Susan Martin is close to the kids in her 4-H clubs; she likes to know what’s going on in their lives and how they’re doing. Some of them have been in clubs with her for years. But knowing them well doesn’t mean they can’t surprise her, which is just what they did when she was named 4-H volunteer leader of the year for Ontario.
“I got a letter in the mail from Ontario 4-H and went ‘huh, what’s this?’ It was a very pleasant surprise,” Martin said. “I was honoured that the kids took the time and the energy to do it.”
Rebecca Grose, one of the group that secretly nominated her, said Martin is an inspiration and a role model.
“She really shines, just leading by example and being a really nice person.”
Martin grew up on a farm outside Floradale, the same farm that she and her husband, James, live on now. Two years ago they decided to sell their cows, and James took a job off the farm. But they weren’t ready to stop being farmers, and Martin now has a small flock of sheep.
“We’re still on the farm, just choosing a different type of farming,” she said.
Where many families put their boys in hockey, the Martins found it too hard to balance with dairy farming.
“Dairy farming and hockey just didn’t work for us, so we found something that worked better for our lifestyle and that happened to be 4-H.”
Martin was involved in 4-H as a teenager, and she wanted her three sons to have the same experience. Matthew, Thomas and Luke were part of the vet club, tractor club and dairy club.
“It teaches them leadership and respect and that kind of thing, which I think is important. They also meet new friends, which they can connect with later.”
Martin served on the Waterloo 4-H board for three years before becoming a leader. She helps run the quilt club, gardening club, and the farm safety club that started earlier this year. She also pitched in with the clubs her sons were involved in, doing whatever was needed.
Martin said she tries to make every club interesting, regardless of how dry the topic, by making it hands-on.
“We’re building these great relationships, which I think is really important, and we’re having fun. And along the way, they’re learning, which is great.”