ISA welcomes RAGBRAI riders to the AG OASIS07/25/2019 | Soybean News, Ag Awareness
By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist
Since 1973, RAGBRAI® bicyclists have started at the western side of the state and pedaled across Iowa to the Mississippi River over the course of a week. Towns all along the route roll out all the stops to make riders feel welcome — and this year the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) was no exception!
As a Premier Friend of RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), ISA presented the “AG OASIS” on the third day of the event. The stop gave riders a chance to hop off their bikes at Howell’s Greenhouse and Pumpkin Patch on their ride from Winterset to Indianola for hydration, rest and some fun!
“RAGBRAI is such a unique opportunity to connect with consumers across the state — and the nation,” said Pat Swanson, ISA District 9 director and Ottumwa soybean farmer. “It’s the perfect time to showcase the ‘ag’ in RAGBRAI.”
The beautiful countryside and Iowa hospitality has made the event immensely popular amongst cyclists, attracting riders from all 50 states and many countries. Officials estimated that over 35,000 riders would participate this year. At one point, the AG OASIS entrance was so busy that each bicyclist passing by had to walk their bike to ensure their safety amid the congestion, a testament to how popular the stop was!
In a booth set up just inside the entrance to the AG OASIS, ISA offered branded items, “soy snacks” — a Chex mix that included soy nuts and edamame — and a chance to chat and ask questions.
“People had such a wide range of questions throughout the day,” Swanson said.
From genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to glyphosate and export markets to production practices, RAGBRAI riders were genuinely interested in how farmers raise soybeans and run their businesses.
“Several riders seemed worried about soybean farmers,” Swanson noted. “I think they recognize the hit we have taken amid the trade war with China.”
While Swanson reiterated to riders that farmers have felt the loss of the Chinese market, she pointed out that soybean farmers have been working on developing and growing markets in other countries for years.
“Farmers always have to adapt to the changing markets,” Swanson explained to riders. “We always have to figure out the best ways to make money — and protect the environment while doing it.”
ISA District 9 director and Harper soybean farmer Tom Adam took the opportunity to ride part of day three’s route, noting that he had some great conversations along the way.
“This is one of the best opportunities in Iowa for consumer engagement and to leave a positive view of Iowa agriculture,” Adam said. “If you resonate with just a few people, they’re going to share what they learned with their circle. It has a big impact.”
The AG OASIS was just one of several ways ISA showcased Iowa agriculture during RAGBRAI. Equipment haulers and buses that transport the bikes and equipment were powered by Iowa biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from soybean oil and other feedstocks.
Iowa is the leading biodiesel producer. According to the National Biodiesel Board, economic research shows soybean, corn and livestock farmers all benefit from biodiesel production, making it a perfect product to promote during RAGBRAI.
Finally, ISA helped bring agriculture to some of Iowa’s youth through sponsorship of RAGBRAI’s Dream Team. The Dream Team assists youth in strengthening a healthy spirit, mind and body by developing a productive, positive approach to life’s challenges through preparation for and participation in RAGBRAI.
ISA connected with the Dream Team throughout the summer on rides and events. Soybean farmers Morey Hill and Dan DeVries visited with the participants about the importance of agriculture to Iowa’s economy and the food they eat every day.
“I’ve learned that, through a team, you can accomplish more things that you thought you ever could,” said one Dream Team participant.
The Dream Team stopped at the ISA booth at the AG OASIS to chat about the ride and all the agricultural sights they saw along the way.
“It was a great day,” Swanson concluded. “Overall, I think this was a fantastic use of our time. It sparked valuable conversations and experiences that people will definitely remember.”
View more photos from the event on our Facebook and Twitter pages!
Contact Lauren Houska at email@example.com.
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