John Rhodes

JOHN RHODES, who has died aged 66, was an agriculturalist and rural business adviser with a strong sense of obligation to the agricultural communities which he served, particularly the upland farms operating on the margins of profitability.

He was conscious, too, of his responsibilities as a citizen, serving his community as a school governor, a volunteer helping elderly people and more recently, as a Rotarian.

John was born in Guildford and had a younger sister, their parents working in the Ministry of Agriculture. Kathleen was a horticultural inspector, and Huddersfield-born Jeffrey a chief horticultural officer. After the war, and still with the Ministry, they lived in Reading and Newcastle.

In his school years, John played rugby and took up sailing. For his 16th birthday, he asked to be given dinghy rather than a motor bike, and he varnished and rigged it himself.

He graduated in agriculture from Newcastle, and as treasurer of the agricultural society, he arranged the national inter-collegiate ploughing competition. In his vacations he drove lorries for British Road Services and picked peas in Lincolnshire, and with the proceeds bought his first car.

He joined the National Agricultural Advisory Service in 1966, with postings in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Shropshire at the height of the 1967 foot and mouth outbreak often working through the night.

He specialised in upland beef and sheep, hill land improvement, promotion of good practice and new developments in farming. In Shropshire in 1971 he met Gaynor Owen, and they were married the following year.

Having moved to Norwich, he won a Kellogg Foundation scholarship, and, with his family, spent a year in Tucson, Arizona, doing a Masters in agricultural economics.

He moved to Leeds on being made a farm business adviser, and in 1982 became team leader at the Harrogate office covering most of the Yorkshire Dales. Part of his remit was to develop opportunities for EU funding for the rural economy in the North of England. In 1995, he secured 2.25m in matched funding to provide business plans for farmers in the Northern Uplands.

John retired from the now-privatised service in 1996, and took on consultancy work. He enjoyed travel, and devoted himself to restoring his home in Roundhay, Leeds, and giving the same meticulous attention to the development of its garden. He specialised in chrysanthemums and was all-but self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables.

His artistic talent found expression in woodworking and painting, and in later life he took up watercolours again.

Having married and become a father, he devoted himself to his family at the expense of sailing, playing rugby and visiting jazz clubs.

In 2004, he was diagnosed with Pick's Disease, a very rare form of dementia, but continued to lead as full a life as was possible

John is survived by his wife Gaynor and their children Jonathan and Hannah.