From Calculations to Cultivation

Chris Williams cannot help but have bittersweet emotions as he looks across his, now empty, research farm he spent many hours cultivating. Graduation is nearing, after months of learning how to cultivate crops, Williams can now look at this finished product knowing he had made big strides in dry-land crop research.

Williams was raised in Massachusetts, in a family where agriculture is not a common word.  He was first introduced to the industry when his academic advisor at Dallas University suggested he transfer to Texas Tech University to pursue a degree in agricultural and applied economics. 

Williams, now a master’s student in agricultural and applied economics, has been working on riveting crop research, focusing on nitrogen fertilization effects of dry-land grain sorghum in the Texas Panhandle. The purpose of his research is to help dry-land farmers optimize production and maximize profit, laying down the economic framework and research for future farmers to be successful in the toughest conditions. 

I had to learn how to drive a tractor, plow, plant, and spray.

“The wind may blow, and rain might not fall, but you have to find a way to make that work.” Williams said.

Williams said the economics aspect of his degree came easy to him. It was transitioning into the realm of agriculture that took a little bit more time. However, Williams is not scared to get out of his comfort zone, even if it means putting in long hours on the farm.

“For this research I did all of the farming myself,” Williams said, “I had to learn how to drive a tractor, plow, plant, and spray while still doing all the math and computer coding. That’s really cool to me, it demonstrates an ability to learn tangible things as well as mental skills.” 

Dr. Kelly Lange, Williams’ research advisor, had a lot to say about his willingness to learn, his drive, and outstanding work ethic.

“I think that this research has shown him he can do anything he sets his mind to,” Lange said. “He is capable of diving into a field of study that he may not be familiar with. He was not afraid to get out and actually get his hands dirty.”

Williams said he is thankful for the experience and knowledge that he has learned at Texas Tech. This research has taught him that he can do anything he sets his mind to and will help with succeed in his future endeavors. 

“The application of real-world problems in this department really helps,” Williams said. “It helps me speak to real-world challenges in an economic framework.”