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Illinois soybean farmers reach out to city consumers

Did you know the Illinois soybean industry -- from the farmers growing the crop to the companies refining soybean oil and manufacturing livestock feed – supports more than 114,000 jobs in Illinois? In fact, every one of those jobs supports another 2.85 jobs elsewhere in the state, according to an economic study done earlier this year by Informa Economics IEG.

But that is only some of the great news that the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program shares with consumers through its new office that opened in downtown Chicago this summer. The Illinois soybean industry also supports $28.3 billion in sales output and $12.7 billion in gross state product – the value added through economic processes. Every $1 in gross state product generates another $2.41 in indirect economic impact.

Naturally, Chicago represents a significant portion of those statistics. Chicago’s role as a food and agriculture hub has had a profound positive economic impact on the soybean industry.

Now ISA’s new office on LaSalle Street, not far from the Chicago Board of Trade, offers the chance to generate even more economic impact as we talk with consumers, obtain greater access to the global marketplace and work to build relationships with soybean buyers and users.

Illinois soybean farmers participated in several activities this summer to further city consumer awareness of soybeans and the crucial role they play in so many food, feed and fuel uses. The goal is to help consumers understand just how often soybeans touch their daily lives.

We created a “Soy in the City” initiative to connect consumers to soybeans. The initiative has allowed us to collaborate with Chicago-area legislators on community improvement projects in their districts. For example, we provided supplies to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) so students could make and sell soy candles. We also provided ground pork to a new food pantry to discuss how pigs are one of the biggest consumers of soy.

Earlier this year, we made a life-sized “board game” that stretched down Chase Promenade South near “the bean.” The game featured different ways soybeans contribute to the local economy, including biodiesel fueling city and school bus fleets, transportation moving soybeans across the city, and local businesses and attractions using the crop in other surprising ways.

Most recently, we hosted more than 20 food bloggers, dietitians and other industry influencers at a farm-to-table dinner at the Museum of Science and Industry. The dinner showcased three courses with soybean connections. Farmers and chefs shared their perspectives about the role soy plays in feeding animals and its nutritional benefits in foods like cooking oil and soy sauce.

Want to know more? Follow our #SoyintheCity posts from @ilsoybean on Instagram.

Sharon Covert is the Illinois Soybean Association director and soybean farmer from Tiskilwa.

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