Thursday, March 22, 2012

On being banned and SUE-age

Via Stuck in Customs who does not endorse the content of this post

I received a threat this morning of being banned from another blog (whose author rhymes with "Rumpert") if I don't follow a two comments max per post. I think that is reasonable and I respect someone who is able to lay a boundary.

I just don't appreciate when I am asked not to speak about the boundary. I spoke about it on the blog and here. Oops!

I was banned from commenting on AnnMarie's Cheeseslave blog and Facebook page last week. The funny thing on that one was I never brought up this blog or it's content, she did. So then naturally I defended myself. I guess she didn't appreciate my viewpoint. I was asked to stop "bothering" Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen awhile back. If they don't want to hear what I have to say, so be it. I am starting to think of these as badges of honor that I can put on my brownie sash.

Another wise truth teller is threatening to make t-shirts. Threaten. It's a good word.

I was also threatened with SUE-age by one of Palmer's supporters on Gumpert's (yeah, that one that rhymes with Rumpert) blog today.

"Some claim to know the whole truth of Sharon and her outsourcing behavior, criminal background and everything in context and have chosen to continue to slander her, try to poison the community with out proper facts, I encourage you to stop now, unless you have verified information that has been clearly authenticated." This person doesn't use THEIR legal name, of course.

I got a call awhile back from someone in Palmer's community that my name was used in connection with a proposed slander lawsuit. I haven't been served yet. Too bad there is not much they can take from a family with young children living on a single income with no property. We have enough family and friends to support us and the worst case scenario would be that we would end up homeless. That won't happen. That said, I also wouldn't want to go through the legal process.

In my heart, I am not afraid. A beloved mentor told me when I was young, "Kristi, you are a truth teller and a shining light in this world. Some people do not want to hear your truth and will stop at nothing to silence you. Telling the truth is good, but you also have to use caution and protect yourself." If someone is a lawyer who reads my blog and feels I am being naive, please advise. If you have been a part of a slander suit and feel I am being naive, please advise. kristi dot cakes at gmail dot com.

Otherwise I will get on with my regularly scheduled activities: taking care of my children, feeding my family wholesome food, and spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet for no good reason. Cheers y'all!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Tale of Two Sharon Palmers

Sharon Palmer of Healthy Family Farms, via Edible Ojai

Here is the story the Healthy Family Farms apologists would like you to hear. It is the same story I heard about a year or so ago: 
Two things from this lovely pastoral farmer profile that I would like to point out: 
1) Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia and hero of the real food movement (what, you haven't heard of him?) recommends in his book, You Can Farm, that as a new farmer it is wise to not keep pets because their feed bills add up and when you are getting any new business off the ground you need to cut out all unnecessary expenditures to ensure that your business will be economically sustainable and viable. Not that the act of rescuing isn't noble, but Sharon Palmer rescues many animals and that means more mouths to feed.

 2) "A longterm frustration for Sharon has been finding high-quality feed. For example, she believes soy to be much too challenging to a chicken’s digestive process to produce a truly healthy bird. After a long search she finally found a supplier that custom mixes her own soyfree, non-GMO recipe including high-protein whey and pea, flax, essential minerals, etc." This is the same long term frustration of many local animal farmers and ranchers, especially if they produce at the scale that she once did. If she has found a feed supplier that is doing all of these things than I am sure that that feed supplier would be a huge success and in demand amongst the local farming community. Unfortunately, no one can figure out the name and location of this supplier.

The second tale that hit my inbox yesterday paints a far more sinister image of Palmer, from a bonafide local news article:

This is testimony coming out of the Ventura District Attorney's case against Palmer, Stewart and Otting that paints a picture of Palmer as the main player in a scheme to bait others to help her buy her farm:

"Frank Huber, an investigator with the District Attorney's Office, described how criminals use a "straw buyer," an individual who lends his name and good credit rating on a bank loan application. A criminal also will use so-called "silent seconds," money concealed from bank officials and used as a down payment on the loan....The focus of Tuesday's testimony was how the bank loan was obtained. Huber said that in his opinion, duping the bank and in some cases not being straightforward with people about a business venture constitute real estate fraud."

Another important point for both myself and Palmer's apologists:
"Huber said his concern isn't about the farm operation but only about fraud that was committed.
"It was about being ripped off and a bank being ripped off," he said."
My concerns about potential consumer fraud at farmer's markets and apologists concerns that she is being targeted by "the powers that be" because she is independently providing food, specifically raw milk, outside of government regulation...neither of our concerns matter in this case. It is about real estate fraud.

My question to the Sharon Palmer apologists is thus:
How can you reconcile these two very different women named Sharon Palmer?
One wants to grow healthy food for her community, and
The other allegedly ripped off members of her community for her own gain: "He said the Hetheringtons were promised 12 percent interest on their $60,000 investment and were sent an unsigned promissory note through an email. ...
Investors allegedly weren't told that their money would be used as a down payment on the farm or that it would be concealed from bank officials.
Huber said none of the investors have been repaid. One investor, Michael Kirrene, testified he was promised 9 percent for two months on his initial $25,000 investment. Kirrene invested $125,000."

Take Home Points:
My intro to criminology teacher taught me a valuable lesson through countless examples:
"If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is." People have, can, and will try to scam you in this life. It is your obligation to protect yourself and do your homework.

What I have learned:
I would like to highlight that the Edible Ojai farm profile was written by Joanie Blaxter, who was at one time a WAPF co-chapter leader for Ojai/Ventura County (I cannot confirm the current status of the Ventura WAPF chapter as they are no longer listed as a chapter on the WAPF website). AnnMarie Michaels and Victoria Bloch are also Sharon Palmer supporters, and were both chapter leaders of the WAPF Los Angeles chapter when my curiosity in this matter began. Victoria Bloch is a current co-chapter leader of the Los Angeles WAPF chapter, and AnnMarie is a current co-chapter leader of the Las Vegas WAPF chapter.

I would caution people to learn how to source food from farmers and farmers markets on your own and not to take anyone's word for it, even, in all likelihood, the good intentioned WAPF chapter leaders. Like I keep promising, it is my goal to write a Farmers Market Consumer Guide. I promise to float it around to the knowledgeable farmers and farmer's market managers: the food producers and distributors that have helped me make sense of Sharon Palmer's claims versus farm reality and the very people and markets who will be hurt WHEN this story is made more widely public (It is not a matter of IF anymore). 

Caveat Emptor!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Do you know the names of the pathogens that end up in raw milk products?

"Raw milk does have a checkered history of safety issues," acknowledged McAfee, alluding to the high incidence of milk-borne illnesses before the 1900s. But with modern sanitation, he believes "we know now how to produce very safe, very clean raw milk."
"We just don't know how it happened," said McAfee, who has since added new cleaning protocols.

Mary McGonigle-Martin, 52, of Murrieta, says she didn't fully grasp the health risks when her 7-year-old son Chris was sickened in the 2006 outbreak. Pro-raw-milk websites and conspicuous advertisements at her local health foods store convinced her that raw milk could be a safe, natural remedy for her son's chronic sinus congestion. She bought Organic Pastures milk after reading about the farm online. "That they tested the milk and they'd never found a pathogen -- the testing was what sold me," said McGonigle-Martin, a school counselor.

Even with sophisticated lab tests, E. coli can be much harder to detect in milk than in, say, ground beef, said Michael Payne, a UC Davis food safety expert. "I have zero faith that there exists technologies that currently allow for the adequate on-farm testing of raw milk for pathogens," he said.

Chris Martin developed HUS, experienced kidney failure, and at one point required a ventilator. "My choice almost killed my child," said McGonigle-Martin. For other parents, she stresses that drinking and serving raw milk is a personal choice that should be made knowing all the risks.

 "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."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Finally someone has the story right

"Harman added that Palmer is a 'wolf in sheep's clothing' who preys on people who distrust the government.

Stewart was 'rounding up people to put money' into the business, said Harman, adding that Stewart considers himself a 'sovereign citizen' not subject to state laws."

I hope that Sharon Palmer learned from her last criminal proceedings that fleeing the country to Mexico doesn't solve any of your problems...

Or you can keep reading the paranoid conspiracy theorists choice news outlet which I keep seeing re-blogged:

The truth hurts sometimes, people. I doubt that the District Attorney would have gotten involved in this without some complaint by the investors. I also doubt that Sharon will repay them as soon as is practicable.  According to this video, she says she's doing right fine financially.

Which Sharon are we to believe?
The poor single mother of 5 (at the time she had three children at home) who consistently and historically couldn't pay her feed creditors around town? or this Sharon Palmer, above, who is a victim of someone trying to take away her 3 million dollar property? And 2 million has been payed back into the property!?!? Why wouldn't the loan be re-payed and she'd be well on her way to paying back her personal creditors?
I'd say neither, because I've come to learn you can't trust a thing that comes out of her mouth.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm basically outraged, and why you should be too...

From a Healthy Family Farms Facebook post: "Here's an amazing, painterly photo of a Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader and mom elsewhere in the country."
I would warn people like I, who once had the idyllic notion of farm life as pictured above, to take heed of the lesson in the story below.

The word is out, folks. Sharon Palmer of Healthy Family Farms has today been charged with "38 felony counts, including two counts of conspiracy, multiple counts of grand theft involving several victims, two counts of elder theft, several counts of money-laundering, violations of the corporate code relating to the offer and sale of securities, and tax evasion," according to an article just released by the Ventura County Star.

Healthy Family Farms formerly and may still sell in farmer's markets from Santa Barbara down the coast to Santa Monica. They are also a vendor last I checked at one of the biggest farmer's markets in the state of California, Hollywood Sunday Farmer's Market.

"Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Harman said Palmer faces a significant amount of time in prison based on the amount alleged to have been stolen, which includes $1,144,542.10 from Rabobank."

At first I was shocked, and then it all came to me in a wave. I remember trying to figure out how in the world a known felon like Sharon Palmer was gifted a farm. The private investigation report on had an interview that I remember precisely because of the amount of money people who are devoted to good food had invested in Sharon Palmer:

"Judi Dawn von Schleifer was also interviewed in detail and a detailed statement was prepared based on the interview. Ms. von Schleifer indicated that she was introduced to Sharon Palmer by James Stewart and that when she first met Ms. Palmer in August, 2008 and asked Sharon what she needed help with. Sharon replied, "I need money." She began fundraising efforts by identify and developing contact information for investors and determining the amounts that the investors would be willing to invest in an organic farm. This information was given to Sharon Palmer who made the actual arrangement with the investors as to how much they would invest and what return was being promised them. It was Judi's understanding that each of the investors were promised a 12 percent return on their money to be paid back within three to six months. Sharon indicated that she was "on track" to get a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan between $900,000.00 and $1,000,000.00. Judi said that she never saw any paperwork pertaining to the loan. Judi's fundraising assistance permitted Sharon to raise $500,000.00 to help in purchasing the farm." 

The article states that the felony charges are between Feb. 1, 2008, and April 1, 2009. This woman met Sharon Palmer in August 2008 and Sharon moved to her new farm some time that Fall.  

From The history and Facts presented by Aajunus Vonderplanitz on his website: "In about 2008, James Stewart and a small goat’s-milk farmer Sharon Palmer entered an agreement to purchase a 62-acres farm for approximately 2 million dollars. James Stewart and several Rawesome members invested about 1 million dollars. Member Larry Otting acquired a 1-million dollars loan for the balance to secure the property and leased the property to Sharon Palmer who completely runs the farm. They called it Healthy Family Farms (HFF)." This must be where Larry Otting comes in as a new defendant as per Aajonus' account he secured the loan. There is that amount of "$1,144,542.10 from Rabobank." which may be the loan. It will all come out eventually. 

It seems James was working with Sharon from the beginning. I knew that he was her partner in crime from the testimony given to me by one of our sources. I just had no idea it went this deep. But the evidence was there, on all along. I am outraged. A monster describes her best, if indeed these charges are true. She was able to manipulate so many people into thinking she was a victim, a single mother of 5 children (when in actuality she had 3 living at home, now 2) and that she had good intentions of raising good food.
Let's face it folks. If these charges hold true, Sharon Palmer is a great con artist.

I have a few select words for James Stewart as well. His past with raw milk is not so clean. And now it appears he using the hard earned money of his Rawesome club members to con them as well. 

It looks like Aajanus is not so crazy after all. It was because of his website that I first decided to no longer buy from Sharon Palmer.

And this I say to you: I wish this was the only case of fraud in the real food movement that I know about. Sadly, it is not. This is a huge case of fraud that we can easily wave off as one that is an outlier...not normal. Yet, think about it this way: out of 100 people, 3 will be sociopaths who will only care about their own gain and not care about the wellbeing of the whole.
To think that the good intentions of the farmers market managers, raw milk supporters, Rawesome supporters, real food people, and her customers, employees, and volunteers were so badly manipulated... It is disgusting and despicable, if the charges are indeed true.

Caveat Emptor definitely applies to the real food movement and to farmer's markets. 

Further Reading: My investigation into Healthy Family Farms in Three Parts: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

New Arrests for James Stewart of Rawesome and Sharon Palmer of Healthy Family Farms

Tweeted from David Gumpert approximately 1 hour ago: "At Rawesome hearing, James Stewart and Sharon Palmer arrested, jailed, charges unclear." And "James Stewart held on $1million bail, Sharon Palmer on $2million bail from Ventura County arrest warrant." More news to come, I am sure.

My take on this issue in Three Parts: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3