TFGA mourns the loss of pioneering farmer Max McKenna

20 June 2023

Tasmanian's peak farming advocacy body the TFGA acknowledges and celebrates the life of pioneer farmer Max McKenna, who passed away at the age of 77.

The Northwest Tasmanian businessman and potato grower, Max McKenna, was an enormous figure in the agricultural industry, known and respected for his significant contributions.

His journey began when he left school in 1961 and became an active member of the North Motton Junior Farmers, eventually earning a Life Membership

In the mid-1960s, Max joined the forerunner of the TFGA, the Tasmanian Farmers Federation (TFF) and represented the Northwest region on the then-dairy council. Max was one of the founding members of the TFGA, where his support and commitment to voicing the issues of farmers was steadfast.

CEO for the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers, Hugh Christie, said Max's leadership in the potato industry spanned several decades. He served as the Chairman of Potato Growers Australia for 20 years and provided much-needed representation and advocacy for potato growers at the National level.

Mr Christie said "Max's dedication and tireless leadership helped the industry navigate many challenges, such as lower prices and tough contract negotiations, he played a crucial role in holding the sector together through difficult times.

"His contributions to the potato industry and agriculture more broadly were formally recognised by many organisations. In 2003 he was presented with Simplot Australia's Award for Services to the Tasmanian Potato Industry, highlighting his significant impact on the sector.

Max was also recognised by the Australian Vegetable and Potato Growers Federation, Simplot Ulverstone Potato Growers Group, and Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Vegetable and Potato Councils further demonstrating the esteem in which Max was held within the agricultural community.

Chairperson of the Vegetable Council Nathan Richardson said Max McKenna's contributions to the potato industry and his unwavering dedication to agricultural representation in Tasmania have left a lasting impact, making him one of our most highly regarded figures in the Australian farming community.

Mr Richardson said, " Max worked tirelessly on the potato front for decades and during a time when the grower base had nearly 300 growers and almost as many views on how things should be handled. Max took it on his shoulders to work toward solutions when the industry faced tough times.

"I’d have to say that if Max hadn’t made the decisions he did, our whole ability to form committees to negotiate prices and meet with processors would’ve unravelled completely over time, providing the foundation for collective negotiations across not only potatoes but other crops as well.

"His ability to portray the state of play and what needed to be done for the grower was faultless and completely unselfish. Max McKenna is a legend of the Tasmanian Potato industry," he said.

Past Board Member of AUSVEG, David Addison, spoke highly of his personal experience working with Max on potato negotiations and reviews, stating that Max consistently demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the entire gamut of issues.

Mr Addison said, Max's dedication and contributions greatly enriched the fabric of our entire community."

TFGA President Ian Sauer said, "He was one a kind, he was one of those people who set the road map for the TFGA, he was a doer, not a talker, we need more Max’s."

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Max's family during this difficult time. Our thoughts and sympathies are with them as they mourn the loss of such an influential figure in the agricultural community.