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Faces of Farming: Emily Buck opens up the barn doors

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An educator at heart, Faces of Farming’s Emily Buck is eager to agvocate across the nation. In fact, it’s something she and her husband have already excelled at in their home state of Ohio.

“We are very adamant about watching what we do with the environment of our farm, the soils, the natural resources around the farm — whether it’s with the sheep or with the crops,” Buck said.  We love to tell that story because we realize that it is really important for consumers to trust us — if they are getting to see that technology, but also if they are getting to talk to a farmer.”

In November, Buck was selected as one of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s five Faces of Farming ambassadors. Her role will be to act as an agvocate who can travel the country and help bridge the gap between farmers and the public and to break down some of the trust issues that has emerged in recent years.

Buck and her husband are third generation farmers and grow around 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans every year and raise a herd of 40 sheep on their family farm in Central Ohio. Buck also holds a doctorate in agricultural communications and is an associate professor at The Ohio State University.

In her spare time, Buck and her husband host Saturday movie nights on the farm inviting consumers, families, and children to take in a flick and play with the livestock. The Bucks also routinely invite leadership programs, and consumers that don’t really know anything about agriculture, to their homestead to show them such things as harvest in action or just a typical day on the farm.

“We both really like to have our farm as a showcase to educate consumers. I have an education job off the farm and my husband has an ag education degree as well, so we see the value in getting out to the community,” Buck said. “We have sheep, so it is really easy with a lamb to get people’s attention. I do a lot of little things like bags of wool at the county fair with facts on them — anything I can do to get consumers to hear about our industry.”

Agvocating in Ohio hasn’t always been easy for Buck. The family often has to answer some difficult questions, but they’re always prepared.

“One thing with sheep, I’ve done some things where people will have seen the sheep and then the question becomes what will happen to them after they grow? So having such a cute little animal — it is sometimes working through that they are livestock. We do raise them for meat and use them for meat,” Buck said. “Then we get a lot of questions about genetic modification and water quality around our farm. In Ohio, just like any other state, we have had lots of water crises in the media in the last few years. Our farm actually sits on the Lake Erie watershed and the Mississippi River watershed so we take that pretty serious. We get a lot of questions about why we are using genetic medication in our crops, why do we do no-till, and how are we protecting that waterway.”

When Buck found out about the Faces of Farming, she thought it would be a great opportunity to be able to talk with consumers she might not be able to reach otherwise. The five Faces of Farming agvocates will travel to places like New York and L.A. and attend conferences such as South by Southwest, where the farmers can visit with nutritionists, consumers, and mainstream media about what they are doing on the farm.

In addition to face-to-face exposure, the group will also be sharing their stories via social media – something Buck believes other farmers should consider in their own communities.

“We live in a wired society today and it doesn’t’ matter if you reach one person. That one person could have a reach of 1,000. You don’t even know,” Buck said. “So, getting out and having conversations with people around you- if you hear people say things or you are at the grocery store and you see people looking at labels and things — just talking with them. They just want to be connected to their food.”

For the next year, Buck will get the chance to practice what she preaches on her farm and in the classroom.

“They want to know that farmers are doing the best that they can for the environment and for food safety and food quality. Even if you just talk to a few people here and there or post photos of your farm up on social media, Instagram or Facebook- just show what you are doing,” Buck said. “I’m a teacher and I always tell my students we have to open up the barn doors. Let them see in and let them see what we’re doing. Every little bit will count and make a difference in the end.”

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