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Statement by Raw Inspiration
Response to allegations made by Ms. Shannon Reid
Calabasas, November 8, 2010
The Los Angeles Times reported that Raw Inspiration Market Manager Shannon Reid told a “listening session”, a meeting organized by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, that we had a “protected” and covered-up a violation at one of our markets.
There is absolutely no truth to Ms. Reid’s charge. We believe the article was highly irresponsible by repeating Ms. Reid’s allegations without asking her to provide any evidence to back up her claims.
Raw Inspiration operates 18 certified farmers’ markets and all its market managers are equipped with digital cameras, precisely to record any market violations, and they remain a permanent record of what happens at our markets. Such a policy is at odds with Ms. Reid’s charges of a cover-up.
According to the Times, Ms. Reid told the “Listening Session” that the alleged violator had “…admitted to her that he was cheating and removed the offending articles”. Nowhere on Ms. Reid’s violation record report of the incident (see below ATTACHMENT 1) does it mention the alleged violator’s admission. Neither can it be heard or seen on the video and audio recording of the incident that is so blurred it doesn’t even substantiate the charges in her report.
On April 17, 2010, Ms. Reid recorded a violation citing Mr. Kirby Wyllie and Lim’s Farms of “reselling blueberries and tomato cherries – product of Mexico – with bar codes and labels of other grower/distributor”. This is a practice known as “supplementing” and unfortunately occurs at many farmers’ markets.
Once we received Ms. Reid’s report and the “blurred” video report (which took Ms. Reid two weeks to get it to us) we opened a review and investigation of the alleged violations.
Also, on receiving Ms. Reid’s written report, on May 2 we sent a memo to all our farmers warning of the consequences of “supplementing”. (See below ATTACHMENT 2.) Here is an excerpt:
“It has come to our attention that some of the farmers may be supplementing their supply of fruits and vegetables purchased from the wholesale market, not grown on their own farm. We will be investigating farmers we suspect may be supplementing. If you are caught supplementing or bringing product not of your own production to any Raw Inspiration Farmers Market you will be suspended, and possibly be removed for good from participating in any farmers’ markets with Raw Inspiration.”
Our investigation uncovered two things: 1) Mr. Kirby Wyllie was guilty of “supplementing”, and 2) Ms. Reid had made the mistake of citing the wrong farm.
State regulations allow vendors to have more than one certificate. Mr. Wyllie was operating his booth that day with the certificates of Lim’s Farms (the party cited by Ms. Reid) and Rancho Las Gordonises dba Santiago Soto Ramirez.
Our investigation eventually showed that it was Rancho Las Gordonises that listed cherry tomatoes and blueberries on its certificate and it was that farm (and Mr. Kirby) that was guilty of “supplementing”. Lim’s Farms certificate did not list the offending produce and their employee, Mr. Wyllie, would have been unable to cover up any “supplementing” if a county agricultural inspector turned up at the market on that day.
Ms. Reid should have noticed this herself.
However, based on Ms. Reid’s report, we took action against Lim’s Farms. On July 16, we wrote” “This letter is to notify Lim’s Farms that they have been put on probation in all Raw Inspiration markets for a period of six months.” (Full text of the notification at our website, (see below ATTACHMENT 3).
Lim’s farms protested this action (as did Mr. Wyllie) because they believed that our market manager had cited the wrong farm.
After our July 16 action was challenged by both Lim’s Farms and Mr. Wyllie, we re-visited the incident. Eventually, after several months of further investigation the following action was taken:
Because of the confusion in market manager’s report, the challenge by Lim’s Farms (something they had the legal right to do) and staff vacations throughout September, the investigation did take longer than it should have.
But a further claim made by Ms. Reid is, like the others, also false. No Raw Inspiration market manager is discouraged from talking to Agricultural department inspectors. In fact, they do it all the time when the Agricultural department makes spot checks at all our markets. However, all market managers must report all vendor and other violations to their supervisor, the Raw Inspiration Market Coordinator. Market managers routinely share complaints and possible violations with Agricultural Department inspectors. And no Raw Inspiration market manager has ever been discouraged from that practice in all the years of operating farmers markets.
Furthermore, sometimes it is the Market Manager themselves that are cited for a violation. Ms. Reid herself has been cited for a personal violation on several occasions. It is important that the Market Coordinator is aware of every alleged violation. That is our policy. How could we efficiently run the company if market managers dealt directly with the various county agricultural department’s throughout the state?
There has been no cover up. Nobody has been protected. And that brings us to another issue.
The Raw Inspiration board has several vendor representatives. Because board member Diane Cook Young had a relationship with Lim’s Farm, our board President thought it best she resign from the board because of the on-going investigation. She did so with grace and understanding on October 14, 2010.
We totally reject Ms. Reid’s claims. There was no cover up and no protection and no retaliation against Ms. Reid. Our Downtown Farmers’ Market was managed by Ms. Reid until its closure last week to make way for the annual ice-skating at Pershing Square. Ms. Reid was the manager at our 7th & Fig farmers market but she told our Market Coordinator that its hours of operation were not convenient for her and because of that she withdrew her services from that market.
I hope this response allays any of the concerns of our faithful market patrons may have as a result of Ms. Reid’s false allegations.
Raw Inspiration, Inc.
For further information, please call
818 591 8161
or go to our website at www.rawinspiration.org