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Manna Storehouse: Lorain County December 08′ Raid Gets Norwalk’s Attention

March 30, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 7:26 AM EDT

NORWALK — State Rep. Terry Boose, R-Norwalk, is requesting that tax records and more than $10,000 in food be returned to a LaGrange family whose food cooperative was raided by a dozen armed police last December. He called the situation a “case of government gone wild.”

Jacqueline and John Stowers, who operate the Manna Storehouse co-op, have sued the Lorain County General Health District and Ohio Department of Agriculture over the search in which sheriff’s deputies seized hundreds of pounds of lamb, turkey and other perishable products in addition to office files, a computer, two cell phones and other electronic devices. The health district prompted the search and an investigation into the co-op for not having a license to operate as a retail food business.

Boose said he looked up the case on the Internet and met with the Stowerses to discuss their concerns. He said he does not have any opinion on whether or not the co-op should have a license but said they deserve their tax records and food, much of which they used for their personal consumption.

He wrote a letter on March 5 to the government agencies requesting as much.

“I was hoping that we could get the records back to them so they could do the things they needed to do with them to move on with life while the rest is held up in court,” Boose said. “The food, their concern was how long it was being held and when they were getting it back. I can’t imagine they would need to keep all of that as evidence.”

Assistant county Prosecutor Scott Serazin, who represents the health district, said prosecutors have agreed to return the tax records, but the Stowerses did not want to sign a receipt to take them. The food, which failed a health inspection, will stay in a refrigerated storage area with the health district to ensure it is not sold, he said.

“The concern is to not put it back in an environment where it could be sold,” Serazin said. “It’s not licensed for sale. It’s a very simple matter of getting a license.”

Boose also said the Dec. 1 search, which the Stowerses characterized as a “traumatizing” seven-hour ordeal, was out of line. He said it could have been handled differently, and would like to meet with the parties involved to ensure proper procedures were followed and find out why it was conducted the way it was.

“I am extremely disappointed that your department allowed the use of violent force to try and resolve a minor dispute with peaceful citizens who were just trying to provide healthy organic food for their children and other families in my district by running a food co-op,” Boose wrote in his letter to Kenneth G. Pearce, director of the health district.

Sheriff’s Capt. Richard Resendez has said the search, which took three to four hours, was uneventful and the family could have left if they wanted. Four deputies stayed with the Stowerses so they would not roam the residence while the search was being conducted in case they had any weapons at their disposal, he said.

The Stowerses are under a criminal investigation and face a misdemeanor charge of operating a food retail establishment without a license. Serazin declined to comment on the status of the investigation. The Stowerses are arguing a license should not be required for their co-op, which purchases goods from local farmers and distributes them to members, many of whom are family and friends, and not the general public.

Another point of contest has been over the Stowers’ lawsuit, which was filed in Lorain County Common Pleas Court but moved to the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio last month because of constitutional issues it addresses. The Stowers’ attorney, Maurice Thompson, said they amended their complaint for the issues to deal solely with the state constitution so it should move back to Lorain County Common Pleas Court.

Serazin said it should be heard by the federal court, which has more experience in hearing issues of constitutionality.

But Thompson said keeping it there is just a tactical delay on the part of the government agencies, as the court proceedings take longer at the federal level.

“There’s no federal agency involved here,” he said. “It’s a game on their part to slow things down and delay the process.”

More on the Manna Storehouse from “The Bovine” blog

DECEMBER 4, 2008…6:31 PM

More on ODA’s Manna Storehouse raid

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Manna Storehouse photo

Manna Storehouse photo

NEW DEC. 17: Manna Storehouse 7: The Stowers tell their story.

Our earlier post “ODA ’swats’ Manna Storehouse co-op” is proving to be tremendously popular. Following up some of the traffic sources and ping-backs I eventually found more details on the story, which is looking more and more bizarre. Here’s some of what Berit Kjos is saying about it over on the True Discernment blog. From the looks of things, somebody up there must think Amish farmers are more of a threat than those “terrorists” we hear so much about.

“On Monday, December 1, a SWAT team with semi-automatic rifles entered the private home of the Stowers family in LaGrange, Ohio, herded the family onto the couches in the living room, and kept guns trained on parents, children, infants and toddlers, from approximately 11 AM to 8 PM. The team was aggressive and belligerent. The children were quite traumatized. At some point, the “bad cop” SWAT team was relieved by another team, a “good cop” team that tried to befriend the family.

Manna Storehouse photo

Manna Storehouse photo

The Stowers family has run a very large, well-known food cooperative called Manna Storehouseon the western side of the greater Cleveland area for many years.There were agents from the Department of Agriculture present, one of them identified as Bill Lesho. The search warrant is reportedly supicious-looking. Agents began rifling through all of the family’s possessions, a task that lasted hours and resulted in a complete upheaval of every private area in the home. Many items were taken that were not listed on the search warrant. The family was not permitted a phone call, and they were not told what crime they were being charged with. They were not read their rights. Over ten thousand dollars worth of food was taken, including the family’s personal stock of food for the coming year. All of their computers, and all of their cell phones were taken, as well as phone and contact records. The food cooperative was virtually shut down. There was no rational explanation, nor justification, for this extreme violation of Constitutional rights.

Presumably Manna Storehouse might eventually be charged with running a retail establishment without a license. Why then the Gestapo-type interrogation for a 3rd degree misdemeanor charge? This incident has raised the ominous specter of a restrictive new era in State regulation and enforcement over the nation’s private food supply.

This same type of abusive search and seizure was reported by those innocents who fell victim to oppressive federal drug laws passed in the 1990s. The present circumstance raises the obvious question: is there some rabid new interpretation of an existing drug law that considers food a controlled substance worthy of a nasty SWAT operation? Or worse, is there a previously unrecognized provision(s) pertaining to food in the Homeland Security measures? Some have suggested that it was merely an out-of-control, hot-to-trot ODA agent, and, if so, this would be a best-case scenario. Anything else might spell the beginning of the end for the freedom to eat unregulated and unmonitored food….”

“….The issue appears to be the discovery of a bit of non-institutional beef in an Oberlin College food service freezer a year ago that was tracked down by a county sanitation official to Manna Storehouse. Oberlin College’s student food coop is widely known for its strident ideological stance about eating organic foods. It seems that the Oberlin student food cooperative had joined the Manna Storehouse food cooperative in order to buy organic foods in bulk from the national organic food distributor United, which services buying clubs across the nation. The sanitation official, James Boddy, evidently contacted the Ohio Department of Agriculture. After the first contact by state ODA officials, Manna Storehouse reportedly wrote them a letter requesting assistance and guidelines for complying with the law. This letter was never answered. Rather, the ODA agent tried several times to infiltrate the coop, as described above. When his attempts failed, the SWAT team showed up!

Food cooperatives and buying clubs have been an active part of the American landscape for over a generation. In the 1970s, with the rise of the organic food industry (a direct outgrowth of the hippie back-to-nature movement) food coops started up all over the country. These were groups of people who freely associated for the purpose of combining their buying power so that they could order organic food items in bulk and case lots. Anyone who was part of these coops in the early era will remember the messy breakdown of 35 pounds of peanut butter and 5 gallon drums of honey!…

“….The state of Ohio boasts the second largest Amish population in the country. Many of the Amish live on acreages where they raise their own food, not unlike Manna Storehouse, and sell off the extras to neighbors and church members. There is a sense of foreboding that this state crackdown on a longstanding, reputable food cooperative operation could adversely impact the peaceful agrarian way of life not only for the Amish, but homeschoolers and those families living off the land on rural acreages. It raises the disturbing possibility that it could become a crime to raise your own food, buy eggs from the farmer down the road, or butcher your own chickens for family and friends – bustling activities that routinely take place in backwater America.

The freedom to purchase food directly form the source is increasingly under attack. For those who have food allergies and chemical intolerances, or who are on special medical diets, this is becoming a serious health issue. Will Americans retain the right to purchase food that is uncontaminated by pesticides, herbicides, allergens, additives, dyes, preservatives, MSG, GMOs, radiation, etc.? The melamine scare from China underscores the increasingly inferior and suspect quality of modern processed institutional foods….”

Read the whole thing here.

FOR LATEST REVELATIONS: See Manna Storehouse SWAT Part 3– includes: Katie Stover’s husband was serving in Iraq at time of the raid, possible rationale for the police tactics could be the unrelated murder of officials during a meat inspection in 2000. Also story and reader comments from local newspaper coverage.

MANNA STOREHOUSE PART 4: Did Police really enter “with guns drawn”?

NEW: Manna Storehouse raid part 5 –DEEPER DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

DEC 16 UPDATE: Manna Storehouse #6

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2009 7:01 pm

    they have taken this altogether into the wrong venues and jurisdictions,
    as those “courts” are all run by the Crown-Temple “ATTORNS”

    Once you hire an “ATTON” OF THE CROWN-TEMPLE, you become an “WARD
    of those phony courts” as the supposed “JUDGES” only act in the capacity of
    “commisioners under Title-5, “administrative-procedures” for the bankrupsty of the “CORPORATE UNITED STATES AND IT’S SUB-CORP. STATES”
    “Ohio” has never been a so call “state of the Union” ever !

    But these people have the right Heart, but do Not understand, who, what, where, what, and what their Real-names are, and how the names are used, “I’ calledthem at the very beginning and then they made the fatal mistake of hiring an “ATTORN” the word “ATTORN” “MEANS TO TWIST TEAR AND PULL APART”, AND THEY ARE NOT LAWYERS ”

    “I” could go on and on with real information and the Real-law, but how many will listen ?????
    thankyou for listening


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