Soybean production has made it to the Chicago Zoo with funding from the United Soybean Board and the Illinois Soybean Association. An exhibit titled “Soybeans: Growing Food, Growing World” has been established by the soybean checkoff and ISA in John Deere’s Farm-in-the-Zoo at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. This exhibit brings a taste of farm life to children and adults from the city who may not have much firsthand experience with farming or food production.
“This display is a combination of education and communication to younger folks and adults,” says Jim Domagalski, a Columbus, Mich. Soybean farmer and USB farmer-leader. "It takes viewers through the planting, growth, harvest and processing and exporting of soybeans.”
The interactive display gives a simple overview of soybean farming and processing while teaching the importance of soy to the United States and other nations. By using cranks and buttons, children can connect with the exhibit and the soybean production and marketing process.
“Children can push buttons to see the different growth stages of soybeans,” explains Domagalski. “Then there’s a combine with a crank that moves the plant through the combine when it’s turned. The Chicago Zoo estimates 3 million people a year will go through it.”
Soybeans provide a variety of products, from high-protein feed for livestock, to oil that can be used in an edible form for humans or processed into biodiesel, it can replacement for petrochemicals in other items such as foam for seat cushions.
“There’s a gap between ag and the general public; they don’t know where food comes from or how it’s grown,” adds Domagalski. “People are distanced from the farm. This display shows the positive side of food production.”