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Spotlight Story

Julia Shuck
Agriculture + Communication = Better Lives

Julia Shuck is a master’s student in international agricultural development. She earned a bachelor of science in agricultural journalism with an emphasis in international agriculture, and a bachelor of arts in communication with a multicultural studies certificate from the University of Missouri.

“I come from a farm outside of a town of 650 people,” she says, “and when I began traveling, I found it easy to connect with farmers from around the world, regardless of language, climate or crop.Wanting to stay in agriculture, I discovered my passion for working with farmers in developing countries.”

What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?

Information communication technologies (ICTs) such as cell phones, radio, the Internet and videos have become popular throughout the world. My goal is to assess these different communication channels and the contexts that make each most applicable as supplements to agricultural extension programs. Many countries have weak agricultural extension services, with anywhere from 1,000–13,000 farmers per extension agent. ICT is a promising channel to supplement extension services to reach more farmers, including those who may lack access to an extension agent. My current research is looking at the use of ICTs to share production messages with apple farmers in China.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

Having grown up on a diversified crop and livestock farm, I learned early the trials and risk that accompany farming. When I began studying abroad, I discovered that most farmers around the world have no safety nets to catch them from falling into poverty or cycles of malnutrition after a bad season. I realized as a 23-year-old woman and a farmer’s daughter, had I been born in any other country, there was a good chance I would have been born into poverty, have two to three children and most likely be illiterate. Recognizing this as an undergraduate, I discovered my passion of working with vulnerable rural populations to hopefully help other young females around the world. My goal is to use my background in agriculture and communication to share information that can help people work with the resources they have to be more productive, so they have enough to eat and can attend school.

How will the Business Development Fellows program help you to change the world?

Economic sustainability is a major issue in development. Using ICTs such as cellphones to share information has become popular in recent years, but maintaining a mobile extension service after donor funding has ended has shown to be challenging and a barrier to sustainability. My goal is to learn various business models and acquire the ability to assess the use of ICTs using a business lens to better analyze the likelihood of long-term sustainability as well as inform my thesis research.