Curt Ellis is a creator of the hit documentaries KING CORN, THE GREENING OF SOUTHIE, BIG RIVER and TRUCK FARM, co-founder of the national AmeriCorps program FOODCORPS, and a passionate campaigner for changing the way America’s next generation eats, builds, and lives.
Since graduating from Yale in 2002, Curt has constructed green homes in Oregon and the Adirondacks, launched the award-winning documentary and advocacy company Wicked Delicate, grown 10,000 pounds of genetically modified corn, and lived to tell the tale.
KING CORN (directed by Aaron Woolf) follows Ellis and his best friend, Ian Cheney, on a yearlong odyssey to understand where their food comes from… by growing it. In what The Washington Post calls “Required viewing for anyone planning to visit a supermarket, fast-food joint, or their own refrigerator,” the city-slickers learn to drive a combine, cash in on government subsidies, and homebrew high-fructose corn syrup. Their Peabody-winning findings, shared with theatergoers in 60 cities and in a PBS national broadcast, change the way audiences eat.
Ellis co-created and produced THE GREENING OF SOUTHIE (directed by Ian Cheney), a feature documentary that follows Boston’s first residential green building through the stories of the men and women who set out to construct it. Set on the colorful streets of South Boston, THE GREENING OF SOUTHIE is a humorous look at how green jobs are turning America’s toughest-looking workers into environmentalists. Broadcast on the Sundance Channel with a DVD release by A&E, The Seattle Times calls it “A balanced but incisive look at a complex issue that affects us all.”
As a Food and Community Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Ellis returned to Iowa in 2009 to produce and direct the 30-minute KING CORN sequel, BIG RIVER. That film, broadcast on Discovery’s Planet Green, explores chemical farming practices and their impact on the people and places downstream. Also under the Fellowship, Ellis collaborated with Cheney to develop TRUCK FARM, a mobile garden that has been featured at the U.S. Botanic Garden and Sotheby’s and has inspired the development of 25 replicas and an award-winning film.
Today, Ellis is busy leading FOODCORPS, an AmeriCorps school garden program. The organization recruits young leaders to spend a post-college year conducting nutrition education, building school gardens and sourcing farm-fresh food for children in high-obesity communities. FOODCORPS is on a fast track to become the “Teach for America” of school food, with its current class of 50 (selected from 1229 applicants) set to double next year. The program brings vulnerable children education about what healthy food is, engagement with how it grows, and daily access to its nutrients in school lunch––all while launching a new generation of farmers and public health leaders.
Speaking engagements have Ellis traveling to a college or conference every two weeks throughout the year. In dynamic, media-rich presentations, Curt shares his personal and passionate transition from student to investigator to advocate and inspires young leaders to find their voice as change-makers. Audiences on college campuses around the country and at venues ranging from Pixar to the Smithsonian to TEDx have left Ellis’ talks inspired.
Curt has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR, in The New York Times and Washington Post. Currently working under grants from the WK Kellogg Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ellis is a Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneur, a winner of the Heinz Award, and a member of the board of directors of Slow Food USA. He is available for multimedia lectures, post-film Q&As and workshops on documentary and advocacy, either alone or with his collaborators.