Soybean production has made it to the Chicago Zoo with funding from the United Soybean Board (USB) and the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA).
An exhibit titled “Soybeans: Growing Food, Growing World” has been established by the soybean checkoff and ISA in John Deere’s Farm-in-the-Zoo at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. This exhibit brings a taste of farm life to children and adults from the city who may not have much firsthand experience with farming or food production.
“This display is a combination of education and communication to younger folks and the adults who see it,” says Jim Domagalski, a Columbus, Mich. soybean farmer and USB farmer-leader, who cut the ribbon to open the display. “It takes viewers through the planting, growth, harvest, and processing and exporting of soybeans.”
The interactive display gives a simple overview of soybean farming and processing while teaching the importance of soy to the United States and other nations. By using cranks and buttons, children can connect with the exhibit and the soybean production and marketing process.
“Children can push buttons to see the different growth stages of soybeans,” explains Domagalski. “Then there’s a combine with a crank that moves the plant through the combine when it’s turned. The Chicago Zoo estimates 3 million people a year will go through it.”
Soybeans provide many items to many different people. It is a high-protein feed for livestock, which become a source of protein for humans. The oil of the soybean can be edible oil for humans or used for industrial purposes such as biodiesel or replacement for petrochemicals in other items such as foam for seat cushions.
“There’s a gap between ag and the general public; they don’t know where food comes from or how it’s grown,” adds Domagalski. “People are distanced from the farm. This display shows the positive side of food production.”
USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.