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Fred Loew and 100 Years of Soybeans


Professor Fred Loew, Huntington University Archives

As autumn approaches and farmers begin the harvest processes, great attribution goes out to former growers and individuals that devoted their lives to the industry. The history of the soybean crop cannot be discussed without mentioning the innovative spirit of one distinguished educator and botanist, Dr. Fred Loew. He grew up in rural Michigan, but came to Huntington for an education. At the time Huntington College was known as the new Central College, from which he graduation in the year 1902. His next step in his academic life was to attend Michigan Agricultural College, known now as Michigan State University, due to a great interest and pursuit in the field of Agriculture. In the year 1904, Loew returned back to his roots in Huntington to teach. As a professor, he taught botany and biology, eventually establishing an Agricultural Experimental Station in Huntington. With the country at war in 1917, the college welcomed the Student Army Training Corps to the campus. With their help and young men from the surrounding area, Victory Gardens was born; a program that included 60 acres of land for planting to help with the influx need for food crops in the country. City officials appointed Loew as administrator of this project. In 1918, Loew became Huntington’s first agricultural agent. While serving in this capacity for a period of four years, he introduced soybeans as a cash crop to farmers in Northeast Indiana. Soybean proved to be a viable crop. According to a small news article published in the Huntington Press, Friday Aug. 17, 1923, it was reported, “Fred A. Loew, practical farmer as well as successful teacher is fully convinced of the merits of soybeans, not only as a soil builder but from a commercial standpoint – the soybean crop is the only crop that can be successfully grown on soil containing acid with any degree of success. ‘It is a common sense method of building up your soil,’ replied Mr. Loew.” According to information at cropwatch.uni.edu/soybean, the primary use of soybean crops was to harvest the entire plant as a hay crop in the 1920’s. Prior to WWII the actual beans were machine harvested as uses expanded for oil and meal. The beans were used for human consumption and, meal, used for feeding livestock. In 1924, the Huntington Press published their June 14, edition including a story stating “Thirty acres of soy beans planted will occupy the attention of F. A. Loew for this season.” Soybean planting and harvesting has come a long way since the year 1924 and the reference to thirty acres. Thanks to Fred Loew’s studies and introduction of soybean, it has become the crop for products that have become the leading source of protein for livestock and poultry. One of the latest innovations is high oleic soybean oil. Many Huntington County farms, today, raise this type of soybean used for soybean oil. According to US Soy at food.ussoy.org, “high oleic soybean oil extends products’ shelf life, offers among the longest fry life of any edible oil, features an improved fat profile, and provides a neutral flavor allowing the food to be the star of the show.” The organizations’ website also refers to health benefits in reference to soybean consumption, stating, “The FDA authorized the use of a qualified health claim for oils high in oleic acid, including high oleic soybean oil, and their relationship to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease when replacing oils higher in saturated fats.” With Huntington University’s 125 year anniversary date as September 21, 2022, it is fitting to speak of the soybean research that furthers Loew’s initial studies of soybean production and its’ uses. The University’s Department of Agricultural Studies, Forester Farms, on-and-off-campus learning labs enable students to work with livestock and row crops in farm settings. One of the many crops the students work with is soybean. The Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) works with product development companies, entrepreneurs and universities to identify, develop and commercialize new soybean uses that have significant market demand impact for Indiana soybean farmers. As well as Huntington University’s Ag studies, according to Ed Farris, Extension Educator - Agriculture and Natural Resources, County Extension Director, Purdue Extension - Huntington County, an annual competition sponsored by (ISA) provides students with opportunities to research the soybean industry. Several new uses for soybean have come from the competition and the students’ work. For example, according to indianasoybean.com, in 2019, they “achieved a breakthrough to increase demand for Indiana’s soybeans. The product is called PoreShield, a revolutionary, soy-based concrete durability enhancer. Huntington County and its farm community continues Loews work and research, by producing much of the U.S. soybean crop. The 2021 report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows the Huntington County’s estimates as 91,500 acres harvested with an average yield of 62.1 bushels per acre.