Marketing Edamame Soybeans in Kentucky
Farmers in the South are challenged by the uncertainty of tobacco quotas and markets and the continuing low prices for commodities such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. Many southern states, for example North Carolina and Kentucky, are exploring vegetable co-op and farmers’ markets to increase cash sales of crops. This transition from tobacco and row crops presents many challenges to traditional farmers.
There is a growing market for soy foods because of soy’s health benefits. Consumers include soy products in their diets one or more times a week because of the health claim that soy protein reduces the risk of heart disease.
In the United States, the fresh soybean market is new. Because fresh beans deteriorate quickly, few stores offer fresh, green, young and tender vegetable soybeans (edamame is another word often used when describing green, immature soybeans). In 1998, Sara McNulty identified a delicious soybean variety from Iowa State University and has used these for promoting and selling soybeans in the green stage. In 1998 and 1999, McNulty raised test-plots of these delicious tasting soybeans for harvesting at the green stage, then promoted the beans in specialty produce stores such as Reid’s Orchard and Produce Stores in Owensboro, Kentucky, and Health and Harvest, a natural foods market, in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2000, Sally Ellis and Sara McNulty grew soybeans to the green stage in Daviess County, Kentucky, and promoted them in Owensboro, Kentucky, and Louisville, Kentucky. They sold one pound bundles (15-18 stalks) of beans on the stalk for $2.00. At produce stands they sold beans wholesale, off the stalk, in the pod, for $2.00 per pound. The retailer sold the beans for $4.00 per pound, as did the farmers’ market vendor.
In this project, the producer will work to make the beans available on a year-round basis by growing them in greenhouses. She will then market them to stores, buyers and markets to promote edamame soybeans.