Organic Consumers Association

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Moms Rally to Defend Raw Food Club After Federal Raid

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Farm Issues page, Raw Milk & Farm-to-Consumer page, and our California News page.

Private food clubs and small producers of raw milk and cheese have witnessed all manner of regulatory and legal interference in recent years -- confiscation of raw milk deliveries, quarantining of raw milk, searches of dairies carried out by armed state and federal agents, shutdown of cheese plants. But last week's multi-agency assault on Rawesome Food Club in Venice, Calif., marked the first time individuals associated with a food club or a small farm had actually been thrown into jail, in this case charged with 13 felonies and misdemeanors, and held on high bail (requested between $60,000 and $130,000).

The Los Angeles County district attorney issued a criminal complaint, growing out of a year-and-a-half undercover operation, against James Stewart, the manager of Rawesome, along with Sharon Palmer, the owner of a farm that supplied Rawesome with eggs and chickens, and Victoria Bloch, an assistant to Palmer. The judge who finally released Stewart and Bloch (Stewart on $30,000 bail and Bloch on her own recognizance) clamped gag orders on the two and prohibited Stewart from being involved in raw milk sales and distribution. (Palmer was released separately, on $60,000 bail, a few days later.) The judge also indicated that Rawesome, because it had no permits (based on its contention that it is a private club), might be a legitimate target of Los Angeles officials aiming to shut it down. 

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