(Dec. 7, 1910 – Nov. 6, 1981)
Alumnus and soybean’s greatest promoter at home and abroad.
George Martin Strayer was born in Hudson, Iowa, to Bert S. and Velma (Martin) Strayer. George was the oldest of 3 children and was followed by R. Gordon (in 1912) and Virginia (in 1919). He earned a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from Iowa State College (now University) in 1932, with honors in agronomy and journalism, and returned to Hudson to join Strayer Seed Farms in partnership with his father and later on his brother Gordon. George was married on January 24, 1942, in Iowa Falls, to Jeanne E. McMahon (a high school teacher in Early, Iowa).
Iowa is the largest producer of soybeans in the US and George Strayer was principally responsible for the growth and success of this crop in Iowa and the US. He was known for his continual and persistent promotion of soybeans and looking for additional markets worldwide. George and his company, Agricultural Exports Inc., were instrumental in increasing the export market for soybeans. Normal grain elevator handling did not give any recognition to variety of soybean or keep them separated. US soybean processors bought the highest quality soybeans (because they knew where to buy them) and any leftover soybeans were exported as a mixed bag of varieties dumped together. Strayer was the first to export specialty soybeans useful for food processing companies. He succeeding in proving there was a market for them and soon other big U.S. grain companies began offering the high quality, high oil soybeans to export markets. He was responsible for the US becoming the primary source for soybeans used in tofu in Asian countries.
In reading through information written by and about George Strayer, it becomes readily apparent that George was a hard worker and a natural-born leader. He took the initiative to get things organized and provided a lot of elbow grease to get work accomplished. His many achievements showcase initiative, tireless energy and leadership positions. He often served as “first president” and founder of groups, for example:
In the 1930’s, while still a student, he served as Youth Director for Iowa State College Agricultural Extension Service.
Organized and was elected first president of Iowa Rural Young People’s Assembly.
Founder and secretary of Associated Hybrid Producers Cooperative Service from 1937-1981.
Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the American Soybean Association from 1940-1967.
Founder and editor of the Soybean Digest from November 1940-1978.
Founded and published the Soybean Blue Book – an annual directory of the worldwide soybean industry.
President of the Iowa Agricultural Experiment Association in 1934, 1935, 1948, 1949, 1950. (The name changed to Iowa Crop Improvement Association in 1950 during Strayer’s presidency.)
President of the Iowa Seed Dealers Association and an active member of the American Seed Trade Association.
Instrumental in organizing the Soybean Council of America, an overall organization of the soybean industry in 1956, and executive director from 1956-1967.
President of the Hudson Printing Company, publishers of the Hudson Herald and Black Hawk Farm Herald.
Technical Sergeant Strayer served in the U.S. Army, during World War II, as Public Relations Officer for Army Recruitment (headquartered in Kansas City) from February 23, 1944 to February 1946. In 1954, he was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to head agricultural trade missions to Europe and Japan to establish worldwide markets for soybeans. That was followed in 1956 by a similar mission to 14 countries in Europe and in 1959 to the Orient and Middle East. In 1962, he was named to President Kennedy’s Task Force on Export Marketing of U.S. Agricultural Products.
George Strayer was awarded the Iowa State University “Man of the Year” award in 1961. He was also the first recipient of Iowa State University’s Floyd Andre award, in 1978, for outstanding contributions to Iowa agriculture and agricultural business. For more than 20 years, soybeans were the one major U.S. crop which was never in surplus. No other field crop has rivaled this, but many other crop industries imitated Strayer methods to market and promote their crop.
The George M. Strayer files in Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives Department consist mainly of his correspondence as secretary of the Associated Hybrid Producers organization, however, it also includes some brief biographical files.
Other materials include: “Hudson Firm Pioneer in Soybean Exports,” Waterloo Courier (Waterloo, Iowa), December 3, 1978, pp. 43, 45
“George M. Strayer Back at his Desk,” Soybean Digest, v.6, no. 4 (Feb. 1946), p.6 – includes photo
“George M. Strayer,” Chapter 5 IN Windish, Leo G., Soybean Pioneers: trailblazers, crusaders, missionaries (1981), pp. 15-23, includes photo of him from around 1978.
Other photos of George (including one of him and his wife standing outside of a Braniff international airplane) are available from: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10981703