A documentary being shown around the state this month follows an acre of Iowa-grown corn through the food chain, while studying changes in the nation’s farming and eating habits. West Coast native Curt Ellis discovered he and a friend in college on the East Coast each had a great-grandfather from tiny Greene, Iowa, so they decided to move to Iowa after they graduated to shoot the film, "King Corn."
Ellis, co-producer of the documentary, says: "We grew one acre of corn in the way that a typical farmer might grow a thousand acres of corn and then set out to see how it was going to be consumed as food. The things that were most interesting to us were how our corn became food like corn-fed beef and soda."
With the help of friendly neighbors and modern farming practices, Ellis and his friend harvested a bumper crop of corn and learned that, in his words, "America’s most productive and most subsidized grain" is found in almost everything we eat. "One in three current first graders is predicted to develop type-two diabetes during their lifetime which is a terrible disease that is largely a result of the way we eat in America," Ellis says, "we have a diet that relies very heavily on fast food and processed food and much of that is in one way or another derived from corn."
Ellis says corn is the most important food grown in Iowa and in the U-S, while its impacts on the economy, farming, the environment and on the health of the American public warrant a thorough conversation. "We’re incredibly sympathetic to farmers who are often seeing the hardships that are part of the system as much as anyone else," Ellis says, "the kind of consolidation that’s gone on in Iowa’s farms over the last 50 years is incredible to me. Just as our diet has shifted to this fast food/processed food culture, farm culture has shifted along with it."
The documentary will air tonight at 7 o’clock in Eldora at the Iowa Grand Theatre. Other showings include: a weeklong run starting Friday at Iowa College Square in Cedar Falls; Saturday in Clear Lake at The Lake Theatre; and Sunday in Fairfield at "Iowa Film for Thought" at the Co-Ed Theatre.