Eighteen giant fiberglass soybeans came to life in Iowa in 2007. The 4-ft.-tall soybeans were part of a unique effort initiated by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) called “Soy on Parade.”
The sculptures were created by Iowa artists to visually communicate the value and unique uses of soybeans to the state, nation and world. They were then displayed at various events — including at the state capitol — throughout the year before being auctioned off in September to help fund scholarships for Iowa students pursuing degrees in ag-related fields. Over $20,000 was raised from the sale of the soybean sculptures.
While the fundraising aspect of the Soy On Parade effort was a huge success, the large artistic beans also were successful at raising awareness about the variety of important uses of one of Iowa's top crops.
Cate Newberg, marketing manager for ISA, says, “The topics displayed on the giant soybeans included everything from soyfoods, biodiesel and soy in aquaculture to soybean research and environmental issues. It really opens people's eyes to all the possibilities that soy brings to Iowa.”
Artists who were interested in donating their time to the Soy on Parade project had to submit a drawing of their idea to ISA, including the artist's theme and an explanation of why that theme was picked. Once the artists were selected, the blank beans were delivered and the artists began to bring the beans, and their ideas, to life.
Elementary art teacher Tammy Schmitz was one of the artists chosen, and she decided to make her soybean sculpture an art project for approximately 250 of her first through fifth grade students. Each of the students received a 4-in.-square piece of white paper on which to draw a picture in pencil. The themes followed a soybean's journey from a tiny seed to harvest to soy products, just to name a few. Once the students were happy with their pictures, they traced the pencil drawing with a black marker and then colored their pictures with crayons. Schmitz then used decoupage to apply the students' pictures to the fiberglass soybean.
During the process the students also learned about soybeans — one teacher even brought in soybean stalks from her farm to show the students.
All of the artists completed their soybeans by March 1. Then, the colorful, clever beans were on display at the state capitol, Iowa State Fair, Iowa State University and several other locations before being auctioned in September.
The top-selling soy sculpture sold for $2,400. The average selling price was nearly $1,090, meaning that, with real soybeans selling for close to $12/bu. today, each of the auctioned beans was worth more than 90 bu.