Tributes to sugar beet stalwart described as industry ‘exemplar’

Peter Butler, a retired farming contractor from Yoxford, who has died aged 69 Picture: AGRIFAC UK

Peter Butler, a retired farming contractor from Yoxford, who has died aged 69 Picture: AGRIFAC UK - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk farming contractor described as “an exemplar” for the UK sugar beet industry has died aged 69.

Peter Butler, of Yoxford, was well known and respected in the industry and renowned for his reliability and dedicated service to his many customers.

So much so that he scooped the Farmers Weekly Contractor of the Year award after putting the interests of his clients before his own farming priorities and working hard for the industry.

Peter, who regularly attended British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) meetings, devoted his life to the sugar beet crop for more than 30 years and, in his latter years, showed little sign of slowing down, harvesting typically more than 1,200ha of beet a year.

He also offered a full range of sugar beet contracting services, farmed another 180ha of mainly tenanted land and clocked up countless hours touring the eastern counties with his tractor and weed wiper. He also harvested 800ha of cereals a year with his John Deere combine.

“It all sounds a bit too much to manage, but the system slots together nicely. It keeps me busy all year round, and there aren’t too many overlaps,” he said at the time. “When I need to go combining, the beet’s not too demanding and, when it comes to lifting, the arable work is usually finished for the year.”

He always kept pace with the latest technological advancements, running a state-of-the-art Agrifac ‘Big Six’ beet harvester which was changed every two years to make sure it didn’t let him down and that he kept pace with the competition. Peter’s intimate knowledge of the machines meant Agrifac frequently drafted him in to help with new developments and refinements, which involved regular trips to the company’s headquarters in the Netherlands, testing of new machines before they went on sale.

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Agrifac UK managing director Andy Carse said: “Peter was a great guy to work with, he was a valued customer but also a close friend, we still kept in touch every week even after his retirement. We always greatly valued his help and advice when developing our latest harvesters, due to his considerable practical experience and ‘can do’ attitude. We shall greatly miss Peter, and are very saddened by his loss”. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia, and family. The funeral will be held at Yoxford church on Tuesday, July 3, at 2pm.