History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Tennessee (1854-2017)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-92-1

Publication Date: 2017 May 17

Number of References in Bibliography: 1531

Earliest Reference: 1854

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Brief chronology/timeline of soybeans and soyfoods in Tennessee (USA)
Why an entire book about soy and Tennessee? Four reasons: (1) Tennessee was the second state (after North Carolina) to grow soybeans on a large scale. (2) The National Archives has many letters exchanged between the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station and USDA’s Office of Forage Crop Investigations. (3) Madison Foods, an early, very innovative maker of commercial soyfoods and meat alternatives, was located in Madison, Tennessee. (4) The Farm, and its very creative worldwide relief and development organization, Plenty International, were located in Summertown, Tennessee. They introduced soyfoods to people in countries all over the world.
1854 April – Soybeans first appear in Tennessee. Mr. T.E. Whitmore of North Cameron, Michigan, first grew Japan Peas [soybeans] on his farm with very good results. He writes: “The thickest of the plants had, none less than 60 pods on each plant. A few matured sufficiently, I think, to germinate; and I have distributed small samples to a number of my correspondents in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New-Jersey, Tenn. [Tennessee], Ohio, &c, and shall try them again this season.” (J. of the New-York State Agricultural Society, April 1854, p. 96).
1873 June – Soybeans are first cultivated in Tennessee by L.L. Osment of Cleveland, Tennessee. He says they are “unsurpassed for table use.” A handsome illustration shows “The Japan Pea.” (American Agriculturist, Feb. 1874, p. 63-64).
1874 March 19 – L.L. Osment of Cleveland, Tennessee, writes: “Every subscriber sending 50 cents for the ‘Ocoee Register,’ one year, a Southern Land Journal, I will mail a package of Japan Peas, post-paid by mail, that will produce from five to ten bushels of Peas.” He states that he is editor and proprietor of the Ocoee Register. (Sterling Standard {Sterling, Illinois). 19 March 1874, p. 4).
1875 March 10 – The Southern Seed and Plant Co. (Gallatin, Tennessee) runs an ad in the Atlanta Constitution (Georgia) titled “Strange but true!” It begins: “Japan Peas - 200 bushels per acre on common land; unequaled for stock or table use; grows on upright stalks. 15 cts [cents] per paper, 50 cts per pint, 80 cts per quart.”
1881 Oct. 21 – An article titled “Popular Science” in the Weekly Herald (Cleveland, Tennessee) tells more about the soybean and its many uses in East Asia: “M. Roman, a French engineer, states that the cultivation of the interesting plant, the Soja or Soya, has been largely developed in Hungary and in various parts of France. He thinks that it may in the future become as important an article of food as the potato. It grows in any soil, even the driest; and the plant is an excellent fodder for cattle. The seeds are very nutritious, and have the form of small kidney beans. An agreeable soup [miso soup] may be made of them. The Chinese use them for various kinds of cheese [tofu, fermented tofu], to make a condiment with oil [soy sauce? The second character in basic Chinese word for “soy sauce,” jiang-you, means “oil”], etc. In France the seeds are roasted like coffee, and M. Roman says the decoction of the soja bean is very similar to that of average coffee.”
1896 Sept. – The first publication by the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station to mention soy is its Bulletin. A long article by J.B. McBryde, the chemist at Knoxville, titled “A contribution to the study of Southern feeding stuffs: Some Tennessee feeding stuffs,” mentions the Soja Bean (Soja hispida) on pages 119 and 157. The plant is a good source of protein.
      Subsequent Tennessee experiment station bulletins promoting soy beans are published in 1897, 1899, 1901, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1913, etc. – more than 30 in total. Clearly this station played a major role in early adoption of the soybean as a basic crop by Tennessee farmers.
1898 Jan. 9 – In an article in the Washington Post describing “Results from government experiments in Tennessee,” we learn two new and important things. The Knoxville station has tested about “a dozen varieties of soy beans and some thirty or more named strains of cowpeas... Cowpeas are, of course, well known in all the Southern States, and the soy beans are being grown each year on a larger scale. All of these latter plants belong to the leguminous family. They are crops which derive nitrogen from the air, and which enrich the land” by fixing it “in the soil in a form that may be readily used by succeeding nitrogen-hungry crops. The leguminous plants are the best soil renovators, supplying humus as well as nitrogen, and their cultivation deserves to become far more extended than at present.” (Jan. 9, p. 19).
1904 Jan. – The Mammoth Yellow soybean variety is the earliest known named variety to be grown in Tennessee (Tennessee Agric. Exp. Station, Bulletin 17(1):1-24. Jan. See p. 24).
1904 Oct. – One of America's most remarkable and innovative schools, the Nashville Agricultural and Normal School, starts in Madison, Tennessee, about 10 miles north of Nashville on the Cumberland River. The name is soon changed to the Nashville Agricultural and Normal Institute (NANI) (Sandborn. 1953. The History of Madison College. p. 168; Gish & Christman. 1979. Madison: God’s Beautiful Farm. p. 11-21).
1907 Sept. 28 – The Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station discovers a goldmine of new information about the soybean and other forage crops in the USDA’s Office of Forage Crop Investigations, Bureau of Plant Industry, in Washington, DC. On this day H.T. Nielsen of this Office writes a letter to his boss, Charles V. Piper, describing his visit (on that day) to the Kentucky station at Jackson. It begins: “Dear Mr. Piper: At the Kentucky Station I found them very much interested in growing both cowpeas and soybeans… Prof. Garman thinks the soybean superior to cowpeas for general purposes.
      “I had a splendid day with Director Morgan of the Tennessee Station… Soybeans says Prof. Morgan are fully as good, if not better than cowpeas. Mammoth he considers the best variety, though Guelph and Amherst are also good.” With this letter begins a fruitful correspondence that will continue for the next 20 years or more.
1909 Oct. 7 – Charles V. Piper and H.T. Nielsen of USDA write Farmers; Bulletin No. 372 titled “Soy Beans” (26 pages) in which they state (p. 6): “Their culture has greatly increased in recent years, especially in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and the southern parts of Illinois and Indiana [though no statistics are given]. It seems certain that the crop will become one of great importance in the regions mentioned and probably over a much wider area.”
1909 – The first statistics on soybean production in the United States appear in the “Thirteenth census of the United States taken in the year 1910. Volume V. Agriculture, 1909 and 1910. General report and analysis.” Under soy beans (p. 626) it shows acreage, production in bushels, and value statistics for soy beans in 1909, for five states plus “all other states.”
      In 1909 a total of 16,835 bushels of soy beans were produced on 1,629 acres in the USA. They were worth $20,577. North Carolina was the leading soybean producer with 13,313 bushels (79% of the total).
      The following states are listed in descending order of production. For each state is given production in 1909 (in bushels) / acreage / value.
      North Carolina: 13,313 bu / 1,249 acres / $14,141.
      Tennessee: 2,037 bu / 256 acres / $3,387.
      Ohio: 424 bu / 33 acres / $843.
      Virginia: 415 bu / 29 acres / $695.
      Alabama: 219 bu / 29 acres / $494.
      All other states combined: 427 bu / 33 acres $1,017.
1911 Dec. – Nashville Sanitarium – Food Factory is now making and advertising “High grade health foods” and selling them as far away as New York City.
1918 Nov. 18 – The Nashville Agricultural Normal Institute in Madison, Tennessee (named Madison College after 1937) is now growing soybeans on their large farm. “At the present time they have a factory for canning several different soy products from the soy beans which are grown on their farm.” (Letter from W.J. Morse to R.A. Oakley, both of USDA’s Office of Forage Crop Investigations).
      Note: This business initially named “Nashville Sanitarium – Food Factory,” “the health food factory” and later Madison Foods, was run largely by students at this Seventh-day Adventist school. It made only plant-based (vegan) food products (Madison Survey. 1944, April 26; p. 29-30); they continued to do so into the mid-1960s. They sold these foods across the United States and even overseas. The heyday of the food factory was during the 1930s. Canned soyfood products include:
1922 – Soy bean Meat
1922 – Soy Beans (plain, canned)
1931 – Madison Soy Milk [plain or chocolate]
1931 – Zoybeans (cooked soybeans)
1931 – Zoy Soup (soup with cooked soybeans)
1931 – Bacon and Zoybeans
1931 – Zoy Bouillon
1932 – Soy Beans with Tomato Sauce
1932 – Soy Bread (with whole wheat flour)
1932 – Soy Fruit Crackers
1932 – Vigorost (fibrous-textured canned meatless steak)
1932 – Breakfast Crisps (ready-to-eat soy-based breakfast cereal)
1932 – Soy Cheese (tofu)
1936 – Soy-Koff (alkaline coffee substitute)
1936 – Thin Things (wafers made with soy flour)
1936 – Date Stix (naturally sweet snack crackers made with soy flour)
1936 – Fruit Stix (soy flour biscuit filled with figs, raisins, and dates)
1936 – Kreme O’Soy (sliced bread)
1937 – Kreme O’Soy Flour (whole soy flour)
1937 – Soy-Burger (canned meatless loaf, sandwich spread, or entree)
1937 – Kreme O’Soy Milk [plain or chocolate]
1938 – Kreme O'Soy Whole Vegetable-Type Soybeans Canned in Soy Sauce
1938 – Kreme O'Soy Crisps (ready-to-eat breakfast cereal)
1939 – Chese-O-Soy (seasoned tofu)
1939 – Not-Meat (smooth-textured loaf for meatless entrees or sandwiches or salads)
1939 – Stake-Lets (meatless meat loaf in a rich meatlike sauce) [Sliced, or Bite-Size]
1940 – Wheatasoy (ready-to-eat breakfast cereal)
1940 – Kreme O’Soys [plain large-seeded canned soybeans]
1940 – Yum (bologna-like canned meatless loaf with tofu)
1941 – Stakelets (vegetarian beefsteak)
1943 – Kreme O’Soy Butter Muffins
1950 – Wheat & Soy Muffin Mix
1957 – Compro (canned meatless meat with tofu)
1961 – Cheze-O-Soy with Tomato Sauce (tofu entrée)
1962 – Madison Burger
1962 – Infa-Soy (soymilk infant formula)
1919 Feb. 26The Madison Survey begins to be published as the school newspaper at Madison; it is written and printed by the students.
1964 Sept. – Madison College closes with a debt of more than half a million dollars. In 1965 Madison Foods is sold to Worthington Foods; the equipment and supplies are moved to Worthington.
1966 Feb. 4 – The Tennessee Soybean Association is formed at Dyersburg, TN. Milton E. Magee of Dyersburg is the first president; Lawrence T. Hughes, Arlington, vice-president; and Harold D. Keller, Dyersburg, secretary-treasurer (Soybean Digest, Oct. 1966, p. 12-15; see p. 15).
1971 Sept. 3 – Stephen Gaskin and several hundred followers purchase a 1700-acre farm at 156 Drakes Lane, Summertown, Lewis County, in rural central Tennessee, south of Nashville. They call themselves “The Farm.” Vegans (complete vegetarians) and long-haired hippies, they are above all a spiritual community that lives very simply. They first plant soybeans in the spring of 1972.
      In December 1971 Alexander Lyon, who has a PhD degree in biochemistry, begins the community's first serious library research on soyfoods, especially soymilk and tempeh.
1972 March – The Farm in Tennessee sets up a small plant and begins to make soymilk, which is rationed for use by babies and children. Gradually they expand this plant and call it “the soy dairy.” They start to make soymilk and tempeh for adult Farm members, whose vegan diet contains no animal products, not even dairy products or eggs. This is the earliest known tempeh produced in a Caucasian-run tempeh shop in the U.S., although it is not sold commercially.
1974 Oct. 3 – Plenty is incorporated in the State of Tennessee as a non-profit relief and development corporation. “Purposes for which the corporation is organized are charitable:
      “To help share out the world's food, resources, materials, and knowledge equitably for the benefit of all.
      “To help and aid any people anywhere in the world who due to any natural or man-caused disaster such as drought, famine, flood, storm, earthquake, tidal wave, weather imbalance, disease epidemic, fire, insect devastation, crop failure, population imbalance, war, political oppression, religious oppression, racial discrimination, or greed, are in need of food, clothing, shelter, medical aid and supplies, resources, materials; agricultural, engineering, or scientific assistance or education; or anything else, to enable them to lead healthy, comfortable, responsible, and productive lives in the pursuit of happiness.” (from the original Charter of Plenty. October 3, 1974).
      Plenty has been very active worldwide, up until the present, and many, if not most, projects involved introducing soybeans and soyfoods to people in Third World countries.
1974 Oct. – The Farm’s Book Publishing Co. publishes “Yay soybeans! How you can eat better for less and help feed the world” (14 pages). A 2nd edition of this highly creative little booklet is published on 1978.
1975 Feb.The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook is published, expanding on the pioneering “Yay Soybeans!” This creative and creatively illustrated vegan cookbook contains many extremely innovative and original recipes including many which all for most of the different types of soyfoods: Whole dry soybeans, TVP®, tempeh, soymilk, tofu, soy yogurt, soy cheese, soy butter (made with soy flour), cream cheese (made with soymilk), soy “mayonnaise,” soy “whipped cream,” soy “coffee,” “soy ‘nuts,” soy pulp granola, Ice Bean [soy ice cream] (Recipes include: Pineapple “sherbet” and “Vanilla ice bean,” each made with soy milk instead of dairy milk), etc. The book (128 p.) is published by The Book Publishing Co. located on the farm. The key entrepreneurs are Cynthia and Robert Holzapfel. A revised edition by Louise Hagler was published in 1978.
1976 Feb. 4 – A huge earthquake (magnitude 7.5) strikes Guatemala killing more than 22,500 people. Farm members are among the first to hear of it on ham radio. Plenty immediately sends two people to evaluate, then sends crews to help in the relief effort.
1976 Aug. 25 – Clive A. Carruthers, Charge d’Affaires at the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala, as his tour of duty draws to an end, writes a letter praising highly the good work and style of Plenty in Guatemala.
1976 Aug. – The Farm Food Co. starts making and selling Ice Bean (a non-dairy frozen dessert, made from soymilk and sweetened with honey) at the satellite Farm and soy deli at 820 “B” St., San Rafael, California 94901. It soon comes in Honey Vanilla, Carob, Strawberry, Chocolate, Wildberry, Mocha, Peanut Butter Carob Chip, Toasted Almond Fudge, or Almond Espresso flavors. This is the first soyfood product launched by Farm Foods. It was named Soy Ice Bean from mid-1979 until early 1982. Carob Soymilk in plastic pint bottles is also introduced at the same time and place. A month later commercial Farm Foods Tempeh is launched; the tempeh maker in San Rafael is Don Wilson. Eventually The Farm in Tennessee had 10-15 satellite Farms throughout the United States.
1976 Aug. – The first soyfoods restaurant or deli in the USA is started by Farm Food Co at 820 “B” St., San Rafael, California 94901.
1976 Aug.Beatnik Tempeh Making, by Cynthia Mates, Alexander Lyon. S. Sorenson, et al., a 20-page mimeograph booklet is released by The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee.
1976 – Plenty Canada is established by members of The Farm in Lanark, Ontario, Canada. Its goals are similar to those of Plenty-USA, but it can make use of funding from CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency. By 1984 Lawrence McDermott is executive director.
1976 – Farm Foods starts to sell “Tempeh Starter and Instructions.” This is the first such product sold commercially in the United States. It is made by Cynthia Bates.
1978 Dec. – Farm Food Co. is now running a large-scale “soy dairy” at 144 King St., San Francisco, California 94107. Managed by Robert Dolgin, it uses modern stainless-steel equipment to make commercial tofu and soymilk, plus Tofu Salad.
1979 July – In Whole Foods magazine, Janice Fillip writes a story about Plenty: “Funded by UNICEF, Plenty is now involved in construction of a soy dairy in Solola, the Cakchiquel capital, near Lake Atitlan. The dairy is expected to produce 100 pounds of tofu and 40 gallons of soy ice bean (soymilk ice cream) three times a week and to supply free ice bean to school lunch programs. The solar-powered soy dairy is designed to become a cottage industry for local people to produce low-cost, high-protein foods” (Whole Foods, July 1979, p. 9-10).
1979 – Soybean production in Tennessee reaches a peak of 70.740 million bushels, and then starts a steady decline. It would not reach this level again until 2014.
1980 – “Plenty Agricultural Program Guatemala,” by Darryl Jordan and Susie Jenkins is published for UNICEF Guatemala. With 46 pages and many fine photos, it is the best and most detailed description seen to date of Plenty’s work (including soybeans and soyfoods) in Guatemala.
1981 July – In New Age magazine Lillie Wilson writes “The Plenty project: inside the Hippy Peace Corps,” an excellent cover story that tells about both The Farm and the work of Plenty – including work with soybeans and soyfoods in Guatemala and Lesotho, where Plenty (starting in 1979) also built a solar-powered soy dairy.
      All Plenty workers are volunteers. As Stephen Gaskin says (p. 21): “We deliver more cents on the dollar than almost any charity in the world, because none of our people are paid anything. We have no executive salaries and no personnel salaries, so we can get a very high percentage of our resources straight to the people on the other end who need it.” In fact, Plenty's overhead costs have never exceeded 5% of its entire budget.
1981 Aug. 10Newsweek magazine publishes an article about The Farm titled “The Farm that keeps flowering.” Having started with 300 West Coast hippies, it now resembles a small town with 1,500 members. Operating expenses total $10,000 a week. Plenty, The Farm’s own relief organization, is working with soybeans in Guatemala and Lesotho.
1982 – “Plenty Integrated Soy Program Guatemala,” by Suzie Jenkins, Laurie Praskin, and Alan Praskin (48 pages, 8½ by 11 inches, with loads of photos), updates the Plenty program. On page 2 we read: “This book is dedicated to the children of Guatemala.”
      “The following organizations supplied funding for The Integrated Soy Program: Plenty Canada, Canadian International Development Agency, UNICEF and Plenty International.”
      A smaller, but still excellent, summary of the 1980 and 1982 reports titled “Soy Demonstration Program: Introducing Soy Foods in the Third World,” was also published in 1982 (16 pages, 8½ by 5½ inches).
1983 Oct. – The “Changeover.” The Farm, which now has debts of over $600,000, changes from a commune to a foundation. Each person must pay his/her own way. "Over the next two years the Farm's population fell from over 1,200 to about 700." By the mid-1980s it was approximately 100 adults and 150 children. “The core principle that everyone agreed to was nonviolence” (Stevenson 2014, p. 18-21).
1984 Sept.Plenty Bulletin begins publication by Plenty-USA, a non-governmental relief and development organization. It “will be issued six times a year for the purpose of keeping our members updated with fresh information about Plenty projects and other related news or commentaries.” It is still being published.
1984 Nov. – “A three-member team from Plenty Canada arrived in Sri Lanka at the end of last month to study the impact of the country's Soyabean Development Program. The members are Suzy Jenkins Viavant, Soya Development Consultant, Maya Shearer, Nutrition Consultant and Larry McDermott, Director of Plenty Canada.” The team is funded by CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency. (Soyanews, Sri Lanka, p. 7)
1984 – The Plenty Canada Soya Shop is established in Roseau, Dominica by Sarah and Norman Ayerst. Its first products are soymilk, tofu, fried accras (fritters made from tofu and okara), and tempeh. Plenty is also operating soy development programs in Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent (Plenty Bulletin. Spring 1991, 2-page insert).
1986 – Soy in Belize. Plenty USA first became involved in Belize in 1986 and 1987 when they were helping Majeedah Rahman and her organization, African Connections, of Oakland, California, in their efforts to introduce soyfoods as a locally grown, high protein source of good nutrition. In 1990 Plenty received a letter from the Corozal Soy Growers Cooperative, composed of more than 25 farmers in the Corozal district who have previously grown sugar cane. The author traveled to Belize in November to visit the Co-op and others. In the face of an unstable sugar market, the farmers are looking for more secure crops. Belize imports large amounts of cooking oil and the soybeans would also have a market as animal feed. The government of Belize had deeded the co-op 800 acres of uncleared bush land. When Chuck Haren visited this land, the co-op members asked him for technical advice, which he gave freely. “Then we rode out to look at their latest crops of soybeans which were near-ready to harvest. We looked at three soybean fields. The fields were impressive. The plants were full. The yields would be good. Before we left they showed us two buildings they had already constructed. One was a dryer for the soybeans and the other was an equipment shed. Seeing the work and seriousness of this co-op alerted us to the burgeoning potential for soy agriculture and processing in Belize.” (Interview with Majeedah Rahman 1987 Sept. 13; Plenty Bulletin, winter 1990, p. 1-4; spring 1991, 2-page insert).
1991 – Soy in Liberia: Imani House, directed by Bisi Iderabdula, is introducing soybeans and soyfoods into Liberia. “Plenty has been providing technical and fundraising support to Imani House since 1991. Bisi returned to Liberia in the fall of 1993, when the civil war had died down. Imani house planted more than 1 acre of soybeans and they have gotten another seven farms to grow soybeans. Chuck Heran of Plenty met Bisi in Nigeria where they visited the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria. IITA people showed them how to grow soybeans, gave them soybean varieties especially adapted to West Africa, demonstrated simple machinery for pressing oil from the soybeans, introduced them to the bumbum leaves they use with lemon as a coagulant in the lab to make tofu, prepared many different dishes from soybeans, and demonstrated different quick and simple ways of making soymilk for use as a beverage. They spent a lot of time with Dr. Sidi Osho, an expert in soybean utilization. Bisi and Chuck returned to Liberia, where they did a soy cooking demonstration in Monrovia.
      From September to December 1995, with help from the Trull Foundation of Texas, Plenty was able to send a soy/agricultural technician from Belize to Liberia to help Imani House with its soybean project. His name was Ignatius (“Gomier”) Longville. A Caribbean native and a Rastafarian (Rasta = “Roots”) farmer, he was skilled in ways of growing food under adverse conditions using the natural rhythms and resources. He had worked with Plenty on the island of St. Lucia from 1984 to 1990. Now he volunteered his services, providing hands-on assistance to help Imani House and the farming groups with which they were working in Liberia to grow soybeans and other crops in nutrient-deficient soils. He introduced organic methods of pest management and demonstrated composting techniques. They used a Rototiller to open the soil and control the bean beetle, and added small amounts of chemical fertilizers. The result was the most successful crop of soybeans ever. The Liberian farmers were impressed.
      In October 1995 Imani House won first prize for food processing at a World Food Day Exposition in Monrovia. Gomier and the Imani House staff conducted soyfood demonstrations for 10,000 people. “We couldn't make food fast enough. We made pies, soymilk (mixed with cocoa), soy fritters, soynuts, and tofu on site. We just didn't have enough.” (Plenty Bulletin, spring 1994, p. 1-2; fall, p. 3-4; summer 1996, p. 3-4; winter 1996, p. 3-4. Interview with Bisi 1998 April 6).
2017 – Tennessee: Historical production of soybeans
1924 – 8,500 bushels
1930 – 7,500 bushels
1940 – 8,500 bushels
1945 – 957,000 bushels
1950 – 3.822 million bushels
1960 – 8.865 million bushels
1970 – 26.450 million bushels
1979 – 70.740 million bushels
1980 – 45.900 million bushels
1990 – 33.750 million bushels
2000 – 28.750 million bushels
2010 – 43.710 million bushels
2015 – 79.12 million bushels
Source: USDA statistics sent in Excel spreadsheet by
   Parks Wells, Director of Tennessee Soybean

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Tennessee (1854-2017)