Known to many in the Sugar Valley community for his friendship and farming knowledge, the Cartersville resident was honored for his contributions to the local agriculture industry on April 10. At 85, Martin became the 50th recipient of the Bartow County Farm Family award, which has been presented to the owners of "family farms" since 1962.
"[The] boys that work for me came in and said, 'We put you in for farmer of the year; will you accept it?'" Martin said. "And I said, 'Well, y'all put me in, how am I going to get out of it?' I'm honored to be included [among the list of winners] because that's all I've done all my life. ... I told Genney when I started trading cattle full time, I said, 'Genney, you get you a yard man to cut your yard, you get you a painter to paint what you want painted ... because all I'm going to do is trade cattle.'
"And that's what I've done. [What I have] enjoyed most about the cattle business was going to the sales and meeting everybody and making friends. ... I've been through some good times and I've been through some bad times in the cattle business. There have been a lot of times when they've gotten real cheap but I just kept going right on with it, [as far as] what you would buy and sell for."
Born into a farming family, Martin was employed at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., earning 75 cents an hour, when he returned from World War II. After 18 months of working the third shift, he suddenly got the urge to follow in his father's footsteps trading cattle when his cow netted a sizable price.
"Me and Daddy carried the cow to the Rome sale barn," Martin said. "I never will forget what she made. She made $50. Fifty dollars then is worth $2,000 now. So I went to Goodyear that night and put in a two-weeks notice."
In the business for about 60 years, Martin has built an annual 3,000 feeder cattle operation that spans several farms, totaling more than 300 acres. Until he officially retired at 70, he took an active role in his business, caring for the livestock and going to sales five or six days a week. Today, Martin oversees the operation, with others tending to his cattle, which are purchased in the spring, then sold in the fall when they are 200 to 300 pounds heavier.
Through the years, he has shared his business knowledge with other farmers, many of whom were just getting their operations off the ground. From dispersing advice to helping others acquire cattle and land, Martin has enjoyed the opportunity to extend a hand.
"I'm proud to say that I've helped a lot of people," Martin said. "I'm proud to say that I was able to do that. And now everybody that has a cow [that] gets sick or something, they call me and tell me to come look at her instead of calling or going to one of these expensive veterinaries. I've just always wanted to be a friend to somebody.
"Now every Wednesday night I cook for about seven of my friends who come eat with me on Wednesday night. I've done that for the last 10 years because I've been retired from going to a sale. I went to sales five days a week for about 15 years, six days a week for about 15. And I thank the Lord for having good health. I never was a day late because that's where I made a living."
Held at Barbecue Street of Cartersville, the 50th Bartow County Farm Family Banquet was sponsored by Ag Georgia Farm Credit and John Carroll in cooperation with the Bartow County Farm Bureau and Bartow County Extension Service. As is tradition, Martin was selected by the award's past three recipients -- the families of Jacob Jones, Mark Floyd, Talmadge Hollaran.
"The significance of [the banquet is] that we honor a family who has supported the community and been a part of it and still [is] carrying on the agriculture traditions in the county," said Bartow County Farm Bureau President Dean Bagwell, a past Farm Family winner. "One thing is [the award] has never been repeated so far to the same family. There have been some sons or other family members but not to the exact same person.
"A good example would be Bill Raines received it and then later on his son, Jim Raines, received it when Jim started his operation," he said, referring to the award's first and 22nd recipients, respectively. "... [Cliff Martin] has been around helping in the cattle business for a number of years. He's helped some of the local farmers get started in their operations, giving them advice and that kind of stuff. More or less though, he's just been very supportive of somebody that's wanted to get in [this line of work]."
Along with Martin, other individuals that were acknowledged during the banquet included Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown, Friend of Agriculture; Destiny Garrett of Cass High School, Family and Consumer Science; Charlotte Frady of Cass High School, Outstanding Future Farmer of America; and Savannah Porter of Cartersville High School and Colyn White of Cass High School, 4-H Excellence in Agriculture.