LEONARD Abel, who had a lifelong passion for farming, a love of his family and a Christian faith which was integral to the way he lived, has died aged 83.
He farmed at Wath, near Ripon and was still very much involved until April this year.
Leonard Henry Abel was born at The Lawns, Snape, near Bedale, where his family have farmed for about three centuries, one of six children of Harry and Mabel Abel. After attending Miss Peel’s School in Bedale, he went to Ashville College, Harrogate and, as a teenager was evacuated with the school to Windermere during the Second World War.
When he left school at 14, he began his farming life which was to span nearly 70 years, when he joined his father and brothers at The Lawns. Mr Abel, who was known for his entrepreneurial skills moved to nearby Roskill Farm, where he started his own milking herd, and kept a flock of Scots lambs.
In 1957, he married Mary Wilson, daughter of local agriculture engineer Cyril Wilson, from whom Mr Abel’s father bought his first tractor in 1940. They went on to have three children.
As his farming experience grew, in 1960 he bought Brettaines Farm at Wath which his son and grandsons continue to farm. His enthusiasm for modern technology led to a focus on arable farming, successfully growing potatoes, sugar beet and cereals.
This passion would continue throughout his life, and was celebrated in February 2007 by British Sugar when they acknowledged that he had personally delivered sugar beet to the York factory for half a century. For many years he also sat on the NFU sugar beet committee, sharing his practical experience and knowledge.
He regularly attended Snape Methodist Chapel and also served as a circuit steward for the Bedale area. At 17 he joined the Snape Mission Band and three years later became a Methodist local preacher. He led services across Yorkshire for 63 years at 128 different chapels, the last being at a harvest festival in October.
His deep faith and interest in people led to his involvement with the farming charity, The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, (RABI). As a founder member of the North Yorkshire committee, he raised thousands of pounds to help support others from the farming and rural community.
He could often be seen at the RABI stand at the annual Great Yorkshire Show, at Harrogate, where, as a tribute to his support and commitment, a minute’s silence was observed in his memory at the morning service at this year’s Show.
He was also a member and supporter of the Yorkshire Prayer Breakfast group which he was invited to join five years ago, and where his prayer was always for agriculture.
Mr Abel was a sociable man who loved talking to people and he will be remembered for providing encouragement and support to those he met. He frequently wrote articles and recounted anecdotes of country life, bringing to life his farming memories.
He is survived by his wife Mary, daughters Josie and Gill, son Jonathan, and four grandchildren, Helen, Rob, Tom and James.