By Blair McCowen
A Garland, Texas, native and graduate of Texas Tech University with a degree in agricultural communications, Christi Short has been involved in agriculture almost all her life. Though she did not grow up on a farm, as soon as she began riding horses and volunteering at equestrian centers in the Dallas area, the industry touched her heart. She’s been in it ever since.
After serving as the Texas Tech’s 2010-11 Masked Rider and graduating from college, Short worked for the Plant and Soil Science Department at the university for almost six years before coming into her position with The Cotton Board in 2017. Today, she serves as the Southwest Regional Communications Manager. Her service area includes Northeast, East, Central, Far West, and South Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
“I get to work with our producers in the Southwest area and educate them on what the Cotton Research and Promotion Program is doing on their behalf, what programs they should be aware of and invite them to come tour our research facilities,” she said. “I give presentations and speeches at local, regional, and state meetings, and really build those relationships with our growers to help them understand what the program is, how it benefits them, and how they can get involved in it.”
The Cotton Board is responsible for collecting the government assessment on the bales of U.S. upland cotton produced and working in conjunction with Cotton Incorporated to carry out research and marketing, Short said.
“Cotton Incorporated does the consumer-facing advertising, so we get to do the producer-facing messaging,” she said. “It is really important in the industry for us as The Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated to understand what some trends are with farmers and the consumers.”
Having recently married into a farming family since starting her job at The Cotton Board, Short said she has learned more about the life of an agriculturist than when she was working in different segments of the agricultural industry.
“While I worked in the ag industry for several years, it is so different from being directly involved in the ag side of the family operation,” she said. “My life has never revolved around the rain or the temperature or weather conditions, so it is interesting to have to learn these things that I didn’t pay much attention to before and now it impacts our day-to-day activities.”
Short said her favorite part of her job is building relationships and friendships with those in her service area.
“I want farmers to be comfortable enough to call me to ask questions or a gin manager to invite me to their annual meeting,” Short said. “Getting to know people better on the farm personally, whether it is about their family, their history on the farm, their history in a particular business and just getting to connect with them on that personal level—it makes our time together so much more meaningful and special.”
The Cotton Board also works with other industry organizations with different focuses, such as the National Cotton Council on matters of government policy and lobbying, Cotton Incorporated for research, as well as local and regional cotton businesses, to achieve common goals. Short said this is the most unique aspect she has learned about The Cotton Board during her time there.
“At The Cotton Board we have our set of things that we work on,” she said, “but we rely on these other organizations to do whatever is in their respective fields so we can all work together for the betterment of the cotton crop and for the cotton farmers in that realm.”
As working for farmers is part of her job that she enjoys most, Short said she has learned over the course of her agricultural career that farmers are special because of their way of life.
“I think farmers are the best people to work for and to work with,” she said. “You hear it said in different ways in different groups, but there’s such a unique work ethic and kind mannerisms that you witness in farmers. They are out working hard every day not only to produce crops, food, and livestock, for the rest of the population, but it is also their livelihood.”
Producers can become involved in the cotton industry in a variety of ways, from serving on their local and regional cooperative boards to participating in industry organizations such as The Cotton Board. Each year, The Cotton Board hosts producer tours of Cotton Incorporated in North Carolina. Short said this is her favorite event of the year.
“I really enjoy watching the networking of producers from all over The Cotton Belt take place, seeing some people reconnect and just building this really unique relationship and friendship that they can have because they are cotton farmers and they have that huge community in common,” Short said. “I like watching the relationship building and networking happen during those tours.”
Another way Short encouraged producers to become more involved in the industry is on social media.
“Social media is not going anywhere and it is the quickest way people get access to information,” Short said, “and if in the agricultural industry we aren’t sharing our story and our information, somebody else is going to do it and we lose control of whether that information is correct, factual, or accurate, or if that is what is actually happening on the farm. We have to figure out a way to combat that messaging, and the best way to do that, I think, is for growers and everybody involved in the agricultural industry to share their story.”
Ever since agriculture tugged on Short’s heartstrings in her childhood, she has served as an industry advocate in many facets. From her time at Texas Tech University to working for The Cotton Board today, she has worked to further the message of agriculture and to support the industry and its people.