Martin “Marty” Fortin has fostered his love for the natural world from a young age as a boy scout and into college — studying physical science at Washington State University. Later becoming president of the Environmental Education Association of Washington and helping with the creation of Washington Green Schools, Fortin has shared his appreciation for the natural world with students from around the state.
In recognition of his work, Fortin, who now lives in Randle but formerly lived in Yelm, has been selected by the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization to receive the Honorary American FFA Degree. The degree is awarded to highly dedicated individuals who work to advance agriculture education.
“The Honorary American FFA Degree is an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists,” stated the National FFA Organization.
The Washington FFA Organization board of directors submitted Fortin as a nominee to the national office. Fortin’s nomination was approved and he was selected to receive the honorary degree during the 93rd National FFA Convention and Expo later this month.
“I’m actually humbled by it. When I was nominated I thought, ‘no way’. It just makes me want to work harder for agriculture education in the state and the nation,” Fortin said.
Fortin’s list of accomplishments and involvements in both environmental conservation and education is long. To name a few, he was the coordinator for 17 years with the Cispus Learning Center, a 68-acre campus, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that provides an outdoor learning environment for students. He was involved with the Governor’s Council on Environmental Education and supervised water resource training for tribal lands.
Fortin has contributed to the FFA Association by bringing his experience of 28 years of nonprofit management to assist the board of directors in making decisions.
On an international level, Fortin was a delegate and presenter at the North American Association for Environmental Education in 1992, 2005 and 2018. Fortin has authored several articles on natural science and environmental education for various magazines.
“As we hear more and more about our climate — I’ve known that since I was in high school, I was a science major and a science teacher. Being outside is important to me and educating students and adults about our natural environment and how to conserve it is equally important,” said Fortin.
Fortin and his wife, Susan, have lived in Randle for the past 30 years.
“I like it because of the natural environment — because of the mountains and trees and being able to get out on the trails. It’s not just the physical environment, I also like the community,” he said.
Fortin taught science in Yelm for about 15 years. While Fortin was a science teacher, he developed the Environmental Education program — training high schoolers to be mentors to fifth graders.
Looking toward the future, Fortin said that he would like to see more emphasis placed on the importance of small farms.
“Also, to expand the notion — agriculture is not just the farmer — it’s the agribusiness, the banks that provide loans and really so much of our economy is touched by agriculture. I just want to see it continue to flourish,” Fortin said.
Fortin will be awarded the Honorary American FFA Degree at the 93rd National FFA Convention and Expo which will be taking place virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27 through Thursday, Oct. 29. A schedule of events and more information can be found at convention.ffa.org/.