I’ve been thinking a lot about the film “King Corn” that I saw at our SouthCoast Energy Challenge team meeting this week. The film affected me on several levels. I have read a lot about how America’s farmland has been taken over by corn pr0duction … not the delicious sweet corn that I savor during the summer but feed corn used to fatten cattle, create ethanol and produce high-fructose corn syrup. The mythic family farm has disappeared, replaced by industrialized operations that max out the land and maintain high crop yields through genetically modified grains and massive use of chemical fertilizers. Gone is the idea of wise stewardship of the land with a mixture of crops and resting fields to allow natural nutrients to restore the land. With ever-increasing corn crop yields, we need to find markets to sell the crop — so cattle are now corn-fed in feed lots rather than the healthier method of allowing them to graze on grasslands and sweeteners derived from corn show up in virtually every processed food product — from sodas to tomato sauce. This is making both our livestock and ourselves very unhealthy. .
It’s very easy for me to say “these people are horrible” and feel morally superior but it’s not so simple. Farmers have always faced daunting challenges — the vagaries of weather, the ups and downs of crop prices and long, hard work. You can’t blame them for wanting a more predictable and profitable life for themselves and their families. Growing corn — and federal subsidies — have enabled them to have better lives — but the unintended consequence has been the overproduction of unhealthy food that is sickening people and livestock
It’s easy to conclude that there is nothing I can do in the face of the industrialization of our food supply but there is something I can do. I tried to eat away my problems with an unhealthy diet filled with sugar and processed foods and my health declined sharply as my weight increased. I finally faced the truth about what I was doing to my health and was able to lose weight and eliminate all the chronic illnesses that were disabling me. I could go back to convenience foods but I have learned to read labels and live by the mantra “nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.” It is still a daily struggle but it helps to realize that I am not alone, that all of us have to resist the lure of cheap but unhealthy processed foods and make the extra effort to choose foods that are healthy and raised responsibly. And, my goal is to not only to invite others to embrace the benefits of healthy eating but to educate and mobilize them to fight back against King Corn’s sabotage of their health.