Editor's Note: The Manna Storehouse is one of the latest victims of the militarized society that has been taking over life in the United States. As food prices soar, and organic foods have become more popular, people are increasingly buying their food locally. Thus, cooperatives like this have become the enemy of the big commercial food and agro industries which are supported by the U.S. government. The police are using food and licensing laws in this attack. From the farm of my youth in Pennsylvania, we sold our fruits, vegetables and raw milk for years without a single problem. Amish relatives and neighbors continue to do so today. Here in Venezuela, the quality of food is excellent and well-monitored by the Chavez government without the need for these police raids and licensing requirements. Fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meats can be bought directly from the campesinos without paying "the middle man", the big supermercados, who oppose the government and price controls for basic foods which are strictly enforced.
The Manna Storehouse has been providing healthy foods to rural Ohio for nearly a decade. We begin this article with an excerpt from their website where they describe who they are and what they do. Please visit The Manna Storehouse and enjoy reading each section of their wonderful website, place your order and send them a word of encouragement. Read on to understand the brutal attack currently underway to shut them down. (Subtitles and photos added by Axis of Logic).
- Les Blough, Editor
Introducing The Stowers Family & Manna Storehouse
Manna Storehouse began 9 years ago as a small ordering group called the Stowers Co-op. At the beginning, it was run by John & Jackie Stowers and their 2 oldest boys, Chris & Chad. Eventually we expanded from 3 families to over 60 regular customers. Within the last 3 years, we have gone through a major transition time. We began ordering on a weekly basis, plus splitting cases for our customers and selling the left over items as retail. Thus, the Stowers Co-op became Manna Storehouse, creating what is now a non-working food co-op.
One of the reasons we began Manna Storehouse was to make it as affordable and convenient as possible for people to eat healthy. It is our belief that food is best as God intended nature to produce; no antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals, food dyes or other man-made additives. That is why we began searching out the best sources for all natural and organic food ourselves. We have been encouraged to find many farmers who are researching and working towards restoring their soil to the proper vitamin & mineral balance, therefore enhancing the nutritional value of the foods they produce.
Manna Storehouse photo
Swat Team conducts food raid in rural Ohio
December 5, 2008 posted on Word Press by John
Some have been questioning the authenticity of this story, here is a local news source link: Local food cooperative searched by state
|Photo of pasture at Manna Storehouse|
Berit Kjos compiled the following report, adding some text.
"The police paramilitary units also conduct training exercises with active duty Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. State and local police departments are increasingly accepting the military as a model for their behavior and outlook.... The problem is that the mindset of the soldier is simply not appropriate for the civilian police officer. Police officers confront not an 'enemy' but individuals who are protected by the Bill of Rights. Confusing the police function with the military function can lead to dangerous and unintended consequences...."
- Diane Cecilia Weber
“We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”
– Barack Obama
“At the World Food Programme we have recognized what a valuable tool food aid can be in changing behaviour. In so many poorer countries food is money, food is power…..”
– Catherine Bertini
Executive Director of
World Food Program
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. The Stowers family has run a very large, well-known food cooperative called Manna Storehouse on 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.
Photo of corn fields at Manna Storehouse
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.
One blogger familiar with the Ohio situation has reported that:
“Interestingly, I believe they [Manna Storehouse] said a month or so ago, an undercover ODA official came to their little store and claimed to have a sick father wanting to join the co-op. Both the owner and her daughter-in-law had a horrible feeling about the man, and decided not to allow him into the co-op and notified him by certified mail. He came back to the co-op demanding to be part of it. They refused and gave him names of other businesses and health food stores closer to his home. Not coincidentally, this man was there yesterday as part of the raid.”
The same blog also noted that the Ohio Department of Agriculture has been chastised by the courts in several previous instances for its aggression, including trying to entrap an Amish man in a raw milk “sale,” which backfired when it became known that the Amish believe in a literal interpretation of “give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42)
Photo of their flock of sheep at Manna Storehouse
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!
The Buying Clubs
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!
These buying clubs have persisted and flourished over the years due to their ability to purchase high quality organic foods at reduced prices in bulk quantities. Most cooperatives have participated greatly in the local agrarian economies, supporting neighborhood organic farmers with purchases of produce, eggs, chickens, etc. The groups also purchase food from a number of different local, regional and national distributors, many of them family-based businesses who truck the food themselves. Some of these food cooperatives have become large enough to set up mini-storefront operations where members can drop in and purchase items leftover from case lot sales. Manna Storehouse had established itself in such a manner, using a small enclosed breezeway attached to their home. It was a folksy place with old wooden floors where coop members stopped by to chat and snack on bags of organic corn chips.
Implications for the Amish Communities
A beautiful Amish farm in Pennsylvania
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.
Local Food Sovereignty
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. One blog, commenting on the bizarre and troubling Manna Storehouse situation, observed that:
“No one is saying exactly why. At the same time the FDA says it it safe to eat the 40% of tainted beef found in Costco’s and Sam’s all over the nation. These farm raids are very common now. Every farmer needs to fully eqiped [sic] for the possibility of it happening to them. The Farmer To Consumer Legal Defense Fund was created just for this purpose. The USDA just released their plans to put a law into action that will put all small farmers out of business. Animals for the sale of meat or milk will only be allowed in commercial farms, even the organic ones.” December 3, 2008 7:09 PM
Note: “The police paramilitary units also conduct training exercises with active duty Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. State and local police departments are increasingly accepting the military as a model for their behavior and outlook…. The problem is that the mindset of the soldier is simply not appropriate for the civilian police officer. Police officers confront not an ‘enemy’ but individuals who are protected by the Bill of Rights. Confusing the police function with the military function can lead to dangerous and unintended consequences….” (Diane Cecilia Weber, Cato Institute, “Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in Police Departments“)
UPDATE: DECEMBER 5, 2008
Seems U.S. Forgot to Tell Navy Seabee Chad Stowers the Real War Is Being Fought Here...and He’s the Enemy
Source: The Complete Patient
Friday, December 5, 2008
When officers from the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio arrived last Monday at the Manna Storehouse food cooperative in LaGrange with weapons drawn and trained on Katie Stowers and her children, along with her in-laws, there was one member of the family missing.
Katie’s husband, Chad, is a U.S. Navy Seabee, helping in construction projects in the midst of combat in Iraq. He’s been there, separated from his family, for the last five months, supposedly protecting our rights from abuse—the sort of abuse that appears to be taking place on an ever-more-frequent basis at farms and food outlets around the country.
I should point out that Katie didn’t broadcast the information about her husband to me—I inquired about it after she had to interrupt our telephone conversation to take a call from Chad in Iraq. Presumably, she was updating him about the raid he missed, in which sheriff’s deputies, together with food inspectors from the Lorain County Health Department and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, herded the family into a home living room, and kept them under the guard of armed officers for about seven hours, while they executed a search warrant, taking food, cell phones, three computers, and business records. I asked Lorain if she was aware of the irony of her husband putting his life on the line in Iraq, while she was being held at gunpoint in her home by American law enforcement officials, and she said, “It occurred to me.”
The reason for the heavy-handed treatment? That’s not certain, since Lorain County officials won’t comment, except to say they are conducting “an investigation.” Katie Stowers says the only reason she’s aware of is a possible disagreement over whether the cooperative should be licensed as a retail establishment. A year ago, county health department officials arrived wanting to do an inspection, which the Stowers refused to allow, pending receipt of a written explanation. “We sent them a letter, asking why. We never received a response”...until Monday.
Manna Storehouse describes itself as a “natural food co-op” that has been supplying members with beef, turkey, dairy products (including pasteurized and unhomogenized milk; photo above from its web site), and other products, for the last nine years. The Stowers family’s experience last Monday has been described on a few web sites, including this one.
Katie Stowers said the account is pretty much accurate. She says the officials showed up with a warrant, but that they didn’t identify themselves or say why they were there. “We don’t know who it was.”
The raid appears to have been launched under the auspices of the Lorain County Health Department, which sent food inspectors. It involved the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which had two employees there “in a supportive role,” according to a Lorain County Health Department employee, Joyce Davis. And then there were the armed guys from the sheriff’s office. The health department referred me to the Lorrain County prosecutor, Dennis Will, for more information, but he didn’t return my call.
It’s getting so that such heavyhanded raids on peaceful farmers and natural food distributors, which have long been exceptions in this country, are getting to be the rule. We’ve seen them in the cases of Gary Oaks in Cincinnati, Richard Hebron in Michigan, Mark Nolt in Pennsylvania, Nature’s Juice Co-op in Illinois. And as we saw in the Meadowsweet Dairy case, judges don't seem to care any more about abuses of search warrants and questionable seizures of goods. (For background on cases I alluded without links, there are multiple postings, accessible via the search function.)
I suspect the Lorain County officials figured this was just another case of weirdo foodies, and neglected to consider that even weirdo foodie family members fight for their country in faroff lands.