The Dark Side of the Aajonus Vonderplanitz Legacy; How the End Came

 

James Stewart being arrested in 2012. He would spend four months in jail. It’s nice to hear from people who knew Aajonus Vonderplanitz, who valued his friendship and benefited from his nutritional counseling. Clearly, he did a lot of good for individuals he advised on his raw-food regimen. 

 

That is what grieving is about for someone who did real good--lamenting how much the deceased person will be missed, and sharing revealing or humorous or insightful memories that come up in the days after his death. 

 

At least that is what it is about for most of those departed. But Vonderplanitz was an unusual person, as a number of people have pointed out. There has been this comforting side of grieving, and then there has been something else. 

 

I have heard from several people who knew Vonderplanitz well, but aren’t grieving, at least in the ordinary ways. They have taken me to task, for writing the obituary that was my previous post for what they thought gave Vonderplanitz too much credit for his role in the food rights movement. 

 

James Stewart, the founder of Rawesome Food Club, was probably most upset, apparently because I seemed to give credit to Vonderplanitz for helping conceive the food club concept that was behind Rawesome. He was particularly irked because I referred to Vonderplanitz as “his old partner in arms” and said Stewart “launched the first Vonderplanitz-conceived private food club...” 

 

In a text message, Stewart said, “I was never his partner.” As for my suggestion that Vonderplanitz helped  conceive the food club idea, Stewart added: “That’s a lie...Rawesome was one hundred per cent my idea. Aajonus had nothing to do with it. I have shared that with you numerous times, so I’ve lost complete faith in your journalism truth.” 

 

I received a detailed email from Victoria Bloch, a former assistant to farmer Sharon Palmer, and one of the “Rawesome Three” defendants with Stewart and Sharon Palmer back in 2011. She said in part, “Aajonus repeatedly claimed credit for starting Rawesome, but my experience was that he pretty much stayed in the role of customer till well after the lot was purchased (in 2003)... Eventually, AV drafted the membership agreement that was used from then on. The Rawesome name did not come from AV, either; I recall quite clearly when James was playing around with names and conducting informal polling with shoppers. Perhaps AV did come up with the idea of combining a membership club with a herdshare...” 

 

I also heard from Sharon Palmer, who was the target of a civil suit from Vonderplanitz (and Larry Otting) alleging fraud, libel, and other offenses. She in turn filed a countersuit, alleging defamation. 

 

I had stated in my obituary post that Vonderplanitz “abandoned the civil suit a few months ago, coming to a settlement that provided for him to take down the web site.: 

 

Palmer stated: “I would like to let you know Aajonus did not drop the case, he lost the case. Over a period of months in superior court in Los Angeles the case brought against myself and James Stewart was dismantled by the courts for lack of evidence. When the trial date came about they had one complaint left out of 44 standing. After their attorneys stated they had no experts, or witnesses other than rumors and here say,the judge threw out their case completely. This left my counter lawsuit against Otting and Aajonus. I gave them a chance to settle, take down the slanderous web site and sign an agreement that they would not ever slander HFF or Sharon Palmer again....Why did I give them a chance to settle and not get them for the millions they cost me? David,this is a chapter in my life I wanted over. This was such evil I wanted them out of my life and the lives of my children.” 

 

There was more.  And this was to contest my designation of Vonderplanitz as the father of the food rights movement. To which Victoria Bloch asked: “Did he launch the movement for food freedom? Hardly. Did he participate? Absolutely. But there were people and organizations pushing for access to the foods of their choice – including raw milk – before he started more visibly doing so (notably Weston A. Price Foundation with their Real Milk campaign, but certainly others as well). It's a nice thing to say about him, but it distorts his image, which ultimately does both him and others who have led the vanguard a disservice.”

 

Now, why did I go through this tedious exercise? After all, I didn’t say anything patently inaccurate--I used shortcut statements to summarize Vonderplanitz’s role. 

 

I went through the exercise above to illustrate the depth of hostility that exists against Vonderplanitz, and me, for having said nice things about Vonderplanitz. 

 

But irony of ironies, Vonderplanitz was just as pissed at me as Stewart, Bloch, and Palmer for my presentation of Vonderplanitz’s accomplishments and weaknesses. In the weeks before he died, he wrote me several lengthy emails to tell me how outraged he was about my book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights”. 

 

I do not understand why you favored James and Sharon so much in your book. I will never understand unless you make your reasons make sense. The testimony and accompanying photos are irrefutable.”

 

As for the close relationship between Stewart and Vonderplanitz in running Rawesome: “Many errors in the Stewart/Vonderplanitz partnership. You gave Stewart much more intelligence than he has....Yes, he made things happen by his charm but he was a person who had to have help with most everything and raged, screamed and defamed those people often.”

 

Vonderplanitz saved his best for my supposed shortchanging his accomplishments in food rights. “In your book, there was no mention that my activism in food-freedom were in 1972, 1977-78, 1984-86, 1994-2001, 2005-present when governments were aggressively trying to eradicate raw milk. There was no mention of five volunteers and I lobbying congress in 2007 for three months for raw milk and food-freedom. No mention that our 16-18-hours-daily work there was responsible for Ron Paul drafting legislation for raw milk. There was no mention of the Washington, DC meeting between Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, Jeff Slay and me in 2009 to discuss Nader supporting our raw milk legislation. The meeting in which, although it had been prearranged three months in advance and verified six times with both Nader and Paul including five days prior to scheduled date, Nader stood us up and sent an attorney negative to raw milk instead. Ron Paul went into a rage and ranted at the attorney about nanny-control of our lives.

 

What’s the message in all this, and what does it have to do with Vonderplanitz’s legacy and the food rights movement? Three key points stand out to me:

  1. Something happened to Vonderplanitz in October 2010, when he decided to go after Stewart and Palmer in what amounted to a vendetta that would continue until he died a few days ago. My theory is he snapped under the pressure of the government legal offensive that was taking shape in those days of 2010.  But in the process, he put several other individuals, including Stewart, Bloch, and Palmer, under incredible pressure as well. Stewart wound up serving four months in jail because of Vonderplanitz’s antics. I could write a whole separate post on this phenomenon, but I’ve seen other activists undergo radical changes in their personalities or approaches after some amount of time fighting the government, All I can think is that the fight takes a much greater toll on those directly involved than we can ever appreciate.  
  2. All the people I’ve quoted here became so involved in personal fights of one sort or another that they completely lost their focus on the larger food rights struggle. As you can see, all the messages I quoted from above related to individual egos and perceived reputations rather than the direction of the struggle against the government and corporate campaign to deprive us of access to nutrient-dense foods.  Unfortunately, this behavior plays right into the hands of the enforcers. In the Rawesome case, the targeted individuals became so attached to their own views and their own views exclusively, that they couldn’t see that my book gave them more legitimacy and gave their views more credence than anyone ever had, and possibly ever will. (Stewart holds on so tight that he  that he has no intention of even reading my book, based on my supposed inaccuracies in the previous post.) 
  3. As for Vonderplanitz’s legacy, the positive part of that was established prior to 2010. He went a long ways toward undoing it in the three years afterwards. 

I can’t personally blame any of the people involved in the Rawesome mess, because they were all up against huge forces that are designed to intimidate and destroy. The best legacy to Vonderplanitz would be for the forces of good to learn from the negative events around Rawesome, and put them to positive purposes ongoing. 

 

**

P.S. It now turns out that Vonderplanitz’s death might have been preventable. Here’s an account from a close associate at his organization, Right to Choose Healthy Food: 

 

“At the end of the week last week, Aajonus was with his girlfriend, in Thailand on a balcony on his house. He was cleaning a wound to his hand, and went to the railing to throw the rest of the washing fluid to the ground.  She turned away to do something, and heard a crashing noise. The railing was broken, at least in that spot, and she heard moaning. She rushed to the ground below, and found him there.

 

“He broke his back quite severely, next to the first rib, and could not move his legs. He took charge of the care of his body, even in the hospital, where he had them wrap his torso to stabilize the bones. He did have one x-ray, and then would not let them do more. The doctors wanted to operate, and he refused. He had them wrap him and feed him his food, and continued so for two days. He was apparently in good spirits, but did experience what must have been severe pain, for he did let them give him at least two pain shots. This might have been necessary for him to stay awake and in control, as the body can shut down from pain. There was blood in his stomach at some point, for he did regurgitate some food with blood in it.

 

“On the third day of his hospital stay, he sent his girlfriend to a court proceeding in Bangkok, about 3.5 hrs away, about the land there in Thailand, over her protests. He insisted she go. While she was gone, he went into a coma, and they put an IV in him. When she returned he was ‘very bad’. At this point she emailed our Thai member, who called a few of us. The doctors say he had a kidney infection and blood infection. They continued to feed him butter and honey, as instructed, and followed his wishes as possible. They gave him oxygen as his breathing decreased, and he steadily lost blood pressure. They told us his kidneys had stopped functioning, were not producing urine. They wanted to do something, but no one had any authority to override his stated wishes. When his heart failed, they pumped his heart and tried to resuscitate him for a half hour. Our Thai member was on the phone with Aajonus' girlfriend and could hear the flatline beep of the heart monitor. ...They stopped resuscitation efforts at 2 am August 28th Thai time, Noon on August 27th Los Angeles time.”

 

The way I read it, Vonderplanitz may have been afraid to have rural doctors operate on him, and likely died from the effects of internal bleeding.

 

rawmilkmike's picture

Ya, I guess you can't please everyone.

churchlanefarm's picture

There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And to paraphrase Dr. King, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as petty vindictive fools.

Ken

Ora Moose's picture

petty vindictive fools, I saw them open at Salem State College for Gung Ho back in the 60s!

Ora Moose's picture

Tune in, drop out and kill the machine / establishment. Be the cow. Be self sustaining, sufficient, tolerant and love yourself so others can too. Have a pet, not a lawn that doesn't love you back. Vanity is a great burden, so always be humble. When you are sure you are right is when you are more likely to be wrong so always second guess. Blend in and don't stick out unless you have something really worth shouting about like David. Jesus never actually existed except in history books written by the winners but gets lots of credit just like bankers, just my opinion no offense. Pass that milk glass please.

Post script: Don't fight the government, be the government. It's not easy but it's all we've got unless you buy your grave ahead of time.

Darinka's picture

Thank you for always providing truthful reporting with details and logical commentary.

mark mcafee's picture

David thank you for the rest of the story.

The story of AV is something that is not well appreciated or well understood. He was an anomaly, complex, complicated, definitely ego centric, definitely a cult like leader in a world that he created. I must agree with James. AV did build the raw milk markets in CA and he did not last very long on each of this efforts. He was like a roving homeless person on a mission in his own mind moving from guest house to house on his mission. James was the one that concieved of Rawesome, worked tirelessly to come to Fresno at mid night to get raw milk and deliver it to stores when they ran out. James and his partners were the true workers of the raw milk movement that fed and grew the market along with the WAP moms and Sally Fallon and her leadership with all the chapter leaders pulling and teaching hard. AV on the other hand floated and flittered arround the world holding audience with anyone that would pay and anyone that would listen and taking money in private sessions behind closed doors in a world he created that was all about his own self created genius that he loved and needed and wanted for everyone else to love as well. If you did not agree with him...he was cruel and down right ugly and mean. It was his way or the highway.

He was truly a creation of Venice Beach underground culture and weirdness. A place that you can only know if you have experienced it or at least observed it from a safe distance. The picture that you used above was taken by me and sent to you moments after James was arrested after violating his $100k bail terms. The reason this picture even exists....is because of the kind of thinking that AV professed. Things like "sovereign man" not paying taxes, all cash transactions, no business liscences, private clubs, "judges have no authority".... that defy all of societies rules and norms. That was the kind of stuff that drew the moth to the flame and got James into deep trouble when all of his friends and even his lawyers begged him to listen to reason.

AV floated into and out of James life but he was not a stabilizing force, he was an addiction that James could not resist, like an old opportunitistic disfunctional horny ( but not very pretty ) ex-girlfriend when you are really down, really lonely and really weak.

David Gumpert's picture

Mark, I agree with you about the complexity of Vonderplanitz's personality. I also agree that his relationships with James Stewart was dysfunctional in important ways. 

But I am going to disagree with you about your portrayal of Vonderplanitz as a dilettante who advocated a "sovereign man" approach to the legal system. Quite the contrary. Vonderplanitz had great respect for the legal system. He studied legal texts, trained himself in writing briefs--to me, he was a "jailhouse lawyer," a self-trained legal expert who fought the authorities with their own tools. As I describe in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights,  he wrote legal briefs to help PA farmer Amos Miller out of a jam and helped get Indiana farmer David Hochstetler out of a potentially serious grand jury appearance. Before Vernon Hershberger decided to retain lawyers from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, it was Vonderplanitz who wrote a half dozen or more legal briefs to try to get the case dismissed and advised Hershberger on courtroom tactics. Vonderplanitz was at the trial, and testified on Hershberger's behalf. I know Hershberger will tell you that Vonderplanitz was an important asset in his overall legal defense. 

It's curious, whenever I tried to explain this side of Vonderplanitz's contributions to Stewart and others of the Rawesome crowd, I invariably got a blank stare in return. Never even so much as an "Uh huh" to acknowledge the possibility he had some something positive for the national food rights movement. Everything was viewed through the context you are presenting: "What have you done for me lately in California?" 

Now, Vonderplanitz wasn't always there when farmers and food clubs needed him most. I believe the beginning of the end in his relationship with Stewart occurred immediately after the first government raid on Rawesome in June 2010. Veonderplanitz was in Thailand, and made the decision not to return to the U.S. to help Stewart fight the legal aftermath. Stewart felt abandoned, as well he should have, since Vonderplanitz had drawn up the legal underpinnings of Rawesome.

I think many of Vonderplanitz's clients will tell you he was always there for them, always prepared to provide dietary and nutrition advice about their personal health issues. 

Part of his problem may have been that he was spread a little thin. 

 

Joanie Blaxter's picture

Full disclosure: In the last several years Victoria Bloch has become one of my dearest friends. I also never met Aajonous Vonderplanitz personally and offer this perspective as someone who observed the effect Aajonous had on the LA Real Foods/Rawesome community from the outside.

David, I'm sorry, but I must admit, there are several statements you made in this post that have really thrown me for a loop.

“I went through the exercise above to illustrate the depth of hostility that exists against Vonderplanitz, and me, for having said nice things about Vonderplanitz.”

Oh, David, I love this blog and all the work you’ve done and I know you will continue to do for the Real Food movement for the rest of your life because you a true blue person of integrity, but... this statement makes my eyes roll in my head so bad it gives me a headache.

You didn’t receive those emails from James, Victoria and Sharon because you said nice things about AV.

You got them because your first post said almost nothing almost BUT nice things about AV, some of which were inaccurate, plus you left out a very large portion of the picture of the man that is, unfortunately, unpleasant to put it kindly.

I have no problem believing that AV studied law and provided support to farmers. I've heard repeatedly from various members of the Rawesome community (those perceived by AV, by the way, as being 'hostile' to him) that the farmers loved him because he championed them and provided tangible support.

Furthermore, I’ve spoken to numerous people who have told me that suggestions from AV turned their health picture dramatically for the better. For many, he became a kind of health ‘guru.’

And therein lies the problem. It’s also been my observation that unless AV believed himself to be perceived as a savior, he was capable of viciously striking out at whoever threatened him. His need to be always the center of attention was his greatest weakness.

Furthermore, from what I could glean, that need to be perceived as ‘the best’ or ‘the only’ is not newly emerged in the last several years (a ‘snap’), but rather seemed to simply worsen over time in an ever increasing downward spiral.

Perhaps those ‘blank stares’ you received had more to do with the fact that, whatever support AV may have provided farmers in the past, didn’t, in some people’s eyes, make up for the personal pain AV inflicted on others from the community and “the Rawesome crowd” didn’t know how to say that to you.

The other statement you made that really puzzles me was “As you can see, all the messages I quoted from above related to individual egos and perceived reputations rather than the direction of the struggle against the government and corporate campaign to deprive us of access to nutrient-dense foods.”

“Perceived” reputation? When one's professional reputation is destroyed, so is one's income.

And bizarrely enough, destroyed not just by the state. We in the Real Food/Raw Milk movement all expect that.

What the LA area Real Food community STILL struggles to understand was why that the destruction came from a supposed ally. My perspective is that AV almost singlehandedly (with some help from Larry Otting) trashed the incomes of both Sharon Palmer and James Stewart.

Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that if AV hadn't started the ball rolling first by going to the county with his complaints about Sharon and then, upon having those accusations rebuffed by officials, put up his slanderous website, the authorities might not have ever decided to get in the game and go after Sharon and James as intensely as they did. And Victoria, of course, was then caught up in the dragnet.

AV's UFF website destroyed Sharon's customer base. I can personally attest to that as the Ventura county WAPF chapter leader. As soon as that site went up I began hearing dozens and dozens and dozens (which continued unabated as long as that site was up) of accusations from people that Sharon's food was toxic – including numerous other farmers. When I questioned these accusations, the source for all of them was the UFF website.

And please also tell me you're not implying that Sharon's decision to bring legal action against AV in order remove his slanderous website from the internet to protect her reputation, business, home, family and income was based on "ego."

Rawesome, James' business, is of course long since closed down and irretrievably destroyed while James has been forced to move on to a new financial enterprise.

Victoria, of course, spent time in jail and is currently on probation due to AV. Thank god, Victoria’s source of income is not food-related or she’d be experiencing the same intensity of struggle as Sharon and James.

Not that getting arrested didn't cost her thousands of dollars due to lost time from work and legal fees. Out of the three of them, she's the luckiest simply because her business and professional reputation are still intact.

True, all of this I'm relating is not what AV did or did not do for the Raw Milk movement in the strictest political sense. It's not about legislators that were contacted, letters that were written or laws that were changed.

It's about human lives that were demolished by the AV wrecking ball and left in ruins.

Did AV contribute huge amounts politically to the forward motion of the Raw Milk movement in CA and nationally? Unquestionably.

But in the last several years he also undermined much of that forward motion by splintering the community with lies (just look at his recent postings on this very site in which he changes his statements repeatedly), intimidation, threats, law suits and in general, by being an antagonistic and litigious individual.
It astounds me the degree to which people seem willing to ignore the chaotic ruthlessness that characterized the last 3+ years of AV’s life.

For example, the Rawesome community donated $40,000 for the legal defense of the Rawesome, but Sharon, James and Victoria never saw a dime of those donations. AV kept it all. I’ve never even seen that fact mentioned anywhere.

If there is one thing I’ve concluded from observing the unfolding events around Rawesome over the last several years, it is that we must always scrupulously examine the motives of our leaders. A person of true integrity will remain consistent in all aspects of their life: political, professional and personal. Otherwise, that person is not a true leader in the best sense of the word.

If we want the Real Food movement to have integrity, unification and effectiveness, then those of us in the movement must exemplify those qualities.

Joanie Blaxter's picture

"We are what we do."

David Gumpert's picture

Joanie, believe me, re-living the Rawesome experience here the last few days hasn't been fun or easy, especially taking to task people like James Stewart, Sharon Palmer, and Victoria Bloch, who suffered terribly as a result of Vonderplanitz's vendetta. I was trying to provide perspective on the totality of the life of a man who, in my view, did a lot to bring the outrages associated with impingements on food rights to the fore. What he did to them was terrible, inexcusable, but it doesn't mean his life was a total failure or that he was a totally evil person, which is the message I sense some Rawesome people would have liked me to communicate. 

One important correction to your assessment: The original Rawesome-related government investigation of 2008-2010 that led to the first raid on Rawesome and the felony charges against Palmer-Stewart-Bloch (and which I detail in my book), seemed not to have been brought on by anything Vonderplanitz did. We still don't know the exact motivation, but it was launched and pretty much completed well before Vonderplanitz began his vendetta against Palmer and Stewart. (Indeed, investigators gained access to Vonderplanitz's emails as part of the investigation.)  That's not to say that the start of the vendetta, in late 2010, didn't embolden the L.A. District Attorney to file as many charges as were finally filed in the summer of 2011. And certainly the vendetta encouraged the Ventura County District Attorney to file its own felony charges against Palmer and Stewart (and notably, Vonderplanitz's close friend, Larry Otting). 

For whatever it's worth, I did let Vonderplanitz know on several occasions--on this blog, in personal meetings, and in the final email exchange I had with him in early August about my book (that I referred to in this most recent blog post that upset you)--of my disgust with his actions. Here is some of what I said to him in one of those last emails: 

"I have observed and admired your food rights work for years. What you did on behalf of the many farmers was brilliant, in my estimation, and I think it came through in my book. 

 

"I then watched, with amazement and horror, as you inexplicably lost your focus and took up a vendetta against Palmer, Stewart, et. al. I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. I'll never understand it, since there is no logic to it in the context of making progress in the food rights movement. You aided the regulators--no, you did more than that. You entertained them. They had to have been congratulating themselves on their good fortune in distracting everyone from the shutdown of Rawesome because of the internal fighting you fomented. Therefore, all I can figure is that it must have been narcissistic, an unfortunate focus on your own needs (for revenge, recognition, respect--name the possibilities). 

 

"You can rationalize all you want about 2,000 people being poisoned or whatever, but that doesn't hold water. Once you informed everyone about your allegations, people could make their decisions about what to do. Some went to other sources for their food, and some stayed with Rawesome. But you had done what you thought needed to be done. If people continue to choose to eat Palmer's food, that you believe is tainted, that is their business. Millions choose every day to eat factory food, and you don't carry out vendettas against them. You couldn't. There are too many of them. 

 

"In my estimation, all you have accomplished is to splinter the movement (at least in L.A. area) and lose support for yourself and RTCHF. You could have been out mobilizing more farmers under RTCHF agreements...But you continue to rant and accuse….and waste energy that should go toward educating people about the outrages of the corporate-backed regulatory system....

 

"I know none of this will dissuade you from your obsessive mission. Something happened to you, and it's too bad. You did lots of good….but then got lost." 


I am glad I took the time to communicate that message to him before he left. 

Joanie Blaxter's picture

Thank you for that correction, David! I appreciate factual corrections especially since I know you are at heart one of the best historians we have for the movement. And I regret to say, I've not read your book yet simply because I'm hoping to borrow it from Victoria. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm going to request it through my small town library to see if I can get them to purchase it. You should encourage your readers here to do that! Especially in the areas that have WAPF chapters. I know it's not buying, but I bet you'll get more readership that way which will ultimately serve you.

I was listening to a cd of a psychiatrist talking about relationships the other day. He said no one should ever have an important conversation with their partner by text or email because our brains are wired to receive an actual majority of our message through facial cues, tone of voice, body language, etc., leaving much open to misinterpretation and miscommunication.

To me that is the HUGE limitation of conversation on blogs. No matter what the words say on the screen, the reader's brain has to imagine the physical cues and in the absence of that must project imagined intent upon the words.

All our opinions grow out of our experience. And just because I have one kind of experience of a person does not necessarily mean it even remotely matches someone else's experience of the same person. People have different sides to their personalities, some of us, wildly different sides.

The historian's job is to gather as many pieces of that picture as possible to put it together in a way that makes sense to readers. I know trying to do that for someone as quixotic, contradictory and bigger-than-life as Aajonous Vonderplanitz is not an enviable job and I appreciate that you try hard to be neutral.

I have some issue with the saying "Don't speak ill of the dead." I could go along with "Don't speak lies of the dead." But to pretend that someone led a 100% good life just because they're dead does the dead a huge disservice, especially someone like AV with his multi-faceted personality. It's also poor history because it's not fully accurate.

Anyway, thanks again for the correction and thank you also for being willing to hear my perspective!

mark mcafee's picture

I meant to say that AV DID NOT BUILD THE CA RAW MILK MARKETS...typo....sorry.

ingvar's picture

In 1992 or so, during live television coverage of an American riot, a looter was interviewed. I saw and heard this.

“Why are you doing this?” asked the reporter.

The looter paused to answer the question. She (the looter), holding loot, looking into the camera, said “Everybody’s doing it, nobody’s stopping us, it must be ok.” And off she went, loot-in-hand.

This goes to the formation of the moral conscience.

What sound reason can be given for neglecting to form the moral conscience of students? Answer: None.

Forget the looter for a moment. Let’s imagine that the moral conscience she exhibited were to be the moral conscience found in an elected official, or a ‘scientist,’ or a doctor, or a farmer, or a businessman, or a ‘regulator,’ or a judge, or a lawyer, or a journalist, or you, or me.

This is a significant part of the battle terrain in the right to choose healthy foods.

All the best to all of you,
Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

Many of us in this food freedom movement can recall that there were always some involved that did not have the best intentions, thought that this would be great business and could easily be misled by the dollar signs that a growing project can bring. We had the same differences at the Trad Foods MN warehouse, where one partner had grand ideas about profitability and scale, while the purists had the focus on food and supporting the quality sources involved. Anyone that talks about losing millions is not a realist in the production or access of this medicinal quality food but merely lost in the twilight zone of agribusiness. Aajonus never once disappointed us in MN where we used his membership and farm lease info to start our private food club. We have hundreds of families in a position of ownership with access to foods of their choice because of his work and foresight. He is one of my heroes, to be sure. Alvin in MN

Amanda Rose's picture

Thanks Alvin. I appreciate your comment.

mark mcafee's picture

David, perhaps you are right about the jail house lawyer part. He thought he could swim with the sharks and took others with him into he shark tank . He was not a lawyer.. But he sure tried hard for sure. Not sure why he would ever approach Ralph Nader. It was Naders group that sued the FDA in 1985 to force the FDA ban on interstate raw milk shipments. Of course Nader would never join forces with AV or Ron Paul.

That's the kind of interesting genius or madness that AV was all about.

Ora Moose's picture

It's hard to get by just upon a smile
Now that I've lost everything to you
You say you want to start something new
And it's breaking my heart you're leaving, baby I'm grieving
But if you want to leave take good care.
We loved you or tried to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHXpnZi9Hzs

rawmilkmike's picture

David, you said “James Stewart, Sharon Palmer, and Victoria Bloch, suffered terribly as a result of Vonderplanitz's vendetta.” but that is not supported by any of the facts I've heard here. No one has said anything to support this idea. As a matter of fact what you folks are saying really makes “James Stewart, Sharon Palmer, and Victoria Bloch” look like the bad guys.

Joanie, said “he was capable of viciously striking out at whoever threatened him.” So she is admitting that “James Stewart, Sharon Palmer, and Victoria Bloch” were threats to the food rights movement.

I haven't heard anyone accuse Vonderplanitz of being stupid or of being a liar so it makes no sense to assume his accusations were unfounded. All I've heard are cheap shots.

Further more saying bed things about the dead seems to be in rather bad taste.

rawmilkmike's picture

correction "bad" not "bed"

David Gumpert's picture

Mike, I believe Joanie Blaxter was accurate when she stated that Vonderplanitz's Unhealthy Family Farms website  "destroyed Sharon's customer base. I can personally attest to that as the Ventura county WAPF chapter leader. As soon as that site went up I began hearing dozens and dozens and dozens (which continued unabated as long as that site was up) of accusations from people that Sharon's food was toxic – including numerous other farmers.....Rawesome, James' business, is of course long since closed down and irretrievably destroyed while James has been forced to move on to a new financial enterprise."

I'd say these examples quality as "suffered greatly."

rawmilkmike's picture

Yes but Rawesome was shut down by the government not Vonderplanitz. From what everyone here says, the two cases were completely separate. Didn't you say Sharon borrowed money to buy property that she put in someone else's name? That doesn't sound legal to me. I haven't heard anyone deny her criminal past or that she is a wealthy woman. Remember how I said I didn't want to read this Vonderplanitz stuff. It's not logical.

ingvar's picture

rawmilkmike,
You have the makings of a detective. Unfooled, unfazed, right to the heart of the matter.
Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

Deborah - Pacifica's picture

rawmilkmike - you have no clue of what all really happened here in southern California. To set the record straight...it was AV's actions that instigated the raid by the multi-agencies within the government. The government did not do this on their own volition, they had no reason to do so. You have no clue about the complexities involved with the financing of Sharon's farm...the only problem the government had with it was the allegations by AV that she took investors money & did not nor had any intentions to pay back the investors, but all of that was shown not to be true, in fact, by the time one of the court cases came around with regards to that, all of the investors were pretty much paid up on. With regards to the so-called criminal past, again you have no clue about that situation either, although I had previously posted on this blog a couple of times in the past with regards to that situation, as it was very similar to what almost happened to me (because of a former husband's activities). And where do you get the idea that Sharon is wealthy?!? Nothing could be further from the truth!! If that was so, she wouldn't have needed investors to help with financing the farm. Her business was drastically affected by the actions of AV & that website that he put up. How can someone keep up with bills, farm over-head, living expenses, etc. where their business & only source of income has been majorly compromised?!? You say that you didn't want to read this Vonderplanitz stuff and/or Rawesome stuff...well, then fine...don't read it! But for those of us here in southern Calif and other places directly affected by all of this...it is still a highly sensitive subject matter & a great loss!

Joanie Blaxter's picture

Yes, Deborah, knowing Sharon personally as the WAPF chapter leader closest to her farm, I had a very long LOL at Mike's comment about Sharon being rich :)))) Thank you!

mark mcafee's picture

James called me yesterday to thank me for setting the record straight about who actually built and defended the early years of the CA raw milk market. James was passionate when he said that AV was a liar and did not do anything to build Rawesome and in fact he stole the Rawesome concept from James after Rawesome became successful.

There is plenty of negative energy arround this affair for sure. One thing is for sure, James and company built the foundations for the southern CA raw milk markets. AV was never a part of this hard work. Raw milk is a team sport and that means being constructive and delivering cold, very heavy and delicious raw milk. AV was not into team sports....he was into himself. He had a desparate need to be signficant and draw the attention to himself. That is why he created his own PhD from some no-name Carribean Island fake University. That is why he would approach the most vulnerable ( look deep into their eyes and tell their medical fortune ) and try and brain wash them when they had no other hope. He would travel like a gypsy selling his concepts to whoever he could corner long enough to listen. Some of it was very good and some was unfounded weird and cultish. If the raw milk community is going to get any kind of respect from mainstream and change the paradigm, it will be done by hard working, much more humble people that educate and do not alienate. People that work with out personal gain with coalitions of others. People that include and do not exclude. People that build bridges and do not destroy them ( eat their own young....like James, Palmer and others he attacked ). It will be built by People that say WE and not ME. People that stand together and embrace food safety instead of consumption of pathogens. Although I do agree that consumption of low levels of pathogens is one radical way to build immunity...it will not be very constructive when trying to build any sort of bridge across the great divides that lay between the FDA CDC and ourselves. In fact, to the mainstream it certifies you as pathologically pyschotic or even homocidal. That is not progressive or constructive.

Lets put AV to rest and join in the future as a constructive force taking only the best of AV with us.

Joanie Blaxter's picture

Mark, thank you for this excellent post. Yes, it's about learning from the past in order to keep our eyes firmly on the future so. we don't fall into the same hole over and over.

AND I sent you an email with a question about EColi and haven't heard back. I'm sure you're busy, but the timing on this is important (I'll say more by email). Could you check and get back to me?

VictoriaB's picture

Thought I wasn’t gonna comment again but it feels like there’s something important getting missed here, so I’m going to do my best to voice it. It has to do with Aajonus’s legacy, and my perception that in trying to break down the details (and I’ve been part of that), there is a bigger picture somehow being missed.

David, I didn’t feel taken to task by you (nor Sharon, nor James, as I see it). You’re doing your level best, as always, to make sense of the history being built and in which we all participate. You’ve got your own relationship with Aajonus, developed over the years. You’ve attended trials and rallies with him, seen him up close in ways that many of us on the west coast have not. You’ve always worked hard to give him a voice (maybe too hard, I hear some saying), even when he accused you of going over to the dark side in recent months.

I think that one of the most challenging aspects of Aajonus, in death as in life, has been the attempt to define him – and he pretty much defies such definition. Trying to categorize him always ends up missing huge swathes of this complex person. And therein lies a dilemma: If one only brings up the good stuff, a disservice is done to those who suffered at his hands. If one only brings up the negative stuff, a disservice is done to those who benefited from his presence in their lives. But for either group to protest that theirs is the only truth, and that those with different experiences are idiots or worse, liars, does a disservice to everyone, Aajonus himself most of all. He’s been far too visible, far too dramatic, far too interesting.

On the positive side, there are many farmers he helped – including Alvin – who will forever be grateful to him. There are people whose health improved from consulting with him, and who found him a fount of wisdom. There are people who benefited from the buying clubs he helped to establish, connecting farmers with buyers. He had family and friends. What I say to these people is, I am so sorry for your loss, and I give you my heartfelt condolences. (And when you've dealt with your grief, I hope you can acknowledge that he did some things in life that were not as wonderful as those you experienced.)

On the negative side, there are people who were harmed by his actions and hostile claims; some of them still suffer from the fallout of his attacks. There are those who did not benefit from his health advice, and some who got a whole lot sicker as a result of trying hard to stay with his advice, convinced by his certainty, even when it was not working for them. What I say to these people is, I hope you heal, and that at some point you can move into forgiveness. (And when time and distance have done their work, I hope you can acknowledge that Aajonus did some good things in the trajectory of his life, too.)

I felt it was worth taking the time to correct David’s version of Aajonus’s history because it bothered my sense of fairness, as well as the record of history being written here. I hate to think that a hundred years from now, when raw milk is available to everyone, and Monsanto is running a nonprofit to support small farm rights (hey, I can dream), readers might look back at this time and think that Aajonus went it alone, or that he was the spear tip in the food rights movement. I don’t want to diminish his role, but to have it be seen in balance with the role that so many others have played. I really hated what I saw happening to friends of mine as a result of his destructive wrath. But I don’t hate the guy, and never have, and I acknowledge the good things he did. He very publicly followed his muse where it led him, both into paths that were beneficial and those that were not – for others and ultimately for him as well.

For his sake and for ours, I wish he could have been more generous to fellow leaders in the forefront of the struggle for food rights. I wish he had felt less need to represent himself as the lone ranger, the assaulted hero, the victimized knight. I wish he could have been more open to discussion and contrasting points of view. I wish he could have been kinder. I wish he had been less willing to take offense. I wish he had not engaged in vindictive actions that weakened the power of his voice. I wish he could have had a more unblemished record. But he didn’t, and that’s just got to be OK with us all.

But whatever else, Aajonus was an oversized, outrageous, fascinating man with passionate views and the persistence of a pitbull on behalf of those he served and against those he disliked. He argued like a Philadelphia lawyer and told stories worthy of a shaman. Whether you liked him or couldn’t stand him, you must acknowledge that he was a larger than life character, with an outsized impact that encompassed both positive and negative. He doesn't deserve to be turned into a mythic hero, nor a mythic villain. He does richly deserve to have the full range of his upsides and downsides be acknowledged as he moves into our shared history.

David Gumpert's picture

Victoria, 
Beautifully stated. I just put out a tweet inviting Vonderplanitz's next-of-kin to consider using your comment as a eulogy.
Thanks also for so elegantly making the point that, as much as many people want the Vonderplanitz story to be black and white, it is, unfortunately, shades of gray, like so much in life.  

Victoria, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I only knew of Aajonus through David's writings, which to me at least certainly acknowledged both Aajonus's good sides and his darker ones. Your comment as someone who knew him expands on that written history and is overall a positive testament to a complex person.

drmccombs's picture

Nice perspective!

From the stream and length of comments it sounds like Aajonus' life has the makings for a feature film; intrigue, heroes, villains, and tragedy...though probably only a B-movie, depending on the director and producer. It is always interesting, the opinions people like to share someone dies. We each have our opinions and judgments but in "The Life of Aajonus," it is Aajonus who ultimately had to live with his choices, whether they ended up as victories or defeats. Though many have been impacted by him in one way or another, no one else could walk in his shoes just as no one else can walk in our own shoes. We each, by our example, add our energy to the whole animal that is humanity. On a spiritual note, what happens in each moment represents where we are in our evolution as a species. It isn't good or bad or right or wrong, it just "is." Everything finds balance one way or another. The pendulum swings both ways. No matter what judgment label is placed on Aajonus, he had his place. Each of us is an integral part of the whole. We are mirrors of each other in many ways. What we do to someone else, we ultimately do to ourselves. Aajonus believed he was the change he wished to see in the world. Until we learn not to judge others, we will continue to be judged ourselves and we will maintain the status quo in which we as a struggling society finds ourselves. Forgiveness is always key in moving forward in evolution. I hope those who continue feel angry by Aajonus' actions can find a way to forgive him, as well as themselves for holding onto that anger. Why hold that kind of energy for the rest of one's life? As Lewis B. Smedes put it, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." Good or bad, Aajonus and his energy was an important part to the food rights movement. Maybe we can learn from the experience, move forward, and build community so we can all be free to choose the foods we want to feed ourselves. That is, after all, the whole goal we are all working toward in our own way, isn't it?

David Gumpert's picture

Rosanne, thanks. Aajonus was definitely long on the judgmental side of things, very short on the forgiving. As you suggest, his targets will do themselves a big favor if they learn to forgive. It may well take them some time to truly forgive, not just mouth the platitudes, but that is okay, and probably the way it should be. 

churchlanefarm's picture

Each of us is indeed an integral part of the whole of Gods complex creation. As created human beings we are called by Jesus to forgive, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”

Ken

Eaden Shantay's picture

Thank you for this meaningful thread. Of course, everyone will see Aajonus as they need to, each of us through our own unique perception, clouded by the veils of past conditioning and experience. Everyone will see the “truth,” from their perspective. Aajonus was both a powerful mirror and lightening rod.

I for one see him as someone who changed my life for the better at the age of 35, after struggling a lifetime with severe food allergies. Twelve years later, on the Primal Diet, I feel really amazing as does my wife Deva. Through iridolgy he detected uranium poisoning in our son before symptoms emerged. Later hair and urine analysis confirmed this and we were able to treat Zane with great results.

I saw Aajonus’ brilliance, tenacity, passion and inherent goodness but I also saw his humanness, with imperfections and unresolved hurt and anger from a challenging childhood.

I love the saying, don't judge another until you've walked in their shoes.

When we feel pain, either the pain of grief or the pain of feeling wronged, it's easy to point the finger but what of our part in the dance. Aajonus was far from perfect, and the same is true for each one of us, we all contain both light and dark. To place anyone on a pedestal is to see that person eventually fall. This is the nature of things.

To all affected by Aajonus, the questions I have are: What can we learn about ourselves from our interactions with him? As that is why we are here, to learn, grow and evolve. Will holding resentment help us or hurt us? And, how can we take full responsibility for our actions. My prayer is that we can all resolve the energies within us that Aajonus reflected. That we can make peace within ourselves and with what has happened and from this place, move forward on our quest for healthy, organic, raw and sustainably harvested foods for all.

Within each ending lies the possibility of a new and more profound beginning.

Let us grieve, let us heal and find our inspiration to make the world a better place. Of course this starts with each one of us, inside our hearts, minds and souls.

We will be holding a memorial service for Aajonus, in Carbondale, CO, October 26th and will be showing his workshop from UCLA, have a raw food potluck and conclude with a memorial service. Feel free to contact me eaden@truenatureheals.com.

In loving-kindness, Eaden

David Gumpert's picture

Eaden, 
Thank you for sharing your perspectives on Aajonus Vonderplanitz. I think your advice to look within to gain insights on the effects of relating to him is very well taken.

In reading this exchange, I am prompted to add a few observations particularly considering the AV controversy of the past few years.

I didn't know Aajonus as intimately as many on this blog, but I did watch him for about 6 years when he came in town for lectures. I came to appreciate most of his dietary principles, contacted him occasionally for various health issues and appreciated his help with raw milk challenges. I questioned his stories and allegations about as much as anyone could I suppose and even went to some trouble to informally investigate some of his personal stories and case claims. I questioned folks who knew him better than I or were personally involved in various incidents he discussed, and even got copies of a test he claimed had been run. He really was a small time actor and a naturally dramatic storyteller, and I factored that into my personal evaluations. Bottom line, I found more evidence than I expected to corroborate his tales.

I liked him, and appreciated his often patient and kind attitudes toward sick people. I had been looking for a practitioner who really practiced according to the pleomorphic theories, to see how well those ideas actually work, and AV fit the bill! I recognized he was ferocious when it came to defending raw milk and raw food in general, apparently rooted in a genuine care for others as well as himself. His seeming lack of fear in the fight may have been fed by the fact that he had no close nuclear family who "needed" him.

In my opinion he retained some of his Autistic Spectrum Disorder characteristics, which may account somewhat for his sometimes jarring behaviors, attitudes, social characteristics, and even fearlessness. I called him out once when he was examining someone's hands, asked how he could "see" something (that happened to be true) and he mentioned that he could see more "qualities" than most folks can. Was this a deflection of my challenge, or was it true? ASD folks often do have unusual sensory perceptions so maybe it was true???

I credit his opinions with influencing me very much to appreciate the healing properties of truly raw food and raw fats, and perhaps even more he instilled a respect for toxins and the damage even seemingly "minor" ones may exert. To AV, there were no minor toxins!

I, as I am sure others did as well, watched AV to see how he fared on his ideas. I will just state that at one point several years ago, I particularly noticed that AV really looked good, skin was great, he was nicely filled out, etc. Then the next time, less than a year later I saw him again and he looked shockingly bad by contrast, too thin, drawn. I couldn't believe the difference! Something had dramatically changed. I can't pinpoint the exact time frame at the moment, but it was around the era of the H1N1 debacle. He claimed to have been assaulted by thugs in his hotel room and injected with ???. Far Fetched??? I wasn't there so it was his word on what happened, and the witness of others who personally tell me they watched him go through some detoxes after that, but for sure something drastic happened, and it took a while before his body seemed to restabilize. I was not able to attend his last session in my area early this summer, and I am sorry to have missed that last opportunity to see him, so I don't know how he did over the last year. But for sure, something drastic happened to him health wise around the time he claimed to have been attacked.

David is pinpointing a personality change in AV at about the same time period that I and many others saw a physical slump. Is there a connection? It would not be hard to believe that he encountered some significant toxic exposure at that time.

Goodbye, we will miss you Aajonus, you have created tremendous good and tremendous controversy in life and death. For sure no one will ever forget you or your hard learned health legacy. We promise not to waste it. May God comfort those who are particularly hurting, before, and as a result of, your tragic passing.

Amanda Rose's picture

It's not clear when the Los Angeles memorial is, but here is some information:

~~~

A Remembrance and Celebration
for Aajonus Vonderplanitz

is being held on Sunday September 15th at 2:00pm in St. Louis, Missouri.

Aajonus recently died in a balcony collapse at his house in Thailand.

The gathering will be held at the home of Jeff Slay at 40 Oak Park Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63141 and will feature a complimentary smorgasbord of raw foods and desserts (you may bring a primal dish if you wish).

We desire to hold this out of respect and honor for our Beloved Friend, Mentor, Food Freedom Fighter, and a Pioneer on Raw Primal food as our medicine. The contributions that he made to all of us, to humanity and to the world will always be remembered.

Please RSVP to Anjellea at (636)489-2485 to ensure enough yummy food for all!!
---
A Memorial is being held in Los Angeles, California,in honor of our friend and mentor Aajonus Vonderplanitz.

The location is 6700 W. 83rd St., Westchester, Ca. 90045 in the Community Room, past the Community Garden, of the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church.

No RSVP is necessary; in lieu of flowers, donations are accepted to the Right to Choose Healthy Foods, Trust.