Urban Food Revolution

"Urban Food Revolution" provides a recipe for community food security based on leading innovations across North America.

| May 2013

In The Urban Food Revolution (New Society Publishers, 2011), Peter Ladner draws on his political and business experience to show that we have all the necessary ingredients to ensure that local, fresh sustainable food is affordable and widely available. He describes how cities are bringing food production home by growing community through neighborhood gardening, cooking and composting programs, rebuilding local food processing, storage and distribution systems, investing in farmers markets and community supported agriculture, reducing obesity through local fresh food initiatives in schools, colleges and universities, and ending inner-city food deserts  


Is Local Food Safe?  

When an outbreak of E. coli in Minnesota that sickened at least eight people was traced to raw milk coming from the Hartmann brothers’ dairy farm in Gibbon in spring 2010, the debate between freedom and food safety broke out again. Michael Hartmann argued that his unpasteurized milk didn’t cause anyone to get sick, so he continued selling it even after state officials told him to stop until the farm cleaned up its act. 

Once again, the freedom to eat and drink what we want clashed with the reality that someone else is deciding what is safe for us. As more people look to local food for sustenance, a lot of us want the freedom to make our own decisions about eating something grown by a neighbor. 

Public health officials, however, have an obligation to protect us whether we like it or not. In the Hartmann case, the brothers’ customers may have disliked the state’s intrusion into their relationship with their milkseller, but no one wants E. coli poisoning. 

In Wisconsin, a state famous for its cheese, a bill allowing direct sales of raw milk to consumers made it all the way to the governor’s desk before it got killed because of its “loose standards” — and a lot of lobbying from the state’s $26-billion dairy industry. 

In the Hartmann case, four people ended up in the hospital, including a two-year-old who got a potentially lethal condition that can lead to kidney failure. Minnesota law allows direct sales of unpasteurized milk if it’s sold on the farm where it’s produced. Since the Hartmanns were delivering to drop-off locations, customers didn’t see what the Minnesota health investigators saw: “the extreme buildup of manure on virtually every surface in the dairy barn,” according to evidence presented to the court. The milk house ceiling was water damaged and crumbling. It was covered by thick layers of cobwebs and dust; there were dead flies and live flies in abundance, dead animals, rodent droppings, chickens in the milking parlor, rusty and corroded equipment, and milking equipment stored in a sink.