Raymond Twiddle, who has died following a three-year battle with leukaemia, was one of the most influential figures within the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, having led the transformation of its events venue into a multimillion business, and chairing its commercial arm for 20 years.
He was also a leading farmer, having established Twydale Turkeys in 1956 and later becoming chairman of the British Turkey Federation, in which capacity he helped oversee the expansion of the industry.
His life changing moment came at 12, whilst visiting a country show. Asking his father for an ice cream, he was told it was time he started making his own money, so he set about selling vegetables from a wheelbarrow and keeping hens. Eventually he bought 11 turkey eggs from which he hatched seven poults, rearing them for Christmas at his parent’s home at Kilham, in the East Riding.
When he set up his turkey business, around 1m birds were sold annually and nearly all for the Christmas market. By the time he stepped down, 40 years later, the industry produced 36m birds throughout the year, with his own firm accounting for over 10m of them.
He was a director of J Bibby Agriculture from 1976 to 1996 and merged his company with Hillsdown Holdings in 1986, bringing together the Twydale and Buxted brands.
The merged entity supplied Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison, Waitrose, Tesco, Somerfield and the leading wholesalers, as well as providing all Marks and Spencer’s turkey products. Mr Twiddle also played a major role in the European turkey industry.
In 1969 he bought the Knapton Hall Estate, where he farmed 1,000 acres and established a renowned flock of pedigree Suffolk sheep. He started a pedigree Texel flock in 1986, and although he sold the pedigree sheep in 1996, he consistently had top price for cross breeds at
Malton market. He was also a well-respected sheep judge, particularly of Suffolk sheep, across the country and in Europe.
After selling Twydale, he focussed his energies on the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, as a council member and trustee. He also chaired the charity’s commercial arm which runs events, conferences, weddings and exhibitions at Pavilions of Harrogate, the Yorkshire Event Centre, Harrogate Caravan Park, and Fodder farm shop. His razor-sharp mind, steely determination and passion for both business and people saw the income from the facilities grow from £40,000 to £6m during his tenure.
In 2009 he was the second winner of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute and Yorkshire Agricultural Society Lifetime Achievement Award, and was awarded an OBE in 1996.
He is survived by Enid, his wife of 58 years, his children David and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.