I jumped at the chance to see for myself how soybean farmers practice sustainable farming when I was invited to “Gather Around the Table” held at OC Farms in Kankakee County last month. OC Farms is a working soybean farm owned by Jeff O’Connor and his wife, Gina.
During the tour, we were reminded of some basic facts about soybean farming:
- There are 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois.
- Illinois is the number one soybean producer in the country.
- 98 percent of farms are owned by families.
Dinner Is Served
Talk about “farm to table,” we were served a delectable four course dinner that evening under a tent. The menu items were prepared with sustainably-produced plenish® high oleic soybean oil and fresh honey from the farm.
After nibbling on hors d’oeuvres while enjoying cocktails, we were seated and served a seasonal Caprese Salad along with a Delightful Tempeh Salad.
The “duet” entrée consisted of Grilled Prime Beef Tenderloin that had been marinated in shoyu, and with miso butter, and a Tuscan Turkey Roulade. A delectable Baby Vegetable Bundle was also on the plate.
Afterwards, we were served a trio of desserts including a scrumptious Chocolate Tofu Pot de Crème.
And yes, I felt stuffed!
Reducing Negative Environmental Impact
During the dinner and subsequent tour of the farm, we learned….
- Planting cover crops help to protect the soil and also sequesters more carbon. In the spring, the rich organic matter they contain are recycled back into the soil, thus reducing the need for fertilizer.
- Creating biodiesel from soybeans into fuel for farm equipment helps to reduce carbon emissions.
- Over the last 22 years, more than half a million acres of farmland have been converted back to wetlands.
- All these practices have reduced land use impacts, total greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion, plus boosted energy use efficiency.
Other industry representatives were there from Corteva Agriscience, Mayasari Tempeh and the National Turkey Federation. Each speaker wove in the role of soybeans in meeting consumer functional food and sustainability demands. I was interested to learn that the increased demand for protein in the American diet is being met by including soy protein in many popular consumer products.
In addition, attendees received a gift box of steaks and burgers from soy-fed Hoosier Steaks . My husband and I truly enjoyed eating them and hope to order from them when we need a special gift for someone!
One other cool note: President Joe Biden visited OC Farms in May of this year with a mere five days’ notice. When I have guests arriving in a few days, I know what a flutter of activity that takes place to get everything ready. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for the O’Connor Family to prepare for a visit from the President of the United States, the Secret Service and whatever it takes to bring him here!
In sum, soybeans have a significant role in meeting consumer demands for both sustainability and functional food.