Lead Dawg: Marty Smith

Love of ranching leads alumnus from farm to firm to industry guide

Growing up on a farm and cattle ranch in Florida was the start of a lifelong vocation in agriculture for Charles “Marty” Smith (BSA — Agricultural Economics, ’80). Now, the veteran rancher is the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and runs Smith Brothers-Wacahoota, a cow-calf operation in his home region of Central Florida.

Smith’s desire to create a positive change within the industry started in his youth, when the population in his area began to grow rapidly and new challenges started to threaten the agricultural production and traditions in the existing community. As he neared high school graduation, his eagerness to pursue higher education in some aspect of agricultural studies led him to the University of Georgia.

“I looked at several colleges, with a particular focus on their agricultural schools,” said Smith. “Of all the places that I looked, UGA stood out — both because of its academic standing and student life. UGA gives everyone a tremendous opportunity to learn, grow and develop into productive citizens.”

Smith enrolled in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), where he participated in numerous clubs, served as the president of the Ag Hill Council and received the highest honor for a UGA student of agriculture — AGHON recognition.

However, he started wonder whether his education would eventually lead him away from the farm he grew up on and steer his future towards a new side of agriculture.

“I did not know if there would be any future in farming and ranching on my family’s operation,” said Smith. “This ultimately led me to deciding to go law school.”

After completing his undergraduate degrees at CAES, he enrolled in the University of Florida College of Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1984. Smith began practicing agricultural and environmental law and has done so ever since.

Looking back on his time at UGA, Smith credits much of his success and personal development to the valuable engagement he received from faculty and staff at the university.

“I am extremely appreciative of the time and effort that UGA’s faculty and staff invested in me,” said Smith. “I have been given the opportunity to observe educational programs at other colleges and universities, and none of them can match Georgia’s involvement with its students. They certainly broadened my view of the world and help me define a personal and career path that continues to be very rewarding.”

His current position as president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the nation’s largest organization of its kind, allows him lead and educate more than 1 million cattle farmers and ranchers to continue longstanding traditions of success within the industry and make important changes to benefit future generations.