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

Published 8:55 pm Friday, September 30, 2022

Farmers donating soy-based shoes to frontline health care workers 

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. Freeborn 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, according to a press release.

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.  

“We decided to donate to a facility that meant a lot to one of our board members,” said Cole Pestorious, Freeborn County Corn & Soybean Growers chair. “It definitely isn’t an easy job, so we truly want to say, ‘thank you.’”

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As part of the Stepping Up promotional effort, Freeborn County donated 23 pairs of Skechers soy-based GO shoes to St. Croix Hospice in Albert Lea.

“We love to give back to our community, and this was a great way to do so,” Pestorious said.

The Stepping Up campaign runs throughout the summer. The statewide effort strives to inform both 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 Freeborn County soybean farmers pay toward checkoff resources, growers receive $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.