Watonwan County farmers are stepping up for health care heroes

From farm to frontline, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) has taken another giant leap forward to highlight environmentally friendly investments from the soybean checkoff. Watonwan County soybean farmers, in partnership with MSR&PC, which directs the state’s soybean checkoff resources, are launching the Stepping Up campaign to amplify farmer profitability and promote the value-added uses of the “miracle bean” 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.  

“It was a privilege and a pleasure for the Watonwan County Corn and Soybean Growers to make those shoe donations last week,” County Board member Dale Busch said. “The nurses in two nursing homes and one hospital in Watonwan County were on the frontline caring for vulnerable residents and patients during the pandemic. They gave of themselves long and hard hours above and beyond what most of us can imagine. There should be a special place in heaven for these people. When friends and family could only observe through a window, they were care givers, friends and family for the patients and residents in their care. We heard many thank yous from the nurses and administrators, but the real ‘thank you’ goes to you. May God bless you.”

Watonwan County Board member Dale Busch (front, far left) says his organization was honored to donate soy-based shoes to Madelia Health Hospital & Clinic and other county health care facilities.

As part of the Stepping Up promotional effort, Watonwan County is donating pairs of Skechers soy-based GO shoes to the Madelia Health Hospital & Clinic, Living Meadows at Luther in Madelia and Good Samaritan Society in St. James.

“The Good Samaritan Society appreciates the kindness and compassion displayed by Minnesota Soybean to our employees and the donation of shoes,” facility administrator Josh Domeier said. “Many of our staff work tirelessly around the clock on their feet to provide quality care. Thank you for supporting them in their continued efforts during this pandemic.”

The Stepping Up campaign runs throughout the summer. The statewide effort strives to inform both the farming and non-farming public on 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 product 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, Watonwan 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 mnsoybean.org/stepping-up.

“The Watonwan County soybean growers selected our local health care workers for the shoe donation program because they are critical assets to the health and welfare of our local communities and sometimes are not fully appreciated,” Board member Dennis Sturm said. “We felt this was our opportunity to offer a thank you to those workers.”

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