Shipman fills knowledge gap

Betty Thompson Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry
Crystal Shipman of Eagletown taught agronomy and agriculture classes at Eastern Oklahoma State College. She recently changed jobs to be the Oklahoma State University extension educator in LeFlore County. She is married to Bobby and their 5-year-old son, Jasper.

EAGLETON — It has been said just as one tiny droplet can create ripples that spread throughout an entire pond, the actions of one individual can have far-reaching effects.

Crystal Shipman hopes to create a ripple effect with the positive message she shares about agriculture and those she comes in contact with.

“I know one person can’t reach everyone,” Shipman said, “But I can teach my students to have intelligent conversations with others, and I believe that can make a difference someday.”

For the last three years, Shipman has taught agriculture and agronomy courses at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton. In addition to her role as a professor, she has also served as the coach of the soils judging team and co-sponsor of the college’s agricultural leadership and advocacy group.

Shipman believes that while the agricultural industry has made great strides in technology, efficiency, and conservation practices, there are still several misunderstandings on a daily basis when it comes to agriculture and the public.

“I believe some of the most common misconceptions about agriculture actually come from some of our successes,” Shipman said. “For example, the public may be skeptical of how quickly something can grow, and in actuality, our advancements in genetics, feed efficiency and environmental controls are responsible.”

Whether it is food labels following marketing trends or misinformation about farming practices and techniques, Shipman feels education is the best way to combat those misconceptions.

“The incorporation of genetically engineered crops, such as Roundup-ready varieties, have actually helped to minimize pesticide usage, even though the public’s perception is that we’ve increased pesticide use,” Shipman said.

She explained that many consumers turn to a quick internet search, which does not always reveal accurate information, instead of reaching out to the industry.

Though she recognizes that by herself she has limited influence, she believes engaging in educated conversations with others who can carry that information and message on will have a far greater impact.

“We as agriculturalists must fill the knowledge gap,” Shipman said. “The industry has been working for years to minimize nutrient loss and erosion by implementing practices like soil testing, crop rotation, conservation tillage, cover cropping and rotational grazing.”

Shipman believes soil is one of agriculture’s most valuable resources and that farmers, ranchers and their families understand the importance of protecting that resource. She said the agriculture industry continues to minimize the impact they have on the environment.

“One of the main objectives I’ve had with my career is to ensure that my students are not only knowledgeable about the subject matter, but are also prepared to inform others,” Shipman said.

Shipman strives to equip her students for times when they encounter people with questions and misgivings about the agricultural industry, and hopes they will be able to enlighten them with amiable conversations.

Prior to being a professor at EOSC, Shipman was the Agricultural Education instructor at Smithville High School for five years.

“I always knew I wanted to have a career in agriculture but I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do,” Shipman said. “It has kind of evolved over the years.”

Having been active in 4-H and FFA, and growing up on her family’s small farm, Shipman is no stranger to the industry.

She and her three sisters, two older and one younger, were all involved with their family farm. Shipman showed hogs and sheep from the time she was 9-years-old, though admittedly, she preferred the hogs for their personalities.

“Hogs are very intelligent,” Shipman said. “They are almost like having dogs, so they are pretty easy to get attached to.”

Growing up, the county fair was her favorite, because of family-like atmosphere.

She was also active in judging contests. In fact, her high school ag teacher convinced her to try out land judging through FFA which sparked her interest in agronomy.

“She is one of the top three brightest students I’ve taught out of thousands over the last 25 years,” said Lance Reavis, Shipman’s high school ag teacher. “She’s also one of my all-time favorites.”