Tributes paid to Robert Lockhart – champion for the industry and NFU

28 June 2024

Robert Lockhart in a field

Photograph: Robert Lockhart

The farming community has paid tribute to a Staffordshire farmer known for his in-depth knowledge who championed the industry over many decades.

Staffordshire farmers and those from across the country have remembered Robert Lockhart, of Drayton Bassett, who died on 22 June after being diagnosed with cancer.

The husband, father and grandfather was an instrumental figure in agriculture and the NFU at a national, regional and county level and has been described as a man who was unassuming but gave his utmost to support the industry, champion it and strive for a better deal for family farms.

The 71-year-old had a long NFU officeholder career and in the wider industry and, as a farmer, produced quality cereal crops and potatoes at his successful family business.

He was a Lichfield, Rugeley and Tamworth NFU branch chair, served as Staffordshire NFU county chair twice, was NFU West Midlands Combinable Crops Board chair and on the national board as vice chair.

Enduring friendships

His wife, Karen, said: “Robert always felt that whatever he did and wherever he was in relation to his NFU work that he got back an equal amount from all those he met, discussed, debated, laughed and drank with.

“As Staffordshire NFU chair, he especially enjoyed travelling around the county to the annual general meetings of all the branches in whatever weather.

“He really valued the friendships he made in the county, regionally and nationwide many of which still endure.”

Andrew, Robert’s son, said he had great memories attending farming events with his dad as he went about his NFU duties.

He really valued the friendships he made in the county, regionally and nationwide many of which still endure.”

Karen Lockhart

“I look back at the times dad and I spent at Cereals,” he said.

“I will always remember him at the NFU stand talking with fellow farmers and using his knowledge and expertise to answer their questions.

“Whether it was at Cambridge or Lincolnshire we always had a laugh at those events and often the drives up had early Genesis and Jethro Tull as the soundtrack for our trips.”

‘A strong and much-admired legacy’

Fellow farmer and friend David Lane said Robert’s death had been felt widely within the farming industry by all who knew him.

David, who farms at Sandhills, near Walsall, said: “I had the good fortune to know Robert for over 40 years, firstly in his role with ADAS when he gave us some good advice on grain storage.

“He later introduced me to the West Midlands NFU Combinable Crops Board, on which we served together for 10 years as county delegates.

“We often travelled together to these meetings and I spent many hours learning from his extensive knowledge of our industry.

“As well as being a good farmer and businessman in his own right, he excelled in representing farmers’ interests on the many committees on which he served.

“He leaves a strong and much-admired legacy.

“One of his strengths was how he could put his points across, often helped by a bit of wit, and his dry sense of humour.

“He will be sadly missed by so many in the farming community, and my thoughts are with his family, of whom he was immensely proud, at this difficult time.”

One of his strengths was how he could put his points across, often helped by a bit of wit, and his dry sense of humour.”

Farmer and friend David Lane

‘A champion for our farms’

A member of the NFU regional Horticulture and Potatoes Board and potato forum, Robert was also the union’s representative on the NSTS (National Sprayer Testing Scheme).

When he was on NFU Council he led the way in discussions and lobbying on a variety of issues including high speed rail, HS2, and its impact on his farm and the farming industry more widely.

He was the union’s representative on the AHDB cereals research and knowledge transfer committee and also worked hard for farmers as chair of NRoSO, the National Register of Spray Operators.

Committed to the farmed environment and wildlife, he was a long-serving regional representative on the NFU’s environment forum.

Paul Brown, NFU Staffordshire chair, said: “Our thoughts are with his wife Karen and the family at this time. He was so sharp on farming issues, and went about his work in an unassuming manner but gave his utmost to support the industry.

“A champion for our farms he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”

A valued colleague and friend

Robert grew up on a mixed farm on the Staffordshire and Warwickshire border, studied agricultural engineering at Silsoe College followed by a further degree in engineering design at Loughborough.

After a three-year research project on powered cultivation in Scotland and following the death of his father, he joined ADAS as a machinery advisor and returned home to help his mother keep the farm going.

He then spent 11 years as assistant agricultural director for the Royal Agricultural Society before finally taking up full time farming.

In 2016 he won a prestigious Staffordshire NFU accolade, the Burton Trophy, for his tireless work representing county farmers.

The silver claret jug and tray is awarded annually in memory of RA Burton, ‘Dick’ Burton, who was an instrumental figure in Staffordshire farming and the NFU.

Dairy farmer David Brookes, of Lower Loxley, Uttoxeter, who worked closely with Robert said he was deeply saddened to hear the news.

“I valued him as not just a colleague, but a friend,” he said.

“I had the great pleasure and honour of working with him at a county, regional and national level for more than a decade and always welcomed and took on-board his advice and valued his pragmatic approach to the issues we all face.

“Robert always made himself readily available and was a great supporter when called upon and I will miss his wit and humour, along with the fun he could bring.

“As an NFU advocate, Robert gave his absolute best and was a great servant of not just local farmers, but those throughout the region and nationally, especially within his sectors.

“His expertise, knowledge and wisdom always carried the utmost respect.”

I valued him as not just a colleague, but a friend.”

Dairy farmer David Brookes

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