Obituary: Henry Fell, farmer

Henry Fell, who has died at 90, was a pioneering farmer, writer and broadcaster on BBC agriculture programmes of the 1970s and 1980s.

Henry Fell

He farmed in north Lincolnshire for 30 years before his son, Stephen, took over the family farming operation and moved it up to the Vale of York, where it has remained for three decades.

Originally from a Filey family, Henry developed his love of farming during his evacuation to the Vale of Pickering during the war.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

At 16, he was in the first intake of students to the Royal Agricultural College, the youngest by far, sharing lectures with ex-servicemen, and leaving in 1947 with the Haygarth Medal.

He held farm management posts in Somerset and Lincolnshire before being recalled to the college in 1955 to be a lecturer and Farms Director.

He moved on in 1959 to take on the tenancy, in partnership with two other Lincolnshire farmers, of 1,800 acres of heavy, low lying land at Worlaby, south of the Humber. He drained the entire farm and established a sheep enterprise in order to improve its arable cropping potential. When he saw housed sheep in France, he realised that in-wintering was the key to higher stocking rates on his own heavy land, and pioneered winter housing for ewes in Britain. His book, Intensive Sheep Management, published in 1979, became the authoritative work for progressive sheep farmers.

When he could not obtain rams of the quality he wanted, he bred his own, establishing the Meatlinc, a composite breed of terminal sire for the production of prime lamb.

He was a founder member, and chairman for three years, of the Tenant Farmers’ Association, and in 1988 published his second book, a layman’s guide to the landlord and tenant system.

Away from the farm he was an active member of the Advisory Council for Agriculture and Horticulture, the Meat and Livestock Commission and the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, amongst others. In 1998 he founded the Commercial Farmers Group, which went on to publish influential reports on food security. He was appointed CBE in 1995 for services to agriculture and the environment.

He is survived by his wife Catherine (nee Cooper), whom he married in 1952, and by three sons.