When you think of corn, you might think of the 90s metal band (spelled with a ‘K’ and embodying a raucous explosion of angst and anger). More likely, corn conjures images of a summer barbeque: bright yellow ears grilled, buttered, and eaten straight off the cob.

However, the story of corn is more expansive and complicated than these contemporary reference points. Right now, industrial corn farming consumes 96 million acres of United States farmland (the US is the world’s largest producer of the crop). It receives billions of dollars in government subsidies every year, and it has turned the once-rich grassland of the midwest into the industrial corn belt, a vast monoculture with weak, pesticide-ridden soil.

This week, we unpack the role that corn plays in our ecosystems, economies, and the experiences of farmers. We start with a story about organic corn being fed to livestock. Then, we dive into the world of ethanol, and learn why it may not be the answer to our energy needs. We explore the complicated politics of corn legislation and how it affects farmers. Finally, we learn about the spiritual history of corn, and how people are keeping that history alive today.

Further Reading:

If you want to learn more about industrial corn farming, you can check out this article in Mother Jones, or you can read part one of Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore's Dilemma, which is all about corn.

To learn more about corn in Oaxaca, check out Yira Vallejo and Jonathan Barbieri’s work on the film Los Guardianes del Maíz.

If you’re interested in keeping up with Korn fans, you can check out Patrick’s Korn covers on his YouTube channel. You can also listen to Justin Wilson’s full episode about Korn on his podcast, Deprogrammed.


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