Jackie Risner, general manager of the Pineywoods Groundwater Conservation District, has been selected by the Nacogdoches County Agribusiness committee as the 2015 Ag Educator of the Year. He will be honored at the 15th Annual Agriculture Appreciation and Awareness Banquet on Apr. 7 at the Nacogdoches County Exposition & Civic Center. Citizen 1st Bank sponsors the award.
As a school teacher, then ag extension agent, he looked for teachable moments in the classroom and in the field.
Risner received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from East Texas State University now Texas A&M Commerce. He was the first on his father’s side of the family to graduate college. His father was a firefighter and farmer. "My father and my high school ag teacher in Edgewood, Texas were the two largest influences in my life," Risner said. "They taught me work ethic and to always let my word be my bond.” Risner's work ethic was also shaped by his summer job on a seven hundred sow hog operation where he worked nine-hour days, six days a week for $1 an hour.
Risner began his career teaching in Vidor I.S.D. for a year and then Grand Saline I.S.D. for five years. During his teaching, 17 of his students won breed championships at major livestock shows. Risner judged many local, state and one national livestock show. “I always tried to teach the exhibitor while judging, rather than just placing the animals,” he said.
In 1980 he began working with Texas Agriculture Extension services in Van Zandt, Cass, Nacogdoches and Grayson counties where he said he "got the best of both worlds working with youth through 4-H and working with farmers and ranchers." Risner views the role of the extension agent as the pipeline between research at the universities and the ag producer. His favorite part of the job was in agronomy and forage research. His potassium demonstration trials for hay production were used by extension forage specialists and published in Southern Beef Producer. He conducted and planned many tours for beef producers and dairymen across Texas.
Risner has traveled extensively to educate others and himself on agriculture, particularly in the area of forage management. He believes in research that helps farmers be more profitable in their cattle operations. Risner points out that if beef producers grow better grass, their beef cattle operations are more productive and profitable. He was awarded a trip to International Grasslands Congress in New Zealand. He was the president of Texas County Agricultural Agents Association (TCAAA) and traveled to many states such as California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Nebraska, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Risner was instrumental in creating the Nacogdoches County Agriculture Appreciation and Awareness Banquet in 2002. His motivation for doing so was to honor the outstanding agriculturists in the county, and to bring awareness of the impact that agriculture has on the local economy. Furthermore, he hoped to highlight how agriculture improves the quality of life for all Nacogdoches County residents.
Risner is quick to give credit to others for helping him complete his mission as an ag educator. He has worked with outstanding leaders on the Nacogdoches extension beef and forage committees to host regional co-mingled, pre-conditioned feeder calf sale (the first to be held in Texas). He also partnered with Chris Hancock to develop TV commercials promoting Nacogdoches County agriculture.
Risner also credits his family for the many sacrifices they've made that have allowed him to be a successful ag educator. He and wife Lee Ann have three daughters Amy, Kayla and Sara. “My wife and kids were the ones who showed patience when I was working 14-hour days at the fairs or gone for days on trips. They allowed me to be successful in my career,” he said.
Risner encourages future ag educators to be available, whether at the office, at church or in line at the grocery store. According to him, teachable moments are found every day. Risner has spent the last three decades educating the public about agriculture, and his contributions to Nacogdoches County will live on for many decades to come.