On our recent road trip to Granny’s house, we noticed that several of the fields that only last year had been planted with cotton, were now full of golden stalks of corn.
But you see, as promised, this isn’t really a post about produce.
My boys got real excited about peeking through a shuck to see what “corn right on the stalk” looked like, but were profoundly disappointed.
“What’s wrong with it?” they wanted to know. This is not corn. This is hard, icky stuff.
When I told them that all that corn, as far as the eye could see, was inedible, not meant for human consumption (at least not until it’s gone through some processing), they were astonished.
“Then why grow it?”
They grow it because it means cheap food for cows (even though it makes the cows sick and lowers the nutritional value of meat). They grow it because it’s tough to be a farmer and you have to grow what sells and what the government will subsidize. They grow it because that corn is turned into a cheap version of sugar that goes into sodas, cereals, crackers, pastas and just about everything else that Americans love to eat, even though it’s slowly making people sick and shortening our lives.
This whole discussion left my littles with a lot of questions. It left me with a lot of questions too.
So, when we got home, I got on Netflix and added King Corn to our queue.
We watched it yesterday, and I have to say that the filmmakers did such a good job of documenting this issue in an understandable and also unbiased way. They didn’t come out swinging at the farmers or at Americans in general, or at the government. or even at the cattle industry. They just presented the facts about this whole vicious corn cycle that we find ourselves in.
It’s definitely thought-provoking. Definitely. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Really.
My boys walked away from the cornfields with lots of questions, but after the film, they had just this one –
“But where do they grow the REAL corn?”
*** edited to add: A few folks have written in with some concern that I might be blaming the farmers for the state of affairs with regard to corn production. I just wanted to be clear then that in no way at all am I knocking the folks that feed us.
I have the utmost respect for the people who do the tough job of growing food for our nation, and I want very much to instill that respect in my boys too. Part of the reason I’m willing to risk life and limb to cross three lanes of traffic so that my kids can touch corn and cotton, is that I want them to know that the stuff they eat and use comes from somewhere.
Part of the reason that I’m willing to fork over the high price of gasoline and regularly travel to see our rural relatives, is that I want my boys to know that they stand on the shoulders of people who have worked hard to eek out a living off the land. I want them to pick peaches even though it’s hot. I want them to shell peas and have purple fingers for days to remind them that food is work. I want them to know that those little experiences are nothing compared to the work that has gone into preparing the land, planting the crop, weeding and pest control, fertilizing, hoping, and praying, that the farmers do for us day in and day out.
It’s a tough life, and I am in awe of those who do it. If you are among them, I thank you, truly.
The reason that I wrote about this movie is that I am very concerned about this whole corn cycle that we’ve gotten ourselves into, and I think that film does a great job of presenting the history and the ongoing reasons that the government, the farmers, the cattle industry and the American people rely so heavily on a type of corn that may in the end be very bad for us.
I don’t know the answers, but I think the questions are worth asking.