Friday, April 13, 2012

Animal Farm

It's not even a riddle in my mind. First came the eggs, and then the chickens who lied about them. And in the Ventura County case against raw dairy advocates Sharon Palmer and James Stewart, first came the verdict, and now finally... a public trial.

Innocent until proven guilty is just a myth in this land. And in its courts, “burden of proof” has become a crisis of faith. But don't look to the Ventura County District Attorney's office to explain why. After 18 months of fruitless investigation, god-knows how much in wasted taxpayer dollars, and three full days of useless time and testimony in court by six separate witnesses, the prosecution has proven very little in the March preliminary hearing on conspiracy charges against raw milk-man James Stewart and farmer Sharon Palmer. With 38 felony counts from which to choose, each related to allegations of defrauding farm investors, all that’s proven so far is this: A) Ventura County officials have no case; B) They apparently don’t care that they have no case; and C) They must therefore be pursuing some agenda outside that of the reasonable, albeit abstract, People.

If you’ve not yet read the full complaint, but would like to do so, you may by clicking here.

And now that you are somewhat familiar with the game and all its players, here is a fourth-grade level summary of the undisputed facts: Sharon Palmer is a farmer. In 2008, she needed help building up a farm. She and James Stewart and Larry Otting were all members of the same small health food community. By way of that community, various would-be investors learned of the opportunity to help Palmer build up the farm. With the aid of financial support from those investors, the farm (known as Healthy Family Farms LLC) was built and is currently operational, worked by Palmer and other dedicated volunteers. Still waiting for the nefarious, sordid plot to thicken? Me too...

What follows is a more comprehensive, albeit still very common sense, series of observations by this former Rawesome member on how the aforementioned chicken-and-egg game has played out so far in Ventura County court. On offense, we have Chris Harman of the Ventura County District Attorney's office and related investigators, and on defense, Sharon Palmer of Healthy Family Farms and James Stewart of Rawesome Foods.

(All photos were taken in March 2012 at Healthy Family Farms and are posted by permission.)
Behold, in my hand, an actual chicken egg, from an actual chicken,
actually present at Healthy Family Farms in Santa Paula, CA.

Perhaps you are rightly wondering already, as I am after weeks of scratching my head... If the farm exists (which it does) and still generates revenue (which it does), how could the investors possibly have been defrauded? One answer might be that they haven't. See, Palmer still is (and never hasn’t been) working to repay them. In fact, she might have had them repaid already, if it weren't for all the unwarranted attacks on her business over the years, including ruthless and unyielding slander campaigns by other community members, as well as repeated government raids on the farm which have resulted in extensive property destruction and/or seizures - all of which she has steadfastly endured.

At the hands of both Ventura and Los Angeles Counties together, Palmer has endured either a raid on the farm or a personal arrest, every year for the last five years, beginning on December 18, 2008 - just a few short weeks after the farm was finally up and running. Ventura County, she’s said, effectively put her out of the cheese business (which had been a significant chunk of her revenue) by calling every farmer’s market telling them she was not licensed. It wasn’t until two years later, she said, that they finally acknowledged that she actually had been licensed and dropped the felony charges against her to a third level misdemeanor. “They have spent millions raiding and arresting me for the last five years,” even after the (essentially coerced) ultimate dismantling of the farm’s dairy, Palmer said.