And so Tuesday kicked off with those instructions by Mr. P. Allen Smith himself, as I and nineteen other excited Arkansas bloggers looked forward to gaining an education about the humble Arkansas soybean.
It’s hard to be humble when you are called “the miracle bean.”
It’s hard to be humble when you are one of Arkansas pride and joy bushel crops, bringing in 122 million bushels of soybeans last year valued at $1 billion.
It’s hard to be humble when you are just so stinking versatile.
It was an inspirational day.
First of all, the event was called #Bean2Blog. You may have seen that hashtag sporting up all over the place, including on twitter, facebook, and pinterest.
Secondly, the event was organized by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, along with their partnership with P. Allen Smith to encourage Arkansans to harvest the potential of soybeans.
We gathered at P.Allen’s Garden Home Retreat outside of Little Rock.
I wish you were with us.
Do you mind if I share my day with you?
Northwest Arkansas was represented by Lela, Stephanie, Amy, myself, and Kelly. Kelly went down the night before, but the rest of us met at Sams Club and headed on down, bright and early. We needed to get there early since Stephanie and Amy were bringing all the bloggers a complimentary pair of Ariat boots from countryoutfitters.com, a Fayetteville online shop for all things boots. I am in **love** with my pair. You know you want one.
|Lela, Stephanie, Amy, moi, and Kelly|
We arrived at P. Allen’s mind-blowing and completely over-the-top-without-feeling-stuffy home. Yes, he actually lives here.
Mmmm…. A table with assorted soy muffins and coffee greeted us.
First we toured his house.
Let’s just say that with each turn down a hall or into a room, I was struck by how each room told its story.
This one says, “Spicy. Refreshing. Necessary.” I like that his French press is still dirty.
This one says, “Just because I am the host of the Garden to Table show on PBS and I know how to cook, I still can learn from others.” Actually, the specific word he used was “poaching.” Love that.
I love that he has hand soap, dish soap, and lotion that is beautiful, functional, and a yes, a brand that makes soy candles, too! I had to include this photo because I work for the company that makes this brand. A happy coincidence.
Books are everywhere including shelves, on desks, and stacked on tables. And it’s no wonder. This man is a walking encyclopedia. You can physically observe his sense of pride on every detail of his home.
It’s that sense of pride knitted together with knowledge that makes P. Allen a natural fit for the Arkansas soybean partnership. He told us that he could live anywhere but would never consider it because of his intense love for all things Arkansas.
That describes EXACTLY why I always say, “why aren’t you living here yet?” to those of you who aren’t living in Arkansas.
It is a special state.
Speaking of special, let’s talk about the gardens.
I will only touch briefly on this today because the gardens have already inspired future blog posts in my mind.
Garden’s do not have to be complicated. You don’t have to be a commercial farmer with rows and rows to harvest. I love how he incorporates raised beds with layers of interesting layers. Makes it much more approachable and manageable. We’ll talk later on that.
Of course there is a pizza oven!
Then the entire group headed back to the barn for presentations.
We learned about the miracle bean. I personally think it’s called that because it connects families with the soil. Farming is a tough but critical industry for Arkansas and the entire country.
We need more farmers.
Or, as P. Allen said to us, “We need to champion the farmer, more.”
The best part of the day was that we spent time with Arkansas Soybean farmers and their families. It was a brilliant idea since it added such a personal touch.
I learned that farming is a hazardous profession, second to mining.
This family is tough.
Jim Carroll talked about what it takes to be a farmer. His wife, Rhonda, and sister all shared their insights of what it takes to be a fourth generation farmer from Brinkley, Arkansas.
His first love is the heritage and future of farming.
Jim is on the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and United Soybean Board. Basically, he volunteers to make sure that Arkansas is investing in the future sustainability of soybean production. He also works with other states to help bring checkoff money back to Arkansas.
Time to eat!
Take a look at this sumptuous spread: Soy succotash with edamame, cherry tomatoes, corn, red onion, garlic, and cumin. We also had a baked potato with spicy tofu topping. It was perfect.
I passed on the pork. I know that soybeans are packed with protein so I didn’t worry (I knew I had a complete meal).
The rest of the afternoon was spent in learning from the experts.
Todd Allen, Chairman of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, told us that soybeans are grown by thousands of farmers in fifty of Arkansas’s seventy-five counties. He passionately told us about the potential of soybeans and all of its uses.
Did you know that soy is found in bar chain oils, automotive and farm equipment, cleaning products, engine oil, fuel additives, hardware lubricants, coatings, sealants, flooring, insulation, paint products, stains, furniture, candles, inks, toners, pet care, deodorants, face care, hair care, lotions, and soaps?
Did you know that 98% of soybean production goes into making soybean meal for animal feed?
Of course, my favorite use for soy is for food consumption.
We are foodies, after all. I will be talking about cooking edamame and soybeans in future posts.
P. Allen led us through the vegetable gardens and let us in on a secret… we were going to plant edamame in his garden!
Then he prepared garlic Parmesan edamame and Rhonda the farmer’s wife made soymilk for us. I felt so “circle of life” at that moment.
We learned about soy candle making, soy lotion making, and ** gulp ** about soybean pests and diseases. Thankfully we had already eaten at that point!
Kimberly Cochran, a Ph.D student in the Plant Pathology department at the University of Arkansas, got giddy talking about soybean diseases. She is in the right profession. As she spoke I was reminded that I, too, am in the right profession. I think I will pass on plant diseases and leave it to the experts.
I learned from Faye Smith, MBA in Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arkansas, that planting soybeans in your garden is actually beneficial to the soil and other plants. It’s one of the plants that help build and enrich the soil.
We need more young folks pursuing these careers.
The day is starting to wind down.
I wish I were a farmer.
Or at least raised some chickens or ducks. A turkey would even rock.
I would feed them soybean meal.
The day is over and we linger over our goodbyes.
It’s been a bountiful day.
Remember how the day kicked off with P. Allen’s goal for the day? He specifically wanted us to “learn, share, teach, and continue building on these lessons through the exchange of ideas and experiences.”
I intend to do just that.
Today’s post was extremely long-winded. From now on, I’ll be more specific.
Look for these upcoming posts inspired from the #Bean2Blog event:
I will share with you what I’ve learned about soy foods after living dairy-free for fifteen years.
I want you to meet the other bloggers who attended and hear their stories.
I will take you on a retail safari that explores where you can buy good tasting soy-based food products.
Continue building on these lessons through the exchange of ideas and experiences
Well, that is the heart of the matter, isn’t it? It’s about sharing our stories, our experiences, and our desires. I want to learn from you and let others learn from you.
Thank you Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and P. Allen Smith for fact-packed and special day.
Thank you Country Outfitter for my special boots and providing a pair for all the bloggers.
Thank you fellow Arkansas bloggers for telling the story in your own special way.
Thank you fellow NWA bloggers for one rockin’ road trip!
Thank you for stopping by today.
Eat well, my friends. Eat well.