Yesterday I was watching a documentary. Yeah, I’m still in one of those phases. Then again, there’s only so many movies out there to watch and I can only tolerate watching the same plots repeated over and over again so long. I get bored of regular movies, so I’ve been taking it upon myself to watch documentaries.
Much to my surprise, the kids actually joined me for my documentary watching yesterday. I had decided to watch King Corn. It’s an interesting documentary about the corn farming industry and our culture’s unhealthy dependence on corn. I think the food industry is really interesting, but I know my kids don’t seem to care too much one way or another. It’s not really either of their things, so I’m sure you can imagine I was surprised when a third or so through the documentary the kids both sat down to watch.
First the questions were easy. What were these people doing? Why were they growing an acre of corn? Do they want to be farmers or something? What do they plan to do with all that corn? Is that huge pile that looks like sand actually corn?
Then the light commentary started coming. The kids thought it was funny that they had no idea how to use a tractor. They were surprised at how quickly an acre of corn could be planted. The little corn plants were so cute. Holy cow, they’re going to have a lot of corn when they’re finally done if everything goes according to plan.
It wasn’t much later that I saw the gears beginning to turn. First it was Corde. She wanted to know why farmers were locking their cows up in small spaces and feeding them corn. It didn’t make sense. Cows eat grass. Eating too much corn makes them sick and they’d die if they didn’t get killed for food anyway. Why would anyone feed them corn? For that matter, why would we eat so much in the way of corn?
Beekee’s thoughts were a lot more practical. He was so excited when they got to take their first bite of the corn they grew, but he was quickly disappointed by their reaction. They said it was horrible and tasted like sawdust. After all that work, they couldn’t even eat their own food. He was annoyed that the corn syrup factories wouldn’t allow them to take a tour to see how the process worked for their documentary. He and Corde both agreed that they must know they’re doing something bad that people won’t want to see if they don’t want cameras in there. It’s not like it’s some big secret, obviously, as these two guys were able to make their own corn syrup. He thought it was horrible to grown corn knowing that you’re not going to be able to eat it. “Food is supposed to feed people! You’re not supposed to send it away to make it into yucky stuff to make other stuff taste better. I want to eat some real corn if we grow it, not yucky sawdust corn!”
The kids were both surprised when they heard about the effects high fructose corn syrup has on the body. Even one soda a day can drastically increase your risk of diabetes. Corde pointed out that she didn’t want me to die because I used to drink three or four sodas a day, easily. I recall my mom drinking pretty much nothing but soda in my entire childhood, aside from one singular glass of milk in the morning. She always used to justify it by saying it was diet soda, but at the same time we were exceedingly limited on how much soda we could have. I’m not surprised that I imitated her when I grew up. Now that we’re short on money for food, soda is out of the budget. The kids were still worried, but as other medical studies have proven, the best way to prevent those diseases, and sometimes even reverse the effects, is to get off of a diet of those foods. I just have to wonder if that would happen with GMOs and my strange allergies too.
In the end of the movie they tallied up all of their costs and their profits, which shocked the kids. The kids thought that with growing 180 bushels of corn they MUST be making a profit. Well, they were wrong. They actually lost something like $30 off of their acre. However, that was mostly balanced out by a singular subsidy from the government of $28, paid half when they started and half after harvest. From what they said there were tons of other subsidies available that other farmers used in order to make corn a profit generating industry. If it wasn’t for that most of these farms would have gone under years ago.
The kids both think this is incredibly wrong. Corde was especially opinionated about this one. It’s not fair that we feed animals corn when they shouldn’t be eating it. We talked about the special diet I used to have for our dog before he ran away because Alaskan Malamutes can’t handle corn and soy in their diet. They’re not meant to eat it and it can make them sick. Corde was really upset that the government is paying all of these farmers to make food that can’t be eaten until it’s processed into “junk that we shouldn’t even eat because it could make us die!”
Sadly, Corde and Beekee want to go on a quest to eat a diet that’s free of high fructose corn syrup, but that’s just not possible on a food stamp budget. Fruits and vegetables are safe. Soups and pasta are generally safe. Unfortunately, so many foods are not. Our bread contains high fructose corn syrup. The expensive tomato sauce we splurge on does not, but the cheap stuff does have it. We’re going to start reading the ingredients lists of things together because the kids are really upset about the fact that poor people need to eat crazy things just to avoid that deadly high fructose corn syrup.
They really don’t want us eating corn-fed beef because they don’t think it’s right to eat sick cows. I agree, but that means cutting all beef from our diet unless we can find another place that sells grass-fed beef. I used to buy it all the time, but it was pricey and is now out of our budget. I’m seriously considering going beef-free, but I really don’t like poultry and I don’t eat pork, so that would drastically limit my diet. It might be different if Oz were more willing to go vegetarian, but it’s a struggle for him to give up pork. I don’t think he could ever give up all meat.
In all of this I’m afraid to show them anything on GMOs. If I did that they’d probably start getting super picky about foods. They’d want to stop eating corn and soy all together. They’d go vegetarian because they don’t want to eat animals that are fed those kinds of foods either. It would mean we’d be looking for everything certified non-GMO and I’d have to figure out vegetarian cooking and fast. We’d have to find a way to do healthy-vegetarian on the cheap. It’s good that my kids are so conscious about what they’re willing to put in their bodies, but eating healthy isn’t for the poor, not really. We do the best we can.
Still, I can’t help but think I’m raising little activists. They don’t want to sit by while other people tell them what to eat, especially when there’s so much evidence that it’s not safe or healthy to eat the things they’re told to eat. They want to live good, healthy lives so they don’t end up having the same problems I do. I can’t blame them.
And a message from Corde and Beekee:
Everyone should watch this movie so that they can understand what the farms in America are doing. If farmers would make corn that people could actually eat instead of stuff that makes junk food better tasting then no one in this country would ever have to go hungry. They just might get sick of eating corn.
And Beekee had to add specifically, “Everyone should make the farmers feed cows grass. Corn makes cows sick and die. I don’t want to eat corn sick cows. They might make me dead too.”
Such smart kids. So you heard it! They say go watch it! More importantly, I think the clearer, better message from the kids is to educate yourselves. If these concepts are easy enough for a 9 and 5 year old to understand, why isn’t this common knowledge, and why is the government just letting it happen?