Taking the Good from Rawesome and Moving On; RAWMI Progesss
The comments here have definitely gotten a little edgy over the last few days. The Rawesome Food Club episode seems to bring out lots of unpleasant emotions in all of us.
I assumed when I posted Victoria Bloch’s retrospective, it might open some old wounds, but I didn’t expect the discussion to become as difficult as it did. Yet I’d like to suggest that there have been positive outcomes to emerge from the difficult exchanges, and from the Rawesome episode in its entirety.
- It takes eccentric people to be in the vanguard of a new movement. Aajonus Vonderplanitz was there, nearly alone, fourteen years ago, when the authorities had nearly eradicated raw milk from the California landscape (and much of the American landscape). And he was an important force for change that has made raw milk and other nutrient-dense foods much more widely available. But the people who form the vanguard of any movement sometimes aren’t the people there when the movement expands, and requires people who can lead and mobilize.
- There need to be allowances for people’s imperfections. In other words, there needs to be compassion and forgiveness when things don’t always go as planned, or various members of the movement community don’t do things the way you hoped or expected. It seems clear that everyone involved in the events leading up to the Rawesome implosion made errors of one sort or another. What has been missing is the sincere desire by the leadership to move on in ways that are constructive to the community, rather than soothing to their own personal egos. This is where the concern with Vonderplanitz has come from--his seeming inability to let go of errors of the past, and to move on.
- The movement, if it is reflective of people’s wants and true aspirations, will continue and grow, despite the infighting. Much as many food rights advocates would like to put the Rawesome episode out of their minds, even pretend it never happened, the fact is that it will remain an important part of the food rights history that is even now being written. A new and quite penetrating review of my book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights, makes this observation about Rawesome: “The prosecutions gained widespread attention but never became a cause celebre, thanks to infighting among Rawesome’s founders and erratic behavior among the Rawesome Three.” To encourage readers to keep their focus on where it matters most, I have included above a schematic from the search warrant served on Rawesome on June 30, 2010--sketched out by investigators of the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
Rawesome had a sad ending, But hopefully the lessons to emerge from it will serve the movement in positive ways moving forward.
The review of my book referenced above does an interesting job of assessing the reality of expanding the private food realm, and suggests as one option that the food rights movement consider third-party oversight in place of one-size-fits-all government regulation. It just so happens that the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) is expanding its reach by involving more dairies (five now officially certified), serving both the private and public realms. RAWMI is even hosting its first webinar this evening--you can still register to participate.