies and tying them with green ribbon to make them look “home-made.”

    So yes, I can believe that it’s actually fairly common to do something like that.

  15. Thanks for posting this. I hadn’t heard the other side of the story.

    I’ve not been a fan of shopping for my food at Whole Foods or supermarkets for a while now. I can just feel how less nutritious and less fresh the food in those stores are. I like to shop at the Farmers’ Markets with farmers I know and have conversations with, grow my own food, or forage for wild foods.

  16. Sorry, but this reeks of a smear campaign. And further more, If this is just about the eggs then why did the feds need to back up a flat bed truck & haul away hundreds of pounds of produce, destroy thousands of dollars in product, and pour hundreds of gallons of fresh milk down a drain when all they were supposed to do was take randomized samples to be tested?

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