'Wonderful life': DSU alumna advocates for agriculture industry in keynote speech
Jacki Christman spoke to students at Dickinson State University's 10th Annual Opportunities in Agriculture.
The 10th Annual Opportunities in Agriculture that took place Wednesday, Nov. 17, at the Biesiot Activities Center, created not only a networking place for agricultural students, but a chance to hear from a southwestern North Dakota rancher who’s working to provide a positive influence and to be an advocate for the farming industry.
Dickinson State University 2006 alumna Jacki Christman, co-owner of JC Farms in Adams County, highlighted her life in a keynote speech and how agriculture has made an impact on her life.
Growing up in Harding County in South Dakota, Christman said she was immersed with agriculture from the day she was born. Coming from a family of ranchers, Christman was raised to know the ins and outs to ranch life and also how to train horses — which her family had about 50 horses at all times and would sell them to fellow ranchers and farmers in need.
Though she grew up in a ranching atmosphere, Christman said she wasn’t sure on what her plans would be after high school. But rodeo was always in her back pocket. So following a full-ride rodeo scholarship, Christman transferred to DSU from South Dakota State University and began her studies in elementary education.
“I came to realize I didn’t like elementary education And so, instead of just figuring that out and figuring out what I should do, I just quit going to classes — not a good idea,” she said, as the crowd of students chuckled.
After consulting with her parents and advisor, Christman switched her major into natural resource management. The fit was meant to be, she said, adding, it was the first time she enjoyed going to classes and the material she was learning.
Following graduation from DSU, Christman was hired in July of 2006 to work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Hettinger.
“It was half farming, half ranching. That was really right up my alley,” she said. “I didn’t know a whole lot about farming but my boss was awesome. He taught me a lot just about… disking and cover crops and soil health.”
A few years later, Christman met her husband Jordan, and it wasn’t long after that they were married in 2010. Toward the end of 2012 after her first son was born, Christman and her husband purchased their own place in Adams County to further launch their farming and ranching dream.
“... This whole time, while we started, we kept continuing to grow our farming acres and our cattle numbers. It was a lot in 10 years of how much we were accomplishing and how much we were going. And I felt like sometimes, we just lost sight of what was going on,” she noted. “But one of the most important things I tell anybody is to have good relationships. Have good relationships with your banker, with your agronomist, your equipment dealers, with NRCS — keep those relationships. Find somebody you trust and work really well with them.”
Now, the Christmans operate a ranch of about 250 head of cattle.
“I love our life. There’s times it’s difficult. There’s times it’s stressful, but for the most part it’s a wonderful life for us,” Christman remarked.
She also touched on agricultural advocacy, and how she launched the JC Farms Facebook page in November of 2019.
“I used to get so sick of reading things about the ag industry that is false or misleading or somebody said it so it has to be true even though they have no idea what is going on behind the scenes,” she said. “... I wanted to be somebody that was a positive role model for the ag industry.”
With more than 6,400 followers, Christman said she looks forward to clearing up misconceptions people might have with the agriculture industry through her daily story highlights or posts of what’s happening at JC Farms. Though she gets very few critical comments or messages, Christman said that it’s been a great tool to raise awareness for ranchers and farmers.
On top of raising three children and working alongside her husband, Christman also runs JC Beef — a home-raised meat business that is available to those who want to shop locally. For more information on Christman, visit the JC Farms Facebook page.