Stepping Up: Mower County farmers walking the walk with new campaign

Published 4:51 pm Monday, September 19, 2022

From farm to frontline, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) is taking another giant leap forward to highlight environmentally friendly investments from the soybean checkoff. 

Mower County soybean farmers, in partnership with MSR&PC, which directs the state’s soybean checkoff resources, have launched the Stepping Up campaign to amplify farmer profitability and promote the value-added uses of the crop while making community connections.  

 Coming on the heels of the successful Driving Soy promotion, Minnesota counties are lacing up to promote renewable, value-added soy products and give back to frontline health care workers in their counties.  

Sketchers shoes are unpacked in front of Wildwood Grove in LeRoy recently. Photo provided

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“This was a great campaign to be part of,” said Joel Nelson, chair of the Mower County Corn & Soybean Board. “We all know a health care worker in our county, and this was our way to say ‘thank you’.”

 As part of the Stepping Up promotional effort, Mower County is donating 50 pairs of Skechers soy-based GO shoes to Wildwood Grove.

 “The staff at Wildwood Grove have gone above and beyond for more than two years to keep our residents safe and healthy through this very difficult time with COVID-19,” said Diana Whalen, Wildwood Grove administrator. “We are grateful to the soybean growers of Mower County for nominating Wildwood Grove for this program. It means a lot to our staff to be recognized and acknowledged for the work that they have done. Shoes are the perfect gift for our staff as they are on their feet every day.” 

 The Stepping Up campaign runs throughout the summer. The statewide effort strives to inform both the farming and non-farming public of soy’s environmental advantages and the myriad uses of soybean oil. County leaders also want to show their appreciation to health care workers in their community.

 “We know how much health care workers sacrifice for others in communities throughout Minnesota, especially in the past couple of years. I’ve seen it firsthand,” said Council Chair Joe Serbus, whose wife, Doreen, has worked in health care for more than 40 years. “This campaign is an investment in both value-added soybean products and in the selfless health care professionals who keep us safe and healthy.” 

 A step above the rest

 In 2020, Skechers released its GO line of footwear, which uses soybean oil to improve grip, stability and durability. Skechers is using the same checkoff-supported technology featured in Goodyear Tire Company’s line of sustainable soy-based tires, which incorporated soy into its rubber technology.

 Kurt Stockbridge, Skechers vice president of Product Development and Innovation, said the company and the soybean checkoff are stepping up to create a superior shoe and reduce their environmental footprints.

 “Discovering ways to make products more sustainable is top of mind for Skechers,” Stockbridge said. “Though we were aware of the sustainable qualities of soybean oil, we were surprised to learn what the oil could do to improve our outsole rubber performance.”

 For each dollar Mower County soybean farmers pay toward checkoff resources, growers receive an estimated $12.33 in return value. Today, more than 1,000 commercially available products – ranging from shoes to machinery lubricants to asphalt – use commodity and high oleic soybean oil. 

 “Once that soybean hits the mill, it’s local, it’s national – it’s everywhere,” said Belinda Burrier, a United Soybean Director who helped oversee the partnership with Skechers. “The money farmers make back on the checkoff is fantastic.”

 Follow the Stepping Up social media campaign at #SoySteppingUp and by visiting