Steve Townsend – BASE-UK Vice Chairman/Treasurer, colleague and friend along with contributions from many BASE-UK Members has written:
Agriculture lost a true Gentleman on the 17 January with the passing of Jim Bullock.
Jim was a deceptively tall and shy man which I think was partly responsible for his nervous laughter which become as much of him as his name. And laugh he would! Usually at what he had just done on his farm or some totally impractical farm policy ‘the powers that be’ had in the news.
I first met Jim at an SMI (Soil Management Initiative, part of ECAF) meeting in 1994 where he was invited to contribute as a farmer trying to rejuvenate interest in direct drilling or no-tillage. His interest was founded on ‘if this technique is good for my business then it can only be helpful to my family. If it can do this for me then it can also help other farmers’. This was what drove him on – his family, and helping others.
Around this time, he started his very successful and popular journalistic career and I remember particularly his frustration, irritation and annoyance at being told by an ADAS officer, at the time, that he wasn’t qualified to write in agricultural journals. That was a lesson he didn’t forget – not everyone in the industry were interested in genuinely trying to help farmers.
As much as it didn’t put him off writing (luckily!) it did have an impact on his style of writing causing him, it seemed, to focus on his mistakes as the dominant subjects in his articles. He felt secure that he obviously couldn’t be wrong writing about his own experiences as they were real, then adding large doses of humility, deprecating and cheery humour to complete his style. Many journalists strive to be popular or of interest and over the years many farmers have commented that Jim’s articles were the first they read when new editions arrived. It seems his unpretentious honesty and modesty ruled the day.
Jim was always very generous with the time he had for others. At shows and other agricultural events, he would find time to talk to anyone be they friends, neighbours and even complete strangers who just wanted to chat to him to find out more about what he has been doing and they all said, “he made us laugh”, of course.
He travelled a lot in his early years knowing he needed to improve his knowledge and understanding of no-till. On one such visit to France he met another inspirational farmer, Frederic Thomas, and over time they developed a close friendship built around their respect for each other and joint passion for conservation agriculture. In March 2012 during one of Frederic’s many visits to Jim’s farm and largely due to Jim’s frustration with farmer groups, BASE-UK was formed. A farmer funded group for those interested in sharing their knowledge and experiences of conservation agriculture. Jim was the Group’s first Chairman and latterly its first President and sadly unbeknown to Jim, he was to be its first Honorary member. Within BASE-UK his leadership and inspiration came to the fore to make the Group what it is today – a 180-strong member Organisation covering the UK. A fitting legacy to Jim’s passion and leadership.
Jim, a devoted husband, father, brother and true gentleman, will be greatly missed and to those of us interested in conservation agriculture he will remain an inspiration.
Below are some messages we have received from Members and Friends.
Edwin Taylor – BASE-UK Chairman
“I first met Jim five years ago as he was introducing Frederic Thomas when they were trying to get BASE-UK off the ground for the first time!
He was a big chap with an infectious smile and laugh and you could tell his enthusiasm for conservation agriculture and the industry we are involved in!
He always looked happy!!
It was with great sadness on the one hand to take on the Chair of BASE after Jim due to his ill health but at the same time a huge privilege to take over from him – he had very large shoes to fill!!
His presence and knowledge at Committee meetings will be sorely missed!! There aren’t enough words and at the end of the day he was just a genuinely inspiring man who was the perfect gentleman!!!”
Frederic Thomas – FOUNDER OF BASE
Conservation Agriculture is not only a question of no-till, machinery and farming practices, it is also men and woman that collaborate openly with their will and with their heart for a better land stewardship, better environment and better life. This common goal helps to build networks of good relations in the country but also across the borders that soon become great friendship. As Jim goes, I am not only loosing a CA companion but my English brother in farming and a friend. I appreciate so much his “So British” style when he was visiting us, his desire to write articles in French and his open mind during conferences and the after conferences. Many thank’s Jim for all those good years of sharing and great friendship.
Little Stories !
He was the only English non-French speaking to be able to read TCS magazine : Like everyone he could read pictures but then Catherine had to assume the correct translation. She became over the years an expert in CA!
At the beginning Jim Explained to Catherine how good Conservation Agriculture could be good for them this way “A lot less fuel consummation, less work and more income” (simple version). After few years Catherine turned back to Jim with her analyses of the impact of CA so far “Less fuel in the tractors it is true but now you burn even more in the Land-Rover visiting friends, more time working on the farm it is also very true but you are never home, your are always going to meeting and even visiting French farmer!” Another point of view!
Many thanks Jim for all the time you have dedicated to the success of CA in UK and in France you can be proud of this and we promised to follow the line.
Many thanks Catherine for sharing Jim and even supporting him to fulfil his goal
I will be talking about CA and cover-crops to French farmers tomorrow afternoon but my mind will be with you all in UK
Your “so French” Friend!
Frederic Thomas writes on behalf of BASE France and many French Farmers
“On behalf of many French Farmers and Members of BASE France, we like to say thank you to Jim. His engagement for Conservation Agriculture and his farmer’s perspectives really help leading us through some obstacles to better farming practices and land as well environment stewardship. We really appreciate the time he dedicated to us. He was always keen to come over for a conference or a field day. Even if his French was poor he made himself understood and appreciated to all. More than a key person for the development of CA in UK, France as well as Europe he was our very good British Friend.”
Louis McCauley – BASE Ireland
“Having heard about the very sad passing of the BASE UK president Jim Bullock I would like to extend the deepest sympathies of all in BASE Ireland to Jim’s friends & Colleagues in BASE UK. Having met Jim myself, he was a true gentleman and a real pioneer in the world of conservation agriculture. He will be a great loss to all who knew him.”
“I first met Jim when I stopped him to introduced myself to him walking across the Cereals Show site about 3 years ago. I just wanted to say how much I’d enjoyed his magazine articles over many years and how he had influenced my thinking and farming practices. This (to some of us) almost celebrity status is something that Jim, an unassuming gentleman would not have recognised or wanted anything to do with, but alongside other great farmer influencers his honest positive contribution to the promotion of Conservation Farming will benefit the quality of the lives of many of us and the environment forever more. His piece would always be the first I read.
I subsequently had the pleasure of spending time with him with at Base UK meetings and Conference, and during my time serving on the committee.”
“Such sad sad news about Jim. I didn’t know Jim particularly but spoke to him a few times at the BASE AGMs at Stoneleigh. He always struck me as a true gentleman, great knowledge of no-till, not afraid to admit mistakes but most of all a thoroughly decent chap who always had time to talk to you. He’ll be sorely missed at BASE and by being one of the founder members I think he has left a good legacy for the rest of us.”
“Just like everybody who knew Jim, I am sure, I feel a great sense of loss on a number of levels – his personality was such that he is going to leave a gaping hole in all our lives, first and foremost. But that is only one element – his passion for the ‘living soil project’, his motivation which has driven British agriculture towards a more sustainable future, his journalism and involvement in helping create Base UK, have left a lasting testament which we all have a responsibility to carry forward. This sounds rather heavy and solemn, but Jim’s knack was to make his points with a light touch, very much a farmer with a bubbly sense of humour rather than a serious academic preaching to his audience.
You know all this better than most, but it’s good to have the chance to put it into words, nonetheless! For me, the two things I am going to miss most are: first, his positive uplifting comments which were always welcome amidst the sea of people all too ready to criticise and find reasons why ‘unconventional’ methods wouldn’t work, and second, his laughter!
I wish you well with compiling the obituary and look forward to joining the congregation for his memorial service, which though inevitably sad, will I am sure, evolve into a celebration of an exceptional life and leave us all feeling a sense of optimism and joy for the future – just what he would have wanted.”
“Very sorry to hear of Jim’s very untimely passing. He was very much at the forefront of the no-till revolution in this country, his articles were always an interesting read, because they were as much about what didn’t work as what did and he was never afraid to admit his mistakes. If my memory serves me correctly, I’m quite sure he was the first person I approached at a Tillage event after being awarded my Nuffield to seek advice on my Scholarship as to where I should go and who I should visit during my research. I have kept reading his articles ever since, right up to the present. His passing really is a great loss to the no-till community in the UK.”
Thank you to everyone who contacted Steve to help write this tribute to Jim – may he rest in peace in the knowledge that his legacy lives on.