Christopher Collins

Christopher Collins is an investigative journalist based in Abilene. The Wichita Falls native graduated from Midwestern State University in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication. He previously has worked as a reporter at the Abilene Reporter-News and the Wichita Falls Times Record News, along with running a freelance reporting business. At the Observer, he writes about rural Texas. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected]

By Christopher Collins:

last cowboys

‘The Last Cowboys’ is a Wild Ride All the Way Home

Pulitzer Prize winner John Branch takes a fascinating dive into what it's like to make a living by horseback, both on the range and at the rodeo.

Confession: I’ve never ridden a horse. I’ve never baled hay or branded a steer or helped a cow give birth. Perhaps you think this should disqualify me from writing about rural Texas for the Observer, and perhaps you’re right. But … Read More


Trump’s Trade Disputes with NAFTA Partners Imperil Texas Ag Exports

The president has levied tariffs on aluminum and steel from Canada and Mexico, and they’ve responded in kind. Texas farmers and ranchers worry the dust-up could endanger ag exports to the NAFTA partners.

Update: The Mexican government officially struck back at the United States on Tuesday afternoon by imposing 20 percent duties on imports of certain American pork, apples and potatoes, along with up to 25 percent tariffs on certain cheeses and bourbon. The … Read More

suicide, farmer

Stalled Program to Stem Farmer Suicides Gets a Second Chance in Congress

A USDA program to help farmers with mental health issues was authorized a decade ago but never funded. Now the U.S. Senate is proposing $2 million for the initiative.

Compared to the general population, farmers and ranchers are seven times more likely to take their own lives, a possible result of social isolation, financial stress and a dearth of mental health services in rural areas. So far, 2018 hasn’t … Read More

lake travis, 100th meridian, 2011 drought

Austin’s on the Wrong Side of the 100th Meridian

The invisible line that divides the arid western part of the country from the wetter eastern half is on the move, and that has important implications for the Texas capital.

Meet Robert Lee. Not the Confederate general, the town. Robert Lee, Texas is a ranching community of 1,025 that lost its only source of water to the second-worst drought in recorded state history. By August 2011, Lake E.V. Spence, a … Read More

usda, trump, brashears

Texas Tech Professor with Close Ties to Big Ag Nominated by Trump to Regulate the Industry

Mindy Brashears could profit from the same industry she’s regulating if she doesn’t divest herself from potential income associated with her patents, a watchdog group says.

A Texas Tech University professor and food scientist with close ties to the agriculture industry has been tapped by President Donald Trump to oversee food safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mindy Brashears, who also heads the university’s International … Read More

lubbock, cochran county, agriculture, rural reporter
News, Rural Reporting Project

The Dark Horse of the Lubbock Farm Meeting Rides

An agriculture department meeting meant to elicit input from area produce growers was derailed by a government attorney with Nazis, sexism and sterilization on the brain.

A Texas Department of Agriculture meeting designed to gather input from Panhandle fruit and vegetable growers affected by new food safety regulations devolved into a full-blown shitshow Tuesday when a government attorney compared federal regulators to Nazis, derided a female … Read More


Proposed Changes to SNAP in the Farm Bill Could Leave Rural Texans Hungry

The changes would waylay working-class families in small-town Texas, where a country-to-city exodus has caused some rural economies to flounder, advocates say.

Libby Campbell hates to see people in West Texas go hungry, but that’s exactly what could happen if Congressional Republicans follow through with their plan to cut off food aid to those who miss one month of work. Campbell is … Read More


In Washington, D.C., Republicans are Writing the Recipe for a Smoldering Panhandle

A plan to increase the number of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program but cut staff to enforce program rules spells trouble for the fire-prone region.

If you thought wildfires in the Texas Panhandle were bad before, just wait. Proposed changes to a U.S. Department of Agriculture land conservation program, combined with possible USDA staffing cuts and a warming climate, could be a deadly combination for … Read More

suicide, farmer
News, Rural Reporting Project

Congress Never Funded Program to Prevent Farmer Suicides. Now It’s an Epidemic.

With farmers’ suicide rates higher than some veterans, rural advocates are pushing Congress to fund mental health care supports for agricultural producers.

After Judith McGeary discovered that several dozen sheep had been slaughtered by a mountain lion on her 160-acre ranch near Waco in 2015, she unexpectedly found herself struggling with depression. Every one of the sheep had been born at McGeary … Read More