Brief History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in North Carolina

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

©Copyright 2017 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, California

North Carolina was the first state in America to grow soybeans commercially on a large scale, the first to crush domestically-grown soybeans, and the first to devise a farm implement for harvesting them mechanically. North Carolina was America's leading state in soybean seed production and acreage from the early 1900s until 1924. This early pioneering work proved to both soybean growers and crushers in other states that this new crop had great potential, and thus was a key factor in the growth of the soybean industry in America.

In 1856 soybeans were in North Carolina. On 31 May 1856 a packet of them (called Japan peas) was was sent by John J. Wyche from Henderson, Vance Co., North Carolina to the Agricultural Division of the Patent office. It seems very likely that Wyche also cultivated some of his soybeans, but we cannot be sure.

In 1882 Charles W. Dabney, Jr. first stated clearly that that the soja bean (Soja hispida) had been cultivated in North Carolina. Director of the North Carolina Experiment Station, he first wrote this in the station’s annual report (for the year 1882, p. 116-27). The Introduction begins: “This plant has been tried by a number of persons in different sections of the State and is favorably considered by them. It appears to be well adapted to our climate and soils, and yields very well.”

In 1909 North Carolina produced 13,313 bushels of soybeans; this was 79.1% of the total U.S. soybean production of 16,835 bushels, and far ahead of the No. 2 soybean-producing state, Tennessee, which produced 2,037 bushels (12.1% of the total) (Source: Thirteenth census of the United States taken in the year 1910, p. 626).

Geographically, North Carolina is located on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Its northern border, which it shares with Virginia, is at 36.5 degrees north latitude, about the same as Tokyo, Japan, and central South Korea. Long located within the Cotton Belt, since the Civil War it has been grouped with the “Southern States,” which attempted to secede from the Union of States. North Carolina is commonly divided into three geographical zones: the coastal plain in the east, the piedmont in the center (lying at the base of the mountains), and the mountains in the western third of the state.

Almost all of the soybeans in North Carolina are now (and have always been) grown in the eastern one-third of the state – the coastal plain (see map).

The Early Years, to 1899. It is not known exactly when the soybean was introduced to North Carolina, but it was there by 1856. Tom Byrd, a journalist, reported in 1965 that C.B. Williams, the state's great soybean pioneer, once said that “The first soybeans coming to North Carolina had been brought to Hyde County about 1870 by an old sea captain who obtained them in the Orient. They later spread to other coastal locations.” Hartwig (1981) mentioned this same event, without citation. Yet Williams made no mention of this key incident in his many extensive writings on soybeans in North Carolina.

Frank W. Hollowell Jr. of Elizabeth City reported in 1982 that in about 1880 his grandfather, Christopher Wilson Hollowell, planted soybeans on his “Bay Side” plantation in Pasquotank County, in the northeast corner of North Carolina. These soybeans were obtained from China by a friend. Mr. Hollowell died in 1892.

According to Dabney (1882), Dr. R.H. Lewis of Raleigh apparently grew soybeans the year before, and noted that their yield was 3 times as great as cowpeas.

For many years soybean proponents in North Carolina believed that their state had been the first in America to grow the new crop. As late as 1927 W.E. Ayers, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Soybean Association, was able to write: “Hyde County [North Carolina] is said to be the original home of the soybean in the United States and for many years has been the leading soybean producing county in the country.” Only later did soybean historians realize that soybeans had been introduced to North America as early as 1765 by Samuel Bowen in Savannah, Georgia (Hymowitz and Harlan 1983), that by 1804 they were growing in Pennsylvania (Mease 1804), and by 1880 they had been grown in many states.

The earliest known written reference to the soybean in North Carolina was in 1882 by C.W. Dabney, who was a trained chemist but only an academic farmer. In the Fifth Annual Report of the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, he wrote a very positive 12-page section titled “The Soja Bean--Soja hispida.” He noted that soybeans were superior to cowpeas in yield and feeding value, described Haberlandt's early work introducing soybeans to Europe, gave a long condensed translation of Dr. Ernst Wein's Die Sojabohne as Feldfrucht (1881), stated that yellow soybeans had been grown in North Carolina, and gave a nutritional analysis of these yellow soybeans (18.0% fat and 34.6% protein on an “as is” basis) and an average of 16 analyses by German chemists. He compared the composition of soybeans with that of yellow cowpeas, white beans, green peas, and cottonseed, showing that soybeans were remarkably rich in both fat and protein, and that their yield per acre of these two nutrients far surpassed that of cottonseed. He also demonstrated that soybeans produced superior hay and forage. Finally Dabney noted the widespread food uses of the soybean in East Asia, and gave a recipe for mashed soybeans and potatoes (from Prof. Hecke of Vienna). But he concluded that “The chief interest of this bean is, however, as a feeding stuff for stock.”

In 1890 McCarthy, a botanist at Raleigh, in a bulletin titled “The Best Agricultural Grasses,” noted of the “soja bean” or “Japan pea”: “Though this bean has been known in the Southern States for a long time, its cultivation has never become very extended. The beans are regarded as a staple food in Japan, but in this country they are scarcely edible, probably because they are not properly cooked.” In numerous tables, he analyzed soybean hay and compared it with that of cowpeas and various grasses.

In 1892 Emery (an agriculturalist) and Kilgore (a chemist) at Raleigh analyzed the digestibility of “soja bean” silage for goats and a bull; they found it to be of excellent nutritive value, especially when fed with corn. In 1897 Emery got similar results on feeding experiments with milch cows.

In 1894 McCarthy and Emery wrote North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin No. 98, titled “Some Leguminous Crops and Their Economic Value.” Referring to the soybean by various names (soja bean, soy bean, Japan pea, Japanese pea, Mongolian pea, soy pea, or Glycine hispida), they stated that it was one of North Carolina's “most valuable and generally used forage and fertilizing plants,” described three varieties, and gave a nice illustration. They also published America's earliest known recipe for cooking green vegetable soybeans, submitted by Dr. J.H. Mills of Thomasville, NC. In the Station's annual report of 1894 (p. 241, 254) Emery elaborated on the soybean's food uses:

It is also a good table bean, but requires a long time in cooking, and most people will have to learn to like its flavor. . . The bean parched similar to coffee has been used as an acceptable substitute for it, and at far less cost. It has not the exact aroma of coffee, but is recommended as a cheap substitute probably just as good and in some cases better than the low grades of coffee after being adulterated with peas or beans with a value less than the soy bean.

By the mid-1890s the soybean was probably being grown fairly extensively in North Carolina, especially in the eastern part of the state, and largely as a forage, hay, or silage crop for livestock, rather than for the seeds. Unfortunately no production statistics are available (McCarthy and Emery 1894; Williams 1917; Winters and Herman 1921). The earliest varieties grown were the Mammoth Yellow (introduced by 1882 and by far the most popular), the Mammoth Brown, and the Tarheel Black or Shanghai (Morse 1918; Winters 1927; Hartwig and Nelson 1947).

1900 to 1909. During this period there were few publications on soybeans in North Carolina (except in newspaper articles), so little is known of new developments. But at the turn of the century the School of Agriculture of North Carolina State University at Raleigh was looking for new crops. In 1904 Burkett reported that experiments with soybeans began at the College farm. These included fertilizer tests and the effects of lime, variety evaluation, quantity of seed to plant, and methods of planting.

In about 1907 the Tokyo and Haberlandt varieties were introduced to North Carolina, and in 1909 the first soybean production statistics were reported; 12,000 acres were grown in the state that year, with an average yield of 12 bu/a (808.7 kg/ha) on the acres used to grow seed (Hartwig and Nelson 1947). But most of the crop was still used for forage, hay, and silage.

By 1907 the soybean was still considered a minor crop in America, with less than 50,000 acres under cultivation nationwide for all purposes; North Carolina produced more than 90% of all the harvested seed, but still less than 50,000 bushels.

In 1907 the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station discovered a treasure trove of new information and soybean varieties when they began correspondence with USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (Washington, DC). Soon North Carolina was receiving the latest and best soybean varieties with requests to report back on their performance. C.B. Williams wrote his first letter to USDA concerning soybeans on 26 Nov. 1907; it is also the first evidence we have of his interest in soybeans. This correspondence and exchange of seeds continued until at least 1923 with more than 100 letters being exchanged. These letters have been preserved by the National Archives (College Park, Maryland).

1910 to 1919. During this decade, soybeans in North Carolina rose to national prominence.

One of the crop's early pioneers was Fred P. Latham, a farmer from Belhaven. In 1925 he recalled how he had first met William Morse, soybean expert with the USDA, when Morse visited his farm in about October 1910. “It took just about two minutes to find that I was right next to the man who had the information for which I had been thirsting for six or eight years, and it was my pleasure to be with him that whole afternoon, that night, and all the next day.” Latham's work with soybeans and with Morse (who may have supplied Latham with soybeans) started at that time. Latham later recalled that this had been “one of the most profitable and pleasant periods, and I know that there has been no better time in all of my life than the time of my association with Mr. Morse.” At the 1925 Field Meeting of the American Soybean Association (ASA) Latham gave a talk on “The Economic Value of the Soybean to Southern Agriculture.” In 1926 he was Vice-President of the ASA, and in 1927 he was President. That latter year Latham hosted the Eighth Annual ASA Field Meeting and Convention, held in eastern North Carolina. He was acknowledged as one of the state's “leaders in agricultural thought.”

Although William Morse, soybean specialist at the USDA's Bureau of Plant Industry, worked in Washington, DC, and Beltsville, MD, he took such a strong and active interest in the development of soybeans in nearby North Carolina that he would have to be ranked as one of the state's true pioneers. Piper and Morse (1923) gave a good summary of soybean research in North Carolina. It was the leadership, knowledge, and enthusiasm of men like Morse, Latham, and soon thereafter C.B. Williams, and their extensive contacts with farmers, that boosted the soybean from an unknown immigrant to a major North Carolina crop in the space of several decades (Hartwig 1981).

In a letter (dated 4 Dec. 1914) to his boss and mentor Dr. C.V. Piper, William Morse states: During my trip to the soy bean district of eastern North Carolina this past fall, I learned that the Southern Cotton Oil Mill, of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, conducted experiments in the fall of 1913 with soy beans as an oil proposition. I was not able to learn further than that the experiment was successful.

The earliest recorded (published) crushing of American-grown soybeans for oil and meal took place in December 1915 in North Carolina, which was then America's leading soybean producing state. (Imported soybeans had been crushed by 1911 in Seattle, Washington.) In 1915 there was a surplus of soybeans and a shortage of cottonseed in the state; many farmers had planted soybeans instead of cotton, since the latter's price was often below production costs. During World War I., there was also a rapidly growing importation of and interest in soy oil nationwide. Moreover local cottonseed mills were looking for a way to prolong their operating season. From December 13 to 20, 1915 the cottonseed mill of the Elizabeth City Oil and Fertilizer Company, located on the banks of Knobbs Creek in Elizabeth City, did a test run in which 10,000 bushels (272 tonnes) of soybeans were crushed and the oil expelled in the mill's six Anderson expellers. The work was done under the direction of William Thomas Culpepper Sr., manager of the firm, as part of his efforts to promote local soybean production. The experiment was so successful that the mill continued to crush local soybeans. Other North Carolina cottonseed oil mills soon followed suit and by the spring of 1916 mills in at least nine of the state's cities and towns (including the Winterville Cotton Oil Co. at Winterville and the Havens Oil Co. Washington) had crushed about 80,000 to 100,000 bushels (2,177 to 2,722 tonnes) of soybeans. During the 1916-17 seasons, however, no domestically grown soybeans were crushed, due to the extremely high price of seed (Morse 1918).

In 1917 C.B. Williams estimated that soybean acreage in North Carolina was more than 180,000 acres – which is three times the published estimate (letter to C.V. Piper, 23 Oct. 1917).

The most important figure promoting the growing and crushing of soybeans in North Carolina from 1907 until the late 1930s was Charles Burges Williams. He was also one of America's great soybean pioneers. Born at Shiloh, Camden County on 23 December 1871, he was a member of the first class at North Carolina A&M College, later named N.C. State University. Captain of the university's first football team, he obtained his bachelor's degree in agriculture and chemistry with honors in 1893. After earning a master's degree in 1896 followed by a year's study of chemistry at Johns Hopkins in 1896-97, he was assistant chemist of the N.C. Agricultural Experiment Station and of the Experiment Station of the State Department of Agriculture during 1893-1906. In 1907 Mr. Williams returned to college work as Director of the North Carolina Experiment Station and Chief of the Department of Agronomy (1907-12), then served as the first Dean of the College of Agriculture (1917-23). In 1926 he became the first Head of the Department of Agronomy. He was truly the state's pioneer agronomist and he served the university for 53 years. Williams had first come to know soybeans as a boy in Camden County. Early in his university career he became convinced that the soybean was one of the most valuable plants ever to come to North Carolina. At the time he stood almost alone in his conviction of its great potential (Norris 1939; Winters 1953; Byrd 1965).

Dr. R.Y. Winters recalled in 1953, at the dedication of Williams Hall Agronomy Building to his friend and co-worker C.B. Williams:

North Carolina was the first State to recognize the soybean as a valuable forage and industrial crop and this was largely due to the efforts of Mr. Williams. He initiated studies of soybeans in the rotation systems, their fertilizer requirements, and varieties adopted to different areas of the state. Extensive cooperative studies were made of the new introductions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. . . He stood almost alone during the early days in his crusade for agricultural research

Winters then quoted from a letter by W.J. Morse of the USDA regarding Williams' work:

As to his work with soybeans, no one in North Carolina did more to promote production and industrial utilization than did our friend, long before the Middle West entered the game. I know that he spent considerable time trying to get the soybean oil industry started in North Carolina along with all his other duties. He really pushed the Elizabeth City Cottonseed Oil Mill into crushing soybeans for oil and followed it through with other cottonseed mills. I honestly think if it were not for Professor Williams' enthusiasm and work the North Carolina soybean oil industry would have been delayed many years. His publications on various phases of the soybean industry in the early days indicate his tireless efforts to build the industry in the State. I first called on him at Raleigh in the summer of 1910. I can truthfully say that in all of my contacts over the entire united states, I never met a more cooperative cooperator. I found him as enthusiastic and interested in all phases of the soybean the last time I saw him, the fall [of 1947] before his death, as he was the time I met him in 1910.

The extensive campaign to increase the state's soybean production, started and led by Williams in 1916, caused soybean acreage to expand from the eastern part of the state (especially the tidewater area) to many other sections. He used the old Farmers' Institutes as part of this successful campaign. From 1915 on, C.B. Williams wrote numerous scientific and popular articles, describing all aspects of soybean growing and processing, and praising the plant's many virtues. Williams' publications issued by the N.C. Agricultural Experiment Station included “Soy-Bean Growing in North Carolina” (1915, Circular 31, revised 1922 and 1929, Circular 127), “The Commercial Use of the Soybean” (1916, Extension Circular 29), “Soy-Bean Products and Their Uses” (1916, Circular 34), “Soybeans – A Future Economic Factor in North Carolina” (1917, Extension Circular 57). Among his more popular articles were “Soy Beans in North Carolina” (1916), “Soy Beans for Seed” (1916), “More Soybeans for the South” (1916), “Producing Soybean Seed for the Oil Mills” (1926). In 1918 C.B. Williams was selected by Country Gentleman magazine as one of seven Blue Ribbon men and women for his research on soybeans.

The growth of soybean crushing and production from 1915 on stimulated new research and publication by Williams' colleagues at the Experiment Station. D.T. Gray, who had published three studies (1908, 1911, 1912) on the feeding value of soybeans at the Alabama Experiment Station, came to North Carolina as Chief in Animal Industry. During 1915-19 Gray published four positive studies on the feeding value of soybeans for hogs. B. White (1916), reporting on the thriving soybean industry of eastern North Carolina, noted that the crop (then also called the “stock pea”) played an important role in the present movement for diversified farming. It served as hay, pasture for hogs, ensilage with corn, green manure, for soil improvement, and as a substitute for cottonseed meal in livestock feeds.

A patented soybean harvester facilitated that difficult process. By 1916 there were at least five plants in North Carolina manufacturing movable (nonstationary) soybean harvester-threshers. Pate (1917, 1918) discussed America's first mechanical soybean seed harvesters in detail. The main machines were the Gordon Harvester (the first on the market), Pritchard Harvester, Little Giant machine, Tarheel Harvester, Keystone Machine, and Scott Machine.

Kaupp (1917, 1919) reported on the feeding value of soybean meal for chicks. And extension agronomist Herman (1919) found soybeans superior to cowpeas in most respects. He reported that from 1915 numerous variety tests were done at the Experiment Station Farm at West Raleigh, and at three branch station farms. Most of the seeds of these varieties were furnished by William Morse of the USDA. Top yields ranged from 22.5 to 25.6 bu/a. In 1918 A.G. Smith of the USDA wrote “Soy Beans in Systems of Farming in the Cotton Belt,” which included an economic study of soybeans in northeastern North Carolina, the most important soybean district in America. There soybeans had largely replaced cowpeas for three reasons: The better adaptability of the soil for growing soybeans, the frequent failure of cowpeas to produce seed, and the greater ease with which soybeans could be harvested. He found at least eight different cropping patterns, including in the row with corn, in alternate rows with corn, as a second crop for seed (or hay) planted after small grain or Irish potatoes, and drilled in alternate rows with cotton. Yields of seed ranged from 4 to 39 bu/a, with an average of 18.9.

By 1915 North Carolina was unquestionably America's leading soybean producing state. The earliest USDA statistics on soybean production in leading states go back to 1917. First published in the Monthly Crop Reporter in 1920 (Feb. and Dec.), they show that in 1917 North Carolina was by far America's top soybean producer in terms of acres producing soybean seeds (68,000), total seed production (1,088,000 bu), and nonseed (forage or hay) acres (about 80,000). Each figure was more than twice that of second place Virginia. By 1919 soybeans ranked sixth in importance among North Carolina crops (Herman 1919). The growing menace of the boll weevil in this Cotton Belt state during the 1910s also spurred expansion of soybeans.

In a letter of 23 Oct. 1917 C.B. Williams stated that the reported estimate of 60,000 acres devoted to soybeans in North Carolina was much too low: “I do not believe that this is one third of the acreage of soybeans sown in this State this year.”

Some of America's earliest research on soybean diseases was done at the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station. The first of these studies were done by plant pathologist R.O. Cromwell, who published “Fusarium Blight, or Wilt Disease of the Soybean” (1917) and (after moving to Nebraska) “Fusarium Blight of the Soybean and the Relation of Various Factors to Infection” (1919).

Early research on soybean insects included papers by F. Sherman and co-workers written from 1918 to 1920, focusing on the green clover worm as a pest on soybeans, and an outbreak of this insect that occurred in 1919.

1920 to 1929. Important work on soybean diseases continued during the 1920s, under plant pathologists Frederick A. Wolf and S.G. Lehman. They described many of today's major soybean diseases. Key publications included “Plant Pathology: Soybean Diseases” (Wolf 1920, on mosaic, anthracnose, and phoma blight), “Further Studies on the Bacterial Blight of Soybeans” (Shunk and Wolf 1921), “Pod and Stem Blight of Soy Bean” (Lehman 1923, PhD thesis at Missouri), “Bacterial Pustule of the Soybean” (Wolf 1924), “A New Downy Mildew on Soybeans” (Lehman and Wolf 1924), “Diseases of Soybeans Which Occur in North Carolina and the Orient” (Wolf and Lehman 1926). In the latter, very important paper, the authors showed that soybean wilt, mildew, brown spot, pod-and-stem blight, anthracnose, Cercospora leaf spot, and bacterial blight may well have been transmitted on soybean seeds from East Asia to North Carolina. Also during 1926 Lehman and Wolf alternated as senior authors of papers on soybean pythium root rot, anthracnose, and brown-spot disease.

New publications on soybeans kept pace with expanding research. Smith and Hope (1920) described new soybean farming practices. Winters and Herman (1921) encouraged farmers in the piedmont and mountain areas of the state to grow soybeans. In a report containing many interesting photographs, they noted that “Although high priced seed have at times made this crop at times rival cotton as a money crop, the greatest value has come from its use as a grazing crop, for soil improvement, and for hay.” They showed that soybeans yielded 2.7 times as much seed and 36% more hay than cowpeas at the mountain research station. C.B. Williams (1926), however, argued otherwise; he cited statistics showing that in 1922-24, 47% of the state's soybean acreage was used for seed, 29% for hay, and 24% for grazing. Winters (1927) summarized the important contribution that soybeans had made to North Carolina's agriculture, and noted that Midwest farmers and crushers had used soybean seed from North Carolina as the basis of their huge expansion during the 1920s.

In 1920 North Carolina was producing 54.6% of all soybean seeds in America. The state retained its lead as America's foremost soybean producer until 1924; that year it was passed by Illinois. Thereafter North Carolina's dominance of production and acreage statistics rapidly faded. In 1924 the top five producers were Illinois (1,380,000 bu; 26.5% of total), North Carolina (1,160,000 bu; 22.3%), Missouri (656,000 bu; 12.6%), Indiana (653,000 bu; 12.6%), and Ohio (195,000 bu; 3.8%) (Stewart et al. 1932). In 1929 Indiana snatched the second place spot from North Carolina.

Two factors caused North Carolina's reduced rate of growth. First was the rapid expansion of soybean production in the Midwest. And second was a growing set of unforeseen problems with soybeans in North Carolina. For example, as soybeans spread from the coastal lowlands, tobacco growers said they made the land too fertile. Continuous planting of soybeans was also found to hurt tobacco (Byrd 1965). Acreage and production continued to grow, but not as rapidly as previously, and not nearly as rapidly as in the Midwest.

In 1927 (Aug. 9-11) the American Soybean Association's Eighth Annual Field Meeting was held at Washington, North Carolina. Attendees visited major soybean producing countries and Elizabeth city, and saw a demonstration of several types of soybean harvesters made in the state. Many of ASA's members were North Carolina soybean growers (Ayers 1927; Winters 1927).

1930 to 1980s. In 1930 North Carolina produced about 10% of America's soybeans. Soybean acreage and production grew rapidly from the early 1930s, doubling between 1936 and 1943. In that year it reached a peak of 500,000 acres, which was not attained again until 1956. Yet the state's percentage of national production had fallen steadily since 1920, and after the late 1930s North Carolina was no longer one of America's largest soybean producing states. The key soybean workers in the state in the late 1930s were C.B. Williams and R.L. Lovvorn (Morse 1937).

A rather extensive soybean breeding program was initiated in 1942, then expanded in 1943 in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Soybean Laboratory, where Dr. E. E. Hartwig played the most active role. Traditional major varieties at the time were Mammoth Yellow, Tokyo, Haberlandt, Woods Yellow (a selection from Mammoth Yellow introduced in 1936), and Biloxi. Ogden and Roanoke were introduced in 1946. By 1947 soybean production was still confined largely to the Coastal Plain area, especially in the Tidewater area immediately along the coast. There a large portion of the crop was planted in rows and harvested for seeds. In some Tidewater counties, 35-45% of cultivated acreage was planted to soybeans. In the Piedmont area, a large portion of the soybeans were seeded solid after small grain and cut for hay (Hartwig and Nelson 1947; Soybean Digest 1960)

Herbert W. Johnson was an important U.S soybean breeder. After earning his PhD degree from the University of Nebraska, Dr. Johnson started his soybean breeding research with the USDA in 1948 in North Carolina, when E.E. Hartwig was transferred to Stoneville, Mississippi. In North Carolina Johnson participated in the development of the Jackson and Lee soybean varieties. In 1953 he transferred to the Plant Industry Station at Beltsville, Maryland, as head of the soybean section (Soybean Digest, Sept. 1968, p. 22).

North Carolina was the first U.S. state where nematodes (especially the soybean cyst nematode) became a real problem that reduced soybean yield. By the early 1950s breeders in North Carolina were working to limit the spread of nematodes and to breed nematode resistance into some soybean varieties.

From 1944 to 1953 North Carolina soybean acreage and production grew slowly but steadily. Thereafter they expanded dramatically, with a growing percentage of the total acreage being harvested for beans. By 1965 only tobacco and cotton, the state's old workhorse crops, would bring Tar Heel farmers more cash income than soybeans (Byrd 1965). And by the early 1970s soybeans had passed cotton. During the 1970s soybeans rose to major importance in the state, and research expanded. Deitz et al. (1976), for example, wrote a lengthy report on soybean insects in the state, and also published figures showing the growth and distribution of the crop in the state.

In the summer of 1965 the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association was formed. On 9 Sept. 1966 the members voted to pay half a cent per bushel checkoff on 1966-crop soybeans.

The rise of soyfoods in North Carolina (not counting soybean oil and meal) began in Nov. 1978, when Natural Instant Miso Coup was launched. The miso in this product was made in Japan.

In April 1981 the state’s 2nd soyfood product (also made with miso) was introduced — Wizard Baldour’s Hot Stuff in Regular and Blazing flavors. It was conceived and marketed by John Troy of Elf Works Ltd. in Chapel Hill.

In 1979 John and Jan Belleme went to Japan, where they apprenticed with a traditional miso master, then returned to North Carolina where they started American Miso Co. to make traditional miso. Their first product, Red Miso, went on the market in Oct. 1981.

The state’s 4th soyfood product, which was also a miso product, was Miso Mustard. Developed by John Troy, it became available in Sept. 1984.

In October 1982 the first North Carolina Soybean Festival (a 3-day event) demonstrated the importance of the crop to North Carolina. On 19 November 1982 an historical marker was placed in Elizabeth City to paid tribute to the origins of the state’s soybean crushing industry. A second Soybean Festival, held in Elizabeth City in December 1983, served the same historical purpose.

Soybean production in North Carolina had risen steadily since World War II, reaching a peak in 1982 of 52.5 million bushels; it did not reach that level of production again until 2008, after which it rose rapidly (see graph and statistics near front of book).

In 1984 North Carolina was the 12th largest soybean producing state in the United States.

Current Status (as of 2016):

Acreage: Soybean are North Carolina’s No. 1 crop by far, with 1,666,000 harvested acres (2016 Agricultural Statistics North Carolina, p. 61).

Value: 2016. Tobacco is No. 1, worth $647 million, followed by soybeans ($572 million) and corn ($491 million).

In 2016 North Carolina produced 58.1 bushels of soybeans, down slightly from the state’s all-time record of 62.4 million bushels in 2012, but well above the 44.2 million bushels in the year 2000 and 34.7 million bushels in 1980 (USDA Quick Stats =