History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Indiana (1856-2021)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-53-3

Publication Date: 2021 Oct. 6

Number of References in Bibliography: 2932

Earliest Reference: 1856

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Brief Chronology of Soy in Indiana

1856 Jan. 7 – Mr. G. Champley of Oxford, Benton County, Indiana, writes the Agricultural Division of the Patent Office, saying: “I should be highly gratified if you will forward me a few seeds of The ‘Japan pea,' The Chinese Sugar-Cane [sorghum] & any other suitable for the extremely rich soil of the Prairie.”

Note 1. The Japan Pea was an early name of the soybean.

Note 2. Assuming that the seeds were sent and that Mr. Champly grew them, these would be the first soybeans in Indiana or cultivated in Indiana – but we cannot be sure.

1874 July 4 – Mr. Lawson Oliphant of Hobbieville, Center Township, Green County, Indiana, writes the Indiana Farmer, saying: “I have been farming in Indiana on a small scale since 1827.

“After having tried many kinds I now plant the white mammoth [variety of corn], and find that it does better for me than any other that ever I raised. I have measured and weighed it this spring and find it to weigh sixty-two pounds to the bushel. But I must stop and see it sprinkle on my Alfalfa clover and Japan peas.”

Note: Mr. Oliphant seems to be saying that he wants to watch a light rain falling on his soybeans. If so, these could be the earliest soybeans cultivated in Indiana.

1882 – W.C. Latta is employed as a professor of agriculture at the Purdue University cooperative extension service (Thompson 1862).

1884-1886 – R.N. Gaines successfully grows “soja beans” for three years, and sells the beans for seed. He writes: “I have never been able to supply the demand for soja bean seed.” (Southern Planter, as reprinted in Indiana Farmer of 1897 Dec. 4, p. 9).

1891 – Adrian A. Parsons of Hendricks County, Indiana, is now growing soybeans; he may have started in 1890 (Prairie Farmer (Illinois Edition). 1928 Aug. 25, p. 24).

Parsons may have imported soybeans from Japan as early as 1886 or 1887 and grown them first in his garden (Prairie Farmer (Indiana Edition). 1930 Jan. 11, p. 6).

1893 Jan. 4 – An article about the “Soja bean as a fodder crop” appears in the “Farm and Garden” section of the Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Indiana). “’Will the soja bean come into general use?’ was the question asked of the directors of several of the experiment stations and variously asked in the Rural New Yorker. Men from the Vermont and New York stations say that their states are too far north for it. But: “Charles A. Flagg, of the Rhode Island Station, has a good opinion of the soja bean as a soiling crop and thinks it of sufficient value to urge farmers to experiment with it as a soiling crop and where clover won't 'catch.' Professor Goessman thinks the soja bean good for a Massachusetts silo and is much pleased with the results gained at the station in growing it for a fodder crop. A valuable plant for North Carolina is the word from the North Carolina station, where the soja bean is recommended as a valuable addition to profitable quick growing crops. Professor Georgeson, of the Kansas Agricultural college, writes, 'I see many reasons why it can be made a profitable crop throughout this state and throughout the west, but especially in the region where the corn crop and tame grasses are uncertain.’”

1894 May 9 – The first mention of the soybean by a Purdue University publication is titled “A substitute for coffee, by Charles S. Plumb. Writing in the Purdue University Agricultural Experiment Station, Newspaper Bulletin, he says: “While no substitute will satisfy the lover of high-grade coffee, the peculiar properties of coffee as a drink render it unsuited to a few people in every community. These few persons frequently make use of a substitute, which, while lacking the alkaloid of true coffee, in a measure imparts to the fluid made from it a flavor similar to that of coffee. Such a drink may be palatable, nourishing, and well adapted to the person using it.

“The purpose of this brief bulletin is to direct attention to what seems to be a desirable and easily available substitute for coffee, such as can be grown upon the farm in this latitude, viz: the Soy or Soja bean.

“The Soy bean (Soja hispida) is a Japanese plant that has been but little grown in America...

“The writer's attention was first directed to the peculiar merits of the roasted Soy bean, as a substitute for coffee, by Mr. L.D. Brown early in 1892, who was then a farmer in this county [Tippecanoe County]. In a letter, Mr. Brown says: 'We have used it almost exclusive of other coffee, for coffee, for many years - seven or eight [i.e., since 1884 or 1885], I believe. I have raised 782 beans on one stalk from one bean planted, and had 16 bushels on one acre in Tippecanoe county.'...

“Samples of Soy beans grown upon the Station grounds in 1892 were analyzed in the laboratory under the direction of Prof. Huston, and some of the roasted bean from the same direction of Prof. Huston, and some of the roasted bean from the same source was also analyzed.”

A table then shows the composition of soy bean (unroasted and roasted), coffee (unroasted and roasted), artificial coffee [we are not told from what it was made], and barley coffee…

Note: This long Bulletin is summarized in many newspapers, including the Chicago Daily Tribune (July 7, p. 14), the New York Sun, and the Los Angeles Times (Nov. 9, p. 5).

1895 Feb. 2 – Professor C.C. Georgeson of the Kansas Agric. Experiment Station (Manhattan, Kansas) sends the Purdue Agric. Station 2 bags of “soy beans” as a gift. (Purdue Station Annual Report for the year 1894 (p. 14).

1895 April – Charles S. Plumb, director of the Indiana Agric. Exp. Station writes USDA’s Farmers’ Bulletin No. 32 titled “Silos and silage” in which he recommends that the soja bean be used with “Indian corn” to make high quality silage, containing more protein than silage made from corn alone.

1897 Sept. – To popularize soybeans by introducing them to more farmers in Indiana, the newspaper Indiana Farmer plans to plant two varieties of “soja beans” at its tent at the state fair. A large portion of visitors asked to see them. The newspaper wrote a long article about this in their issue of Sept. 25 (p. 8).

1899 July 15 – W.C. Latta, of the Purdue Agric. Experiment Station, writes an article in Indiana Farmer titled “The soy bean as a farm crop” (p. 3).

1906 Jan. 1 – A.T. Wiancko of the Purdue Agric. Exp. Station, is first mentioned in connection with soy beans – in a letter to C.V. Piper.

1910 Sept. – The first "Soybean day" in Indiana is held at Taylor Fouts' farm – sponsored by the Purdue agricultural extension department and the Carroll County agent. "It proved quite a help in creating interest in the crop. Report of this demonstration reached Illinois and a few days later in drove two 'suckers' – Chas. L. Meharry and Wm. Riegel, all the way from Tolono." They soon became close friends and soybean pioneers in Illinois.

1915 Jan. – Taylor Fouts writes his first article about soy beans, titled "Soy beans – A coming crop," in the Purdue Agriculturist (p. 9-13). He discusses four advantages of planting corn and soy beans (especially the Hollybrook variety) together. Three photographs accompany the article – including one of "hogging off" soybeans.

1916 Feb. 8 – C.O. Cromer of the Purdue Agric. Exp. Station, is first mentioned in connection with soy beans – in a letter to W.J. Morse.

1916 July – The earliest known commercial soy product made in Indiana (in Vincennes) is Dyer’s Pork and Beans with Tomato Sauce (Chicago Daily Tribune. 1916 July 2, p. 10. “Better beans at better cost”).

1916 fall – A second soybean day is held at the “Fouts Bros. Farms – more acres, varieties, and experiences, and more folks to see and talk.” Interest in the new crop is growing.

1918 May – Indiana is now the 2nd largest soybean producing state in the United States, with 100,000 total soybean acres; North Carolina is No. 1 with 120,000 acres (Monthly Crop Report {USDA}, p. 48-49).

1918 – "The name Soyland was adopted for the farm and seemed to fit." The Fouts brothers soon find themselves working as seedsmen, selling soybean seed. For many years the price had stayed around $2.00 to $2.50 a bushel, but in 1917, because of demand and shortages during World War I, the price rose to $3.00, climbing to $5.00 in 1918, then $6-8/bushel in 1919. “At the end of that period we were offered $10.00 per bushel so we scoured the community for remnants from seeding and shipped 30 bushels for $300.00” (Taylor Fouts 1944, p. 15).

1920 Sept. 3 – The biggest event in the history of the soybean in America to date takes place on Taylor Fouts' farm, Soyland. It's “The Corn Belt Soy-bean conference,” under the auspices of the Extension department of Purdue University (especially W.A. Ostrander) and the Carroll County Farm bureau (A.L. Hodgson, agricultural agent). The Fouts brothers planted a number of variety test plots for the occasion; they grew 150 acres designed for seed and hay, and planted soybeans in over 200 acres of their corn. One thousand people attend and have a great time. Taylor demonstrated a “small direct harvesting machine” for soybean which he apparently developed or invented. W.E. Riegel wrote of this machine in 1944 as a forerunner of the combine, first used to harvest soybeans in 1924 (in Illinois). The combine revolutionized soybean production in America.

Taylor wrote a song about soybeans, which is sung by a quartet of local growers. Lunch includes soybean salads and crunchy roasted and salted soybeans – “a rare treat.” A panoramic photograph (three feet wide) is taken showing all attendees with the Fouts home in the background. Another photo shows the three Fouts brothers, each wearing a hat, coat, and tie, standing in front of the “Soyland” barn. The National Soybean Growers' Association is formed at this meeting. Taylor Fouts is elected its first president and W.A. Ostrander is elected secretary. It is unanimously agreed that a soy bean field day be held each year as a vital activity of the association.

1921 May – The Parsons-McKinnis Co-operation of Camby, Indiana, is now offering the leading varieties of Soy Beans for sale direct to other farmers.

1921 Oct. 31 – W.A. Ostrander of the Purdue Agric. Exp. Station, is first mentioned in connection with soy beans – in a letter to W.J. Morse.

1924 – The Oriental Show-You Company begins production of Japanese-style fermented soy sauce (shoyu) in Columbia City, Indiana (Esta Keirn. 1981 interview).

1929 Aug. 7 – Allied Mills incorporates in Fort Wayne, Indiana (Indianapolis Star, p. 24).

1924 – Keller E. Beeson starts work at Purdue University as an extension agronomist (Soybean Digest. 1949 Sept. p. 36).

1934 Oct. 3 – Central Soya Co. incorporates in Ft. Wayne, Indiana (Indianapolis Star, p. 18). It is the first company with the word “Soya” in its name. They begin crushing soybeans in Nov. 1934 – with an expeller, 3 shifts a day. The key man is Dale W. McMillen. It is the midst of the Great Depression and he is about to celebrate his 54th birthday – an age at which many men think about retiring. His other company, McMillen Feed Mills, makes Master Mix feeds, using the soybean meal crushed by Central Soya.

In Nov. 1937 Central Soya starts using solvent extraction; it advertises the meal as “new process, toasted.”

1938 – Indiana is the 2nd largest producer of soybeans in the USA (8.40 million bushels; 14.57%) of the total – Far behind Illinois (31.84 million bu.; 55.26% of the total) and quite a bit ahead of #3, Iowa (9.94% of the total) (USDA table in Staley Journal. 1939 Aug. p. 30-31).

1972 – Indiana is the 3rd largest soybean exporter in America, with $134.6 million in exports (Soybean Digest. Oct. p. 31).

1980 – The three leading states in soybean production are:

Iowa 318.4 million bushels

Illinois 309.8 million bushels

Indiana 157.7 million bushels

1989 Feb. – The Tofu Center at Purdue University is established, funded by Mitsubishi, Central Soya, and Taishi Foods (Niels C. Nielsen. 1990 Feb. interview).

1990 Dec. – Kyoto Food Corp, USA (a Japanese trading company) starts making 2 types of tofu at Terre Haute, Indiana, in a $4.5 million tofu plant they built.

1995 Aug. – The U.S. Soyfoods Directory, an annual, begins publication, funded by the Indiana Soybean Development Council, edited by Jane and Roger Stevens.

1996 Feb. – A series of SoyFacts sheets is funded by the Indiana Soybean Development Council, written by Mark and Virginia Messina.

2000 – The three leading states in soybean production are:

Illinois 459.8 million bushels

Iowa 459.2 million bushels

Indiana 258.9 million bushels

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