The Integrated Soy Program was one of the first pilot programs of its kind. Its goal was to incorporate soybeans into the agriculture and home kitchens of native Guatemalans as well as to develop a small village soy dairy and tofu shop. Once it was found that soybeans could grow locally producing high yields, the program made its way into the home kitchens and then led to the construction of a pilot soy dairy.
The design of the facility included as many alternative energy components as was possible at the time. Water was pre-heated by solar tanks; sawdust, a by-product of the local sawmill, was used for fuel to cook the milk, and a gravity-feed system was used instead of a pump. Advanced technology was also incorporated in the form of refrigeration systems, blenders, and an ice cream machine.
The acceptance of soy ice cream was immediate. The introduction of tofu took more time because of the more detailed cooking classes to adapt to the indigenous cuisine. Obstacles faced during the introduction of the products were the strong cultural preferences to native foods and the inability of many native women to read. This made the distribution of written recipes ineffective and required much emphasis on cooking classes, where the products could be demonstrated in person. During these classes, the products were well received, but because of the strong cultural preferences, only a minority of the population would continue to buy the tofu.
We developed social programs that included giving away products at some of the local schools. This was done to help add needed protein and calories to the children’s diet and to familiarize them with the products at an early age.
The president of the local village committee came forward early in the program and expressed an interest in participating.
Plenty’s soy program was designed to instruct through observation and participation, so reading and writing were not mandatory. Community residents were quick to incorporate these new ideas and concepts.
From a letter published in the Farm’s community newsletter, Amazing Tales of Real Life, 1979
Our soy demonstrations are going good. We’ve done them in three different locations around Itzapa now. This week we’re setting some up around Sololá. They’re really a groove and we keep seeing kids we’d like to bring home for a while. Some of them really get to your heart. Feels great to be teaching their mothers nutrition. It’s great to see malnourished kids stuffing their faces with soybean protein. They all love it.
As a result of holding one class in San Martín forty-five ladies were inspired to plant soybeans and they all want us to come back for more classes.
This is really the heart of the project — to get these beans accepted in the homes so they can become a regular part of the life and diet.