Hive of industry clears debt

AFTER a little more than five years, Kevin McMenemy has stood down as general president of the WA Farmers Federation.

During his time in office, Mr McMenemy has changed the culture of the organisation and extricated it from significant debt.

He came to the presidency from a comparatively non-traditional background. Mr McMenemy is a member of agriculture’s oldest profession – beekeeping.

However, he has not devoted his entire life to the land. Mr McMenemy left a job in administration twenty-six years ago to take up the nomad-like existence of beekeeping.

In WA, most beekeepers move their hives to wherever nectar is being produced.

“The company I was working for at the time told me I had to go to Melbourne. Neither my wife or myself wanted to go,” he said.

“We had thirty or forty hives at that stage and had done fairly well out of it.”

Mr McMenemy said several years ago, the Federation had serious debt problems.

When he became president, the Feder-ation had just been saddled with a Supreme Court-ratified $791,000 debt.

“That represented 25 cents in the dollar,” Mr McMenemy said.

He set himself the task of retiring the debt at a time when the Federation’s members were struggling with a downturn in agricultural markets.

Mr McMenemy said he had intended to stand down from his position in March 1999 but decided to stay on until the debt was fully retired.

While fighting to pay the debt, he also set out to change the culture of the Federation and put it onto a business footing.

“The Federation seemed to have an almost 1980s’ psyche at the time,” Mr McMenemy said.

“Its executive did not have any business acumen or attitude.

“The members saw it, quite rightly, as a lobby organisation but the upper levels saw it as a boys’ club.

“Now the executive has some serious business acumen. We have developed a business plan.

“Currently it’s in our constitution that we have a four year plan.

“However, even that was a fight. Some of the senior members wanted a three year business plan so the four years is a compromise on the traditional five year plan.

“We have a good executive director with a strong corporate background and new general president Colin Nicholl also has a strong business background.”

Mr McMenemy said he was unsure what the future held for him.

Many have suggested he will follow a career in politics. While he is not ruling it out, he is not yet ruling it in.

The one thing Mr McMenemy is certain of is that he will not return to beekeeping.

“That would be like recycling a part of my life,” he said.

“I haven’t had time to fully analyse the opportunities out there but I am a believer in the ‘when one door closes another one opens’ principle.

“I see the future as every day being full of opportunities.

“The only reason all those opportunities can’t be found is because you can’t see them.”

Mr McMenemy said he would like to remain involved with the agricultural industry.

“The one great thing about rural people is their resilience,” he said.

“It never ceases to amaze me how they handle adversity. From stress comes strength and time and time again I’ve seen that happen,” he said.

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