Wheeler Canyon raw goat milk farmer pleads guilty in L.A. case

September 12, 2012
Santa Paula News

A Wheeler Canyon dairy farmer arrested in a raid on raw milk sales at a Venice health food store pleaded guilty to charges related to storing goat’s milk under unsanitary conditions.

Sharon Ann Palmer, 52, and her business, Healthy Family Farms in Santa Paula, pleaded to one count that she sold the goat milk in the Los Angeles County-based Rawesome market, according to the District Attorney’s Office. A Superior Court judge ordered Palmer to serve three years of probation, pay a $1,300 fine, and complete 40 hours of community service. Eight other related counts were dismissed.

Eugenie Victoria Bloch, 59, a farmers’ market volunteer, entered a guilty plea to one misdemeanor count of selling unlabeled or improperly labeled food and was sentenced to two years of summary probation. Three remaining counts faced by Bloch, all related to conspiracy, were dismissed.

A third defendant, James Cecil Stewart, who ran Rawesome and reportedly is Palmer’s ex-husband, is in custody in Ventura County awaiting trial in a separate case. His Los Angeles County case is still pending.

Palmer is still facing 38 felony counts in Ventura County, including multiple counts of grand theft, two counts of conspiracy, 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.  

The arrests of Palmer, Stewart and Bloch in April 2011 at Rawesome, a members-only food co-op, kicked off a controversy among advocates of raw milk and natural foods that received national media coverage. A 21-page complaint filed last year alleged Palmer - who appeared in a documentary targeting government interference with natural food advocates - had operated Healthy Family Farms since 2007 without any type of license or permit for milk and dairy-related products.

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