By the time Joe McManus began working at Georgia Farm Bureau in 1995, he had experienced the difficulties Georgia’s farmers face firsthand.
McManus, who retired March 31, grew up on a diversified farm in Columbia County and earned a dairy science degree from the University of Georgia. He intended to return home to help run the family’s dairy. By the time he graduated, though, the growth of the Augusta area had made the family’s land more valuable for real estate than farming, and the McManuses sold their dairy cows.
So, Joe went to work with Gaines Wilson, an Upson County hog farmer, and eventually the two formed Wil-Mac Enterprises, raising and selling their hogs, frequently using the GFB Grain Desk service to purchase feed or feed ingredients for their herd.
After Wil-Mac closed, McManus joined GFB and went to work on the grain desk. He said he never expected to go to a job that required a coat and tie.
“I literally worked on a farm my whole life,” McManus recalled. “I worked on the UGA dairy when I was going to school. That’s how I got through school. I had one tie and one suit that didn’t fit. Polyester pants. They were probably 30 years old. I had to go shopping.”
McManus spent 22 years on the GFB grain desk, helping Georgia farmers sell millions of dollars’ worth of crops.
“It was one of the few places I could go and stay in agriculture and stick with it,” McManus said. “Honestly, when I came here, I thought I’ll stay a year or two and maybe something will come along, but I liked what I did and stuck it out. It’s been good to me. It’s been a good opportunity.”
In 2007, he was promoted to assistant director for the former GFB Commodities Department, and in that role became more involved with the organization’s commodity advisory committees. In 2017, when GFB merged its legislative and commodities departments to form the current GFB Public Policy Department, Joe became assistant public policy director for agricultural programs.
“We do whatever it takes, however menial or big. We just pitch in and do it all. Having the direct contact with the farmers was my favorite part,” he said. “I felt like I was helping them out. I hope I was getting them better prices than they could get on their own.”
McManus continues to live in Upson County and plans to focus on his 180-acre farm and travel. Joe has two daughters, Jessica McManus and Jamie McCard, and two grandsons, Flint and Clay.
After 26 years at GFB, McManus’ wardrobe expanded to around 200 ties. Many of them featured the various Georgia commodities he worked with for Farm Bureau.