Tributes to former NPA and AHDB chairman John Godfrey CBE, who has died aged 67, have been led by AHDB Pork chairman Meryl Ward, who said he was a giant in pig industry affairs, giving selflessly of his time and energy over many years, but specifically steering a new course for the industry through the dark times of the late ’90s.
“Modest, hard-working with a sharp eye for the detail and brilliant brain, he worked with the industry interests at heart and remained interested and active even during his period of ill-health,” she added.
“We are indebted for his role in farm assurance, the formation of the NPA, and the Pig Industry Development Scheme, to name but a few. John was a friend, mentor and fellow farmer, and will be much missed.”
Former NPA and BPES chairman Stewart Houston CBE said: “John Godfrey was just the nicest man on the planet. He helped me quietly behind the scenes throughout all of the difficult periods for the industry over the last 15 years.
“He shared his vast knowledge and experience freely and was a great visionary, running a hugely successful farming business with his brother Jim. Phoebe was his rock and I hope the family will see it as a blessing that his suffering has ended, I know I do.
“The only time you would see John frown was if you offered him a glass of white wine! Hopefully he will be up there sharing a bottle or two of red with Jim Dewhirst and Grenville.”
AHDB Pork director Mick Sloyan said: “John’s great quality was his immense generosity of spirit.
“From the first time I worked with him over 30 years ago when he chaired the British Pig Association commercial producers right up to his chairmanship of AHDB, he was always positive and forward looking and willing to encourage those who wanted to develop the British industry. I will miss our conversations about the occasional highs and more regular lows of supporting claret and blue football teams.”
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said: “As a founding father of the NPA, John gave the pig industry its own voice – a unique gift that has benefitted all pig producers and will continue to do so for as long as we exist.
“He remained a strong supporter of NPA throughout his career and was always there to give the staff sound counsel and an honest opinion. I will never forget him telling me how proud he was of the NPA and what we have achieved, and we will strive hard to never let him down. He will be very sadly missed by all of us and will never be forgotten.”
Hugh Crabtree, founding and current chairman of NPA’s Allied Industry Group, said: “I have known John since the very earliest days of my involvement with the National Pig Breeders Association as one of the first allied trades companies to join. This became the British Pig Association as the industry changed and representation adapted to that change.
“John understood the need for professional industry-wide representation if the unsupported United Kingdom pig sector was to thrive. He had that vision and from it came the National Pig Association.
“He was the founding chairman of the association and I the chairman of the Allied Industries Group. At the same time we were trading with John’s company. I valued John’s knowledge, support and friendship.
“He also trusted me to run the Parliament Square protest in 2000 which I really appreciated. He was a man who enjoyed the good things in life and that apparently included folk music. He became a fan of Feast of Fiddles and attended concerts regularly.
“I always mentioned both him and the industry from stage – which he rather enjoyed! I last saw him just a few weeks ago and as ever he was keenly interested in developments in the industry and the NPA. Newly re-elected as AIG chairman it was bit like old times. I’m going to miss the man and I know he’s going to be sorely missed by many others.”
Former NPA chairman and current vice-chairman Richard Longthorp OBE said: “John Godfrey managed a quite remarkable balance during his incredibly successful life. While he had a fully justified intense pride in the scale and efficiency of his business he was just so incredibly modest about it all.
“And it was with this characteristic modesty mixed with determination, diplomacy and vision that he leaves the industry with two of its most potent and value-adding initiatives, namely Red Tractor (via FabPigs) and of course the NPA. Think British premium. Think John Godfrey.
“What a wonderful legacy. What a wonderful man. John’s determination was never more evident than over the past couple of years. Rest now John – you deserve it.”
The founding editor of Pig World, Sam Walton, said: “John Godfrey was a gentleman and a gentle man. Anyone meeting him for the first time would have no idea of his achievements or standing in life and his business acumen.
“John had a passion for the pig industry, for which he worked tirelessly for many years and I once asked him why. He said that he and his brother Jim, who at the time was chairman of the Potato Marketing Board, had been given a good start in life and they both wanted to give something back to the industry.
“I travelled with John several times abroad to various piggy events, where he made an excellent travelling companion. He was proud of his family and the family business, encouraging his nephews into the business.
“And he had a real passion for Scunthorpe United. Whenever Scunthorpe played Hull City, he would invite me into the directors’ box and entertain me like royalty. Why, I have no idea but if things did not go Scunthorpe’s way, you would see a completely different side of him, jumping up and letting the referee know what he thought of him.
“He was aptly rewarded and recognised when appointed high sheriff of Lincolnshire. He will be greatly missed not only by his family but by our industry too.”