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Soybean festival sprouts this weekend

Soybeans are taking over Vida Raine's life.

The co-owner of downtown Farmington's Buds and Bytes has a head full of soy facts and a schedule filled with soy-flavored events and she's bringing them all to the public during Farmington's first Soybean Festival May 20-22.

The festival, part of a larger effort by Farmington's Downtown Business Association to bring more events downtown, will feature photo contests, a cooking competition and a drawing for an opportunity to dump soybeans over the head of mayor Todd Larson, among other events.

Raine didn't know anything about soybeans when she chose the theme for the festival, but the more she thought about it the more it made sense. Farmington's festival is just the third soybean-themed festival in the country and the first in Minnesota. The state is the country's third largest producer of soy crops, and soybeans fields are a common sight in Farmington.

Raine figures it's important for people to know that.

"You drive past the fields and you know what corn is, but then you wonder, 'What's this other thing?'" Raine said. "The more you learn about it, you kind of get passionate about it."

Raine knows now. She dove into her soybean research in preparation for the festival and she's full to bursting with soy trivia. She said she's lost friends on Facebook because she can't stop talking about fabric made from soy or about the soy-plastic panels Henry Ford once put on his car.

Raine has worked with Farmington elementary schools to create a soy curriculum, and students in some Farmington classes are growing soybeans this month.

Next weekend's festival will feature a green building expo and a tennis tournament. There will be soy cooking contests and samples of soy ice cream and soy milk. Raine has also lined up a karaoke contest and 11 live bands.

Raine said the bands she's talked to are excited to play and she said she's gotten about 70 visitors a day to the festival's web page.

The festival has gotten enthusiastic support from the Minnesota Soybean Council, too. The group has pledged $3,000 to help pay for events and has offered to help in other ways, too.

"Their first response was, this is such a good idea, I don't know why we didn't do it before," Raine said. "I think they feel like they have to secure the future of the festival.

People haven't always been as enthusiastic. Raine said she sometimes gets funny looks when she tells people she's organizing a soybean festival.

"You're always going to have your naysayers ... but they don't know what soybeans do," Raine said.

Raine knows. And she'll be happy to tell you all about it.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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