Food Tank

The Role of Technology in Modern Agriculture: Interview with Dr. Emily Buck

Emily Buck, PhD, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University, is speaking at the third annual D.C. Food Tank Summit.

Emily Buck, PhD, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University, is speaking at the third annual D.C. Food Tank Summit, Let’s Build a Better Food Policy, which will be hosted in partnership with George Washington University and the World Resources Institute on February 2, 2017.

Dr. Buck’s family farms nearly 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans and raise Southdown sheep. She has conducted research in the areas of new media technology, media coverage of agriculture, and critical thinking of journalists. After more than 34 published articles and 37 research presentations, Dr. Buck has received honors for Journal Articles of the Year for the Journal of Applied Communications and the Journal of Agricultural Education, as well as honorable mention of the year for an article published in the North American College Teachers of Agriculture Journal. She is also one of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s Faces of Farming & Ranching.

Food Tank had the chance to speak with Dr. Buck about her background and the convergence of technology and agriculture.

Emily Buck, PhD, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University, is speaking at the third annual D.C. Food Tank Summit.

Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?

Emily Buck (EB): I was born in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, to parents who had never been involved in agriculture. Then one day my Dad decided to move us to a farm and start raising livestock. The dichotomy in the experiences with and understanding of food from my old friends to my new friends was amazing to me. I quickly understood at a young age there was a disconnect with how our food was produced and knew my life trajectory should work to shrink that.

FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?

EB: More and more people are interested today in where food comes from and how it is produced. There is a lot of misinformation distributed online, and I think—for the livelihood of American farmers and our food supply—we must be willing to engage in that conversation. We as agriculturalists have a vested interest in food, and to continue developing ways to be efficient and sustainable, we must also be better at sharing.

FT: Who inspired you as a kid?

EB: The person who inspired me the most was my agricultural education teacher in high school. While the course was to teach us modern farming practices and science, it also taught us the importance of education and outreach. No industry works inside a bubble. We are all influenced by the world around us, whether it is the medical industry, the housing industry, or the food industry. He inspired me to learn how to educate and communicate the science I understood to those who had a need to understand.

FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?

EB: One of the biggest opportunities we have is to help consumers better understand modern food production. If people understand how food can be raised using science to allow for more sustainable practices, they might be more welcoming to the variety of food on the market and not scared by marketing tactics. An educated consumer can also help in lessening the issues we have in the U.S. with food waste. By living in a wealthy country, we do not have to worry if there will be food, so we are blessed with the opportunity to choose food. Food choice is important, but we have to understand the qualities of all food production and not waste what is grown.

FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?

EB: One of my food heroes is actually Louis Bromfield. Mr. Bromfield was a writer and an important player in how we use conservation in farming. His books on how he took unproductive land and used smart techniques to build up the soil and the environment to start and maintain a thriving farm have always fascinated me. While you may not think of him at first when thinking food, he has made a major impact in how food is raised in gardens and on farms. I think his contributions to how we work with soil and water to raise food is an important lesson for us all.

FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?

EB: The acceptance of genetically modified (GM) technology in crop production. I think it is important to have variety when it comes to food choice, and one of those is GM crops. By using GM crops on our farm, we are able to conserve the natural resources we have, not disrupt our soil more than necessary, use less pesticides and herbicides, and to weather out whatever Mother Nature gives us in a given year. I hope we can help consumers understand the value and safety of such technology in farming. Just as we use technology like cell phones and smart cars to improve the world around us, technology in our farming practices allows us to farm in a way that is immensely better for the world than our grandparents did 50 years ago.

FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

EB: One small thing everyone could do is to watch portion sizes and understand food labels. By doing this small thing we would not be wasting so much food in the U.S. The food service industry provides oversized portions because consumers demanded it, and thus we have an immense amount of food waste. If consumers would work to only purchase what they can eat, we will save food and cut prices.

FT: What advice can you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?

EB: Do not discredit the opinion of the American Farmer. When it comes to labeling, GMOs, the environment, etc., we are the ones living it every day. American agriculturalists are always trying to do the best to preserve their resources while providing food to their families and those around the world. Every decision you make has a major effect on our industry and how we can survive and keep farming each year. We want to do the best for future generations, we want to use the best technological and business techniques on our farms to be successful as any other business would. But we aren’t just a business, we are family farms and cherish every livestock and crop on that land which helps sustain our livelihood.  

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