GrowNextGen ambassadors Lena Dickerson and Kaylynn Wilhelm helped students make soybean seed necklaces in Columbus at a recent event at Waterman Farms on OSU campus.

Fashion and farming with soybeans

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

Columbus area elementary students are looking stylish this spring with some truly one-of-a-kind jewelry following the Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and

Environmental Sciences “We Grow Scientists” event at Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory. “We Grow Scientists” was a free event help May 1 open to learners of all ages looking to learn more about STEM activities as part of the COSI Science Festival.  

The soybean seed necklaces students made at the event provide not only a unique look, but a great learning opportunity for young fashion-conscious students, said Lena Dickerson, a sophomore at Otterbein University and a GrowNextGen ambassador, who was working with students at the event.

“To make soybean necklaces, all you have to do is put two soybeans in a tiny little packet along with a cotton ball. Spray it with a little bit of water and as long as you wear that around your neck, the heat from your body actually helps it grow. It starts sprouting and germinating while you’re wearing it,” Dickerson said. “They absolutely love it when they see that their plants actually start to germinate. That just helps show how fast soybeans grow and how fast they germinate, but then it also shows how easily you can use them and also then you can spread that message about why soybeans are so important.”

Dickerson grew up in Kansas and came to Otterbein for the university’s zoo science program.

“Once I got there, I realized that animals weren’t the only thing that mattered to me and I wanted to branch out into the environment and conservation and then agriculture, since that’s pretty much the backbone of everything,” she said. “I didn’t have that much experience with soybeans coming into Ohio, but once I got here I kind of realized immediately how important they were. Soybeans are in so many foods and different areas that impact all of life. Coming into GrowNextGen I really felt like they were doing something great with the Ohio Soybean Council not only to educate students about agriculture, but to let them know how important soybeans are along with the importance of going into agriculture as a career.”

Fellow GrowNextGen ambassador Kaylynn Wilhelm, a sophomore at Ohio State University in agricultural education from Clark County, has a very different background.

“My mom is a teacher and my dad is a soybean farmer, so I think it kind of just came right together where I can be a farmer and a teacher at the same time, so I might as well be an agricultural educator,” Wilhelm said. “With GrowNextGen, I hope to get a lot of informal education experience in agriculture so I can help with connecting that divide between urban and rural areas. Having this experience and being able to talk to people who might not know a lot about soybeans or other agriculture is really a great part of my major. Events like this one can be really impactful, especially with it being in the middle of Columbus.”

Wilhelm is hoping she can share some of her love for life on the farm with the next generation of students, especially in urban areas.

“I grew up showing swine, cattle, goats, you name it, and watching my dad farm. I was taking a ride in the combine or the planter and just seeing that firsthand. I noticed that not everybody has had that experience and it really opened my eyes to how privileged I’ve been and how blessed I am to have this life. I really want to share it with everybody so that way they can experience some of that too,” Wilhelm said. “It’s really important that we plant seeds of not only soybeans, but also science and agriculture, as soon as possible because those subjects are becoming less popular in the younger generation, but they are still just as important as they were 20 or 30 years ago. So, we’re doing the best we can to make a lasting impact on these students and hoping we can impact the next generation.”

All of this year’s GrowNextGen ambassadors will be working with a wide array of tools and programs this summer to facilitate learning about agriculture, including the always fashion-forward soybean seed necklace.

The GrowNextGen program is funded by Ohio soybean farmers and their checkoff.

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