- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ST. ELMO, Ill. (AP) - Gary Berg’s experience with soybeans has taken him far beyond his farm in St. Elmo.

Berg was recently one of three farmers in the state chosen to help lead the American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH).

Through his work with the organization, Berg said he has seen the need for alternative protein in developing countries.

“We need to be building relations,” Berg said. “As these people move up and their economies get better, the hope is they can grow up and we can be a part of their soy economy. As their economy gets better, we’ll have another market.”

Berg spent nearly a year visiting Nicaragua and Guatemala to help build up soy farming, both as a source of protein and to strengthen the counties’ agricultural economies. However, encouraging growth and farming practices isn’t the only key part of the program.

“You can give them this stuff, but if it doesn’t taste good or they don’t like it, they’re not going to use it,” Berg said.

Trying to change lifestyles by teaching about the use of soy as a substitute proteins a challenge the ASA is attempting to face head on, according to Berg. He believes the challenge can be met, noting China’s farm economy grew in the past decade because of increased use of pork, chicken and eggs in the country’s diet. Berg believes that sort of transformation could be made in other countries, such as Afghanistan.

However, attempting to integrate soy into diets isn’t the only challenge. Berg said bringing soybeans to Afghanistan, showed the need for technology in the region.

“It’s kind of hard to imagine but in Afghanistan, when you raise soybeans, they planted them all by hand, they harvested them by hand and they threshed them by hand,” he said. “That will tear up your hands. I can’t imagine it. It was sort of the way things were done here way back in the early 1900s. They’re just that far behind.”

To help further integrate soybeans into developing countries, the organization is working on making planting, harvesting and consuming soybeans easier. Berg said inventions, such as the “soy cow,” a machine that turns cooked soybeans into a juice that can be flavored, has helped introduce some cultures to a new source of protein, they may not have been able to afford.

“It’s not our chocolate milk, but it’s not bad,” Berg said with a laugh.

Berg said being able to provide this source of protein is invaluable for developing areas, particularly where farmers and their families deal with low incomes and intense financial woes.

“There are a huge number of people who only make a dollar a day. It’s just unreal the number of people in these countries who don’t have any money to speak of and a majority of it goes to food,” he said. “This helps.”

Berg said being able to know and see the impact of providing a new source of revenue and protein is a reward in and of itself.

“When you see the smiling faces on those kids that are eating better than they were before WISHH came in, it is really heart-warming,” he said.

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Source: Effingham Daily News, https://bit.ly/1pMgSoc

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Information from: Effingham Daily News, https://www.effinghamdailynews.com


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