Over the past 5 months, our staff has been on the road for tens of hours, driving hundreds of miles, talking to thousands of Ohioans, all about ONE small, but mighty, bean. The 2019 Ohio Soy Sustainable Summer program brought interactive bioeconomy education to five of Ohio’s great county fairs. Our team traveled to Paulding, Crawford, Union, Darke, and Morrow counties to speak with consumers about the emerging bioeconomy and soy-based technologies.
If you’ve ever driven down a rural highway in the summer, you’re likely to have seen a soybean field, but have you ever given any thought to what the beans are used for after they’re harvested? This is a question we like to ask fairgoers, especially in rural Ohio, where many people work in biomass production or other supporting agricultural industries. Most people know that soybeans are a great source of quality protein and oil for human consumption; many folks are familiar with soy in animal nutrition, but very few can identify fuel, materials, cosmetics, paints and coatings, household cleaners, and specialty chemicals as some of the potential uses for soy. The Ohio Soy Sustainable Summer program challenges consumers’ preconceived notions about plant-based materials and technologies and introduces a range of biobased solutions to modern-day challenges.
As consumers continue to seek out more sustainable products, manufacturers are utilizing soy biomass to reach their sustainability goals. Not only are soybeans a renewable resource, but they can also function as a blank canvas for scientists to develop novel chemicals and new technologies. Our program seeks to showcase these technologies and highlight ways that consumers might utilize these products to cultivate a more Sustainable World.
We set out to educate Ohioans about the soybean industry and the bioeconomy, but in the process, we did some learning of our own. After meeting some incredible people on our county fair tour, we learned that communities all across Ohio are taking initiative to have a positive impact on the environment. The Morrow County Extension staff, for example, have implemented recycling and composting programs for community members, and the Union County Cloverbuds, the division of 4H designated for children under 9 years old, participated in a soy-based bubble making activity. In a largely agricultural state such as Ohio, it is encouraging to see so many consumers and producers planning for the future they want to see, a more sustainable world.
This article was written by Brad Collins, OBIC Program Assistant.