The premier global soy and grain trade event of the year went virtual in 2020. From session presentations to the trade show, the U.S. Soybean Export Council and Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance pivoted every aspect of the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange & Specialty Grains Conference to an interactive online experience.

Previously, buyers from across the globe would travel to the U.S. to connect and build relationships with sellers while learning more about U.S. Soy. Participants would sit in on presentations and walk through the exhibit hall to make connections. Many found relationship building one of the main benefits of attending the event.

One of the highlights of the conference for many international guests was loading up on tour buses to visit soybean farms, grain elevators and river terminals, getting an up-close look at each step along the soy value chain. A beloved outcome of these tours was meeting U.S. soybean farmers and catching a glimpse of the equipment, tools and practices they utilize on their family farms.

This year, conference participants loaded up on a virtual tour bus to receive that same up-close look at U.S. Soy while building those same relationships with soybean farmers. Through on-demand video tours, customers across the globe were able to connect with U.S. farmers on topics such as planting conditions and conservation practices, while learning more about their individual operations and farms.

The virtual tour bus stopped at several farms focused on sustainability. Indiana soybean farmer Rodney Rulon shared his farm’s focus on taking soil samples. In addition to no-till planting and cover crops, he and his family utilize a one-acre grid soil sampling system in order to manage fertility to both grow a healthy crop and avoid excess leading to waste and runoff. In Ohio, soybean farmer Bill Bayliss gave an inside look at his family farm’s plans for the 2020 growing season, including conservation practices such as no-till planting and waterway systems.

In Illinois, soybean farmer Doug Winter showcased his operation’s on-farm grain storage. He explained similar systems on farms across the U.S. allow farmers to market their crop as they see fit throughout the year. This also allows for a more consistent supply of U.S. Soy for the rest of the world.

Mike Starkey, a soybean farmer in Indiana, shared his family’s unique experience farming in an urban environment. With several houses just miles away from their operation, Starkey and his family use their location as an opportunity to inform others about the agricultural industry. They like to focus on their farm’s conservation efforts, including their robust water quality monitoring system.

Participants also received updates on several farms’ 2020 growing season. Soybean farmer Tony Mellenthin shared his Wisconsin farm’s progress. He said early planting in late April yielded a positive start to their growing season, but as of mid-August, growers in his area were in need of an abundant rain to finish out soybean fields. Iowa’s growing season also started off strong, according soybean farmer Robb Ewoldt. He also showed a behind the scenes view of both a field where soybeans are grown and a Mississippi River export terminal where soybeans are shipped throughout the world.

While presentations and networking opportunities are important methods of connecting with buyers of U.S. Soy, field days and farm tours like those showcased at the virtual U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange & Specialty Grains Conference take the connection a step further. The relationships built and trust gained through these farm tours, whether in-person or virtual, cannot be replaced.

To learn more about U.S. Soy, or to access additional farm tours, visit U.S. Soy on You Tube.

Soybean farmer Rodney Rulon shared his focus on sustainability by taking soil samples in the 360-degree virtual tour of his farm in Arcadia, Indiana.


Soybean farmer Mike Starkey explained his family’s conservation efforts in the 360-degree virtual tour of farm in Brownsburg, Indiana. Because of his farm’s no-till, cover crop environment, Starkey said he plants his soybeans deep.


Iowa soybean farmer Robb Ewoldt shared information about the Mississippi River export terminal near his farm during his virtual farm tour.