Farm Progress

Learn how Illinois native Julie Blunier took an idea and turned it into a soybean resource for ag educators across the state.

Jill Loehr, Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

September 26, 2017

3 Min Read
POD TO PLATE: Julie Blunier wrote “Pod to Plate, the Life Cycle of Soybeans” to help young elementary students understand soybeans and make the connection with what soybeans become, such as products found in their homes.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This would make a great book”? That very thought crossed Julie Blunier’s mind for years, until she turned her idea into reality and authored “Pod to Plate, the Life Cycle of Soybeans.”

Blunier was born in Iroquois County, raised in Champaign County and graduated from the University of Illinois with an ag leadership degree. Her post-college resume includes Sangamon Menard Agriculture Education Partnership coordinator, Illinois Ag in the Classroom education manager, and director of activities for the American Shorthorn Association in Omaha, Neb.

After Blunier and her husband returned to Illinois, and as their family expanded, she began consulting with the Illinois Soybean Association to provide teachers with soybean training and educational resources. 

Blunier recognized that educators, especially kindergarten through second-grade teachers, needed a good resource book on soybeans. “There was nothing out there that was age-appropriate, with clear pictures of the life cycle,” she explains. “They needed a good introduction into what soybeans become.”

Blunier took the book idea floating in the back of her mind and proposed the project to the ISA. “They were totally behind the project, all the way,” she notes. The book funded by the Illinois Soybean Checkoff.

Putting it on paper
Once the project was approved, Blunier took some time and let the news sink in. Her dream was becoming a reality.

She used her farm-girl knowledge, college coursework experience and the ISA resources at her disposal to draft the first of many outlines. “I was blessed with wonderful sounding boards as I went through the process,” she notes, as she shared rough drafts with ISA board members, Ag in the Classroom coordinators, fellow writers and soybean farmers.

“Tossing ideas back and forth was a great opportunity,” she adds. Knowing that teachers would read the book aloud meant that every word and every syllable was important. “Words express themselves as they are read aloud,” she says. “It had to roll off the tongue and hit the key points.”

Kindergarten through second-grade curriculums cover plant growth and how seeds become plants. Blunier’s book dovetails into those lessons by focusing on the life cycle of the soybean: how it germinates; what it needs to grow, bloom, pod set and be harvested; and what happens next.

A splash of color
Once the words flowed, Blunier tackled the imagery.

Her target age group was 5- to 8-year-olds, but Blunier didn’t want cartoons or drawings. “I wanted to create something that you’d put on your coffee table,” she notes. 

McDaniels Marketing, Pekin, Ill., helped Blunier source beautiful stock images and custom shots.

From project approval to production, it took a year for Blunier to hold the finished project in her hands. “I am super happy with how it came out,” she says. “We’ve had wonderful feedback from teachers and librarians.”

Read it
How can you find “Pod to Plate, the Life Cycle of Soybeans”? Ag in the Classroom coordinators in every county have access to the book, which launched in time for the 2016-17 school year. “Last fall, when the coordinators passed them out to teachers, they really responded to the pictures,” Blunier says.

A digital version of the book is available at podtoplate.org. You can also visit your local county Farm Bureau office or check with your local Ag in the Classroom coordinator.

Is there another book in Blunier’s future? “Maybe,” she says, laughing. “As much as there was a voice in my head for a soybean book, I feel there’s a really big voice for a beef book, as well. That’s really where my heart is.”

Blunier grew up showing cattle and now manages the Illinois Beef Expo Junior Show with her sister-in-law.

“A book about cattle or showing cattle is rolling around the back of my head. That may become an education piece, as well,” she explains. “But I might take a break for a little while.”

About the Author(s)

Jill Loehr

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer, Loehr

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