Arguably, Katie Christie didn’t really need another title beyond last year’s tally: Hastings native, wife, mother, fifth-generation cattle farmer, 4-H booster, Hastings FFA Alumni Secretary, LG seed dealer, and Barry County Farm Bureau Promotion & Education Chair.
But there was still white space on her business card — enough to squeeze in 2022 Pure International Miss Michigan State, the pageant title she earned last fall that punched her card to a national-level competition later this month in Columbus, Ohio.
The title doesn’t indicate a formal link with the university, although in the state costume competition Christie will be repping Michigan State University as the nation’s first agricultural college. It’s a connection to her farming background she’s purposefully woven into her pageant life.
Through “purpose-driven pageantry,” Pure International encourages contestants to create impactful community-service projects, which will later factor into their advancement up the organization’s rankings. In Christie's case, she turned to her farming roots and created ‘Ear Full of Agriculture,’ a platform for promoting agriculture to young people by reading ag-accurate books in classrooms — reaching more than 500 students to date.
The slim percentage of modern Americans with direct ties to farming informs her mission to reacquaint young people with food production.
“I believe it’s important to expose youth to agriculture and encourage those with an interest to be involved in it,” Christie said, adding that she’s deep into composing her own children’s book about agriculture.
In Pure International’s pageant system, the interview component accounts for half a contestant’s total score. Last fall Christie’s interview went straight to farming.
“You get three minutes with each judge,” she said. “One asked what I did for work and I explained I sell seed for LG — which led to how farmers get seed, then to growing days and the best conditions…
“The judge said she’d never thought before about how farmers got their seed!”
Her knack for illuminating the mysteries of farming informs Christie’s leadership of Barry County P&E. Coming on as chair in 2018 began her family’s third generation of Farm Bureau involvement.
“Our biggest event is our annual Ag Awareness Day at the county fairgrounds. All the third-graders in the county are invited and visit more than 20 different stations to learn about agriculture.”
This year’s event attracted more than 550 students — way up from zero during the pandemic.
“During COVID we were unable to host the event but still wanted to continue promoting agriculture,” Christie said. “We donated books to Barry County’s seven libraries and had FFA members record themselves reading them in videos, which then we posted on our Facebook page every week.”
It was a bigtime local win.
“I received such positive feedback from the libraries that we’ve now made a yearly plan to donate agricultural books to every library in the county,” she said. “This year we donated AFBF’s Ag Book of the Year, partnering with libraries and Hastings FFA to present them during summer reading programs.”
Boosting those lessons is a hands-on component echoing the theme of this year’s book, How to Grow a Monster, by challenging kids to make zucchini boats while learning more about farm-grown produce.
Heard enough? Almost done.
Outside a schedule as busy as her business card, Christie works on her family’s Endsley’s Charolais Farms.
One of the oldest breeders of the French beef variety east of the Mississippi, the operation was established in 1955 when her great and great-great grandfathers went clear to Texas to retrieve what would become Michigan’s first Charolais cattle.
“We run 150 brood Charolais and raise 1,100 replacement dairy heifers for a couple local farms,” Christie said. “In 2021 we celebrated the 30th anniversary of selling our bulls in an annual Charolais breeding sale in Nixon, Texas.”
Follow Christie’s progress in the 2022 Pure International North America & USA National Pageant, June 27 through July 4, at the organization’s Facebook page.