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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008 07:54 am

Corn row

Controversial flick takes aim at state’s favorite crop

Untitled Document It’s virtually impossible to travel in any direction from Springfield and not encounter acre upon acre of the state’s beloved yellow crop.
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 11.1 million acres of corn was harvested in 2006 in Illinois — more than 238,000 acres of it in Sangamon County alone — but what many people don’t know is that only a small portion is immediately edible. Three years ago, two Yale graduates set out to show that most of the Midwest’s corn isn’t the sweet eat-with-supper variety but instead what they call “processed food in the making.” In a central-Illinois premiere, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis’ documentary King Corn will be screened at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at City Nights (3149 S. Dirksen Pkwy.). In the film, Cheney and Ellis relocate to Iowa to plant and grow one acre of corn and then follow its journey through the food-processing system, where it’s made into such products as high-fructose corn syrup and livestock feed. Bridget Holcomb, agricultural policy coordinator for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, a co-sponsor of the screening, says the film’s No. 1 lesson is that food doesn’t originate on a grocery-store shelf. “It teaches the importance of knowing where your food comes from and its economic effects, its environmental effects, and its effects on the community,” she says. King Corn, which has been hailed as controversial, has already received its share of criticism from local and state organizations, including the Illinois Corn Growers Association. Spokesman Mark Lambert calls the documentary a misrepresentation of the commercial corn industry. “A couple of guys go out with no farming experience, plant such a small piece of acreage, and then try to draw correlations of what’s going on in one of the most modern, productive agricultural systems in the world,” he says. A panel discussion, featuring such topics as community-supported agriculture and the politics of food, will follow Tuesday’s screening.
Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com
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