March 5, 2021
Free soybean seeds available to school, community gardens to grow-your-own protein
By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Grow-Your-Own-Protein program teaches Arkansans about state’s largest crop and promotes healthy eating
- Soybeans are easy to grow, inexpensive protein source
- Schools, community gardens can request free seeds at https://bit.ly/2wGzfLs
LITTLE ROCK — For gardeners looking for an easy-to-grow addition to their gardens, soybeans are a natural powerhouse: they’re easy to grow, they nourish the soil, and they provide a complete protein.
Right now, schools and community gardens can get free soybean seeds through the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service’s Grow Your Own Protein program as long as they donate their produce to schools, churches, food pantries, or other nonprofits serving food-insecure populations.
Teachers often request the seeds as part of their teaching gardens, and several Master Gardener clubs grow soybeans to donate to their local food banks.
“We want the seeds to go to people who grow them for educational purposes, donations and demonstrations,” said Diedre Young, extension’s Soybean Science Challenge coordinator. “They’re a great addition to any garden, and right now, when a lot of families are struggling with lost income, plant-based protein can help stretch food dollars.”
Soybeans offer several health benefits. They are a complete protein, with all of the essential amino acids, meaning they have as much protein as animal products such as eggs, meats, poultry and seafood, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA recommends adults ingest 50 grams of protein per day.
Soybeans are picked early when they are most tender and are commonly called edamame. Many grocery stores sell frozen edamame, which can be added to salads, stir-fry and other entrees to add protein.
Now in its fifth year, the Grow Your Own Protein program has seen participation double. The program started in 2016 with 24 gardens. Last year, 56 community gardens in 27 counties in the state grew soybeans. Washington County led the state with nine gardens followed by Jefferson Count with six plots. So far this year, Extension has received more than 40 requests for seeds.
The Grow Your Own Protein program grew out of the Soybean Science Challenge, a program funded by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board that encourages Arkansas high school students to study innovative and scientific aspects of soybeans, which contribute to Arkansas’ agricultural economy. It’s also a way to teach Arkansans about a crop that has a significant impact on the state’s economy. In Arkansas, soybean is grown on about 3.3 million acres and generates about $1.7 billion annually.
Request forms are available online at https://bit.ly/2wGzfLs and should be completed and sent to Diedre Young at email@example.com. Seeds will be mailed later to recipients. Seeds should be planted between late April and early May and should be ready to pick in 80-85 days.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Director, Communications Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service