A century of soy: ASA marks 100 years at Indiana birthplace

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has returned to its roots to celebrate a century of coordinated efforts and ensuing successes on behalf of U.S. soybean growers. With support from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the family who helped launch one of the nation’s strongest agricultural advocacy offices, ASA celebrated its 100th anniversary on the Indiana farm where it all started with a small but significant historical marker dedication and tours of heirloom soybean plots.

ASA was formed when brothers Taylor, Noah and Finis Fouts hosted the first Corn Belt Soybean Field Day at their “Soyland Farms” operation in Camden, Ind., Sept. 3, 1920. Unlike today’s more quaint and socially distanced ceremony, that event drew nearly 1,000 farmers and their families from six states, all of whom were interested in discovering more about an emerging new commodity called soybeans. The National Soybean Growers’ Association — later renamed the American Soybean Association — was formed that very day. In 1963, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association became ASA’s first satellite affiliate.

The outdoor ceremony was streamed live for soy supporters to celebrate safely across the country. Originally planned was a group picture emulating a historic black and white photo of the original attendees, but instead, farm families from throughout the soybean states submitted dozens of photos for a special video montage leading up to the live event. Among those helping the organization celebrate in Indiana were USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Steve Censky, who served the soy industry as ASA CEO for two decades, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, along with other notable guests from Purdue University, Indiana Soybean Alliance, the Fouts family and ASA’s past and present leadership.

Kendell Culp, ASA director from Indiana and event host, provided opening remarks. ASA President Bill Gordon, a soybean farmer from Worthington, and past President Alan Kemper were also among those who delivered remarks before Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb unveiled the historical marker.

During a speech, Gordon underscored the myriad positive effects ASA has had on agriculture.

“What if ASA didn’t exist?” Gordon asked. “What would the farm bill look like? What would sustainability look like? What would our environment look like? Imagine what this soybean would be if we could only feed domestically. And let’s not forget how important our checkoff is to the American soybean farmer and how important it is that we stand together as the Fouts and others stood before us.”

ASA President Bill Gordon unveils a marker commemorating the sight of ASA’s first meeting in Camden, Ind.

Speaking with respect and appreciation of the hardworking and pioneering soy industry, Gov. Holcomb said, “What hasn’t changed in 100 years is the resilience and eternal optimism – timeless traits.” He also shared the entertaining tale of Taylor Fouts delaying his wedding hour to finish his daily work in the soybean fields.

Deputy Sec. Censky spoke of the long, successful collaboration between USDA and the soy family, which dates back to that first Fouts Farm event in Indiana 100 years ago. After providing comments on USDA agriculture priorities including COVID-19 relief, Censky referenced a quote in American Soybean magazine from former ASA president Tony Anderson of Ohio, who profoundly said, “ASA isn’t relevant because it’s 100 years old. It’s 100 years old because it’s relevant.”

ASA debuted a special video history of the Fouts Family and Soyland Farm, and a live musical performance featuring past and current ASA board members, including MSGA Treasurer Bob Worth and MSGA Director Chris Hill, singing a rendition of “Growing Soybeans to Get Along,” written by Taylor Fouts and sung at the first soybean event back in 1920.

The anniversary program was hosted by Master of Ceremonies Max Armstrong and featured a lineup of notable speakers including:

• Keynote Speaker: Steve Censky, Deputy Secretary, USDA
• Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana
• U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, Indiana
• Elisha Modisett Kemp, Mara Hendress and Claire Crum – Fouts family members
• Ray Gaesser, ASA Past President and 100th Anniversary Host, Indiana
• David Rodibaugh, Chair, Indiana Soybean Alliance
• Karen Plaut, Dean, College of Agriculture, Purdue University
• Casey Pfeiffer, Indiana Historical Marker Program Director
• Mark Smith, Carroll County Historical Society

Other speakers included platinum event sponsors, which are Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, FMC, Syngenta, John Deere, United Soybean Board, Illinois Soybean Association, Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board, and Indiana Soybean Alliance. For more information on the 100th anniversary of the American Soybean Association, visit ASA100Years.com.

“We’re fortunate we don’t have to linger on the ‘what ifs'” Gordon said. “It’s hard to believe we’ve been in existence for 100 years.”

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