From dairy farmer to Deputy Director for the governor, Paul Martin has done it all. Martin has been unsuccessful in retiring since 2012 with his first retirement lasting 53 days and his second in 2014 lasting 127 days. Martin’s failure to retire shows just how dedicated he is to the dairy industry and agriculture.
Martin’s dedication and hard work to support the industry has earned him a place in the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Hall of Fame. He will be honored at the Farm Bureau’s annual Love of the Land event on July 16th, 2015. Alongside Paul Martin, Harmony Farm Supply will be receiving the Luther Burbank Conservation Award and the Sangiacomo Family will be presented with Farm Family of the Year.
Martin became involved in the dairy industry in high school. He showed Jersey cattle in FFA and used his project to help pay his way through college. After graduating from UC Davis, Martin served as a First Lieutenant in the US Army before returning home to Sonoma County where he became a partner at his father’s dairy.
In 1976, Martin bought out his father to become the owner of the family dairy with his wife, Jill. He owned and operated Paul and Jill Martin Dairy for the next 23 years, until he decided he wanted to do something different.
Martin had been serving on the Farm Bureau’s Animal Waste Committee where he began to see how livestock producers and regulatory agencies could work together. His time on the committee sparked his future career building bridges between these two sets of people.
Martin spent 1999 as a field representative for Western United Dairymen (WUD) but quickly realized they needed an environmental presence. In 2000, he became WUD’s Director of Environmental Services – building an important environmental program for the organization.
“What I’m most proud of is the ability to build bridges between regulatory agencies and the farming community,” said Martin. “It’s a two way street: the farming community is viewed with a lot of respect once the regulatory agencies get to know them and by the same token, the farming community has learned that the regulatory agencies are people we can work with. We don’t get everything we want all the time and neither do they. Building these relationships when farmers and ranchers are a minority of the population is critical to success.”
Martin retired from WUD in 2012 after a successful career, but was offered a job 53 days later by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. He took a two year position as the Deputy Director of Permit Assistance. During his time as Deputy Director, Martin worked on 14 regulatory streamlining projects. He and his staff worked to improve the efficiency of numerous regulatory agencies, and his office had a reputation for getting stuff done. During his two years, Martin recalled having two conversations with the Governor Brown that each lasted less than ten seconds.
“It’s really different working in government” Martin said. “I wasn’t working with a lot of people just like me, I was working with people that really had no understanding of a farming background.”
There were no other employees with an ag background working in Martin’s office, so he took every opportunity to educate his other coworkers. Martin conducted lots of farm tours while serving as Deputy Director. He believes the more farmers and ranchers can take government officials and employees out to the farm and show them what they do the greater their understanding of agriculture will be.
His two year term in the governor’s office ended in 2014. Martin moved back to Sonoma County with plans to retire, but 127 days later he went back to WUD to become their interim CEO. He expects the position to be filled by the end of May when he will officially retire.
Throughout his career, the thing Martin enjoyed most was helping good people do good things. “The people in ag are good people, they do a lot of good things, and making this known to people who don’t know us is really important,” said Martin.
The Farm Bureau is important to Martin. He believes the Farm Bureau does an excellent job watching for policies that hurt ag, helping develop policies that help ag and communicating to the urban and consuming public who farmers are and what they do.
Martin knows youth in Sonoma County is one of its most valuable resources. “The Farm Bureau has a done a great job supporting youth and their development – assisting and encouraging them to have careers in ag,” said Martin. “That’s something special about Sonoma County.
Martin’s one piece of advice to future generations involved in agriculture is for them to work outside of agriculture in industry, consumer services or government and then bringing back knowledge to help agriculture cope better. Martin’s experiences outside of direct agriculture have given him a rounded view of the larger industry, and he would like to see others doing the same thing.
According to Martin, one of the most of exciting things about agriculture is its ability to be innovative. As California faces a large drought, he knows the industry will pull though because of its innovation.
“The year I bought my dairy from my dad was 1976 and the only water that I had was the water that came in the driveway on a truck and it didn’t bother me a bit,” Martin said. “I knew I could handle it, and that’s the way agriculture is.”
“We have such a dynamic and innovative industry, I think our future is bright,” said Martin. “We’ve got all kinds of agricultural products in the state of California and Sonoma County, but our best product is our youth. We can be very proud of who they are and give them the opportunities they need to make a positive difference.”
“Sonoma County is my home. It’s where I was born, where I grew up and where I intend to be. The communities are vibrant, the industries are vibrant, the innovation in ag is exciting – watching the young people that are coming on, some with no ag background, it’s really exciting to watch,” said Martin.
Martin knows that you never fully retire in farming, but he is looking forward to trail rides on his horses and spending more time with his wife Jill on their Two Rock ranch they custom graze. The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is proud to honor Paul Martin as the 2015 Hall of Fame recipient.