King Corn and Big River follow food from seed to harvest and beyond

By Straus Newspapers
January 14, 2010

Fourth installment in Environmental Film Series sponsored by Sustainable West Milford 
West Milford — Where does our food come from? And, just as importantly, what are the impacts from the way it is grown?

Join Sustainable West Milford on Thursday, Jan. 21, for “King Corn” and “Big River” from award-winning documentary filmmakers Curt Ellis, Ian Cheney and Aaron Woolf. This is the fourth in a six part Environmental Film Series sponsored by the group, covering environmental and sustainability issues including energy, water, organic foods, the importance of buying local, and more. 
In “King Corn,” Cheney and Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, moved to the heartland to learn where food came from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, nitrogen fertilizers, and powerful herbicides, they planted and grew a bumper crop of America’s most productive, most subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they tried to follow their harvest into the food system, what they found raised troubling questions about what we subsidize, and how we eat.

In “Big River,” the filmmakers return to Iowa with a new mission: to investigate the environmental impact their acre of corn has had on the people and places downstream. In a journey that spans from the heartland to the Gulf of Mexico, the two friends trade their combine for a canoe and set out to see the big world their little acre of corn has touched. Half of 
Iowa’s topsoil, they learn, has been washed out to sea. Fertilizer runoff has spawned a hypoxic “dead zone” in the Gulf. And back at their acre, the herbicides they used are blamed for a cancer cluster that reaches all too close to home. 
“Big River” has special relevance to current events: its release comes on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency re-opening its investigations into the safety of Atrazine, the leading herbicide used on corn farms, and in the wake of the federal government announcing $320 million in funding to reduce fertilizer runoff in the Mississippi basin.


This national launch of “Big River” is bringing the film to more than 100 communities around the country. Running time is 77 minutes. There will be time following the film for open group discussion. Handouts and Web site links will be available for attendees to learn more and take action.

For more information, please visit or contact the film series coordinator, Suzie Blodgett, at 973-998-9811. See you at the movies!