I feel great sadness at the loss of Peter. He was a quite extraordinary man and I can’t imagine how life at the Soil Association will be without him. I had the huge privilege of working closely with him for around ten years.
After meeting Peter at various meetings while working in London I was excited to get a job working in his team. I was immediately thrown in at the deep end as a big story on additives in children’s food broke and Peter put me forward to be on the Today Programme just a couple of weeks into my new role. In the end the interview was bumped because Pavarotti died the day before which I was somewhat relieved about!
Soon I did have to do media interviews and many other new activities which seemed a little daunting. Peter always had the utmost confidence that I would be able to rise to the challenge, and with that support, somehow, I did. I felt I was continually learning under Peter’s patient and encouraging guidance.
I had the pleasure of taking part in all kinds of events with Peter including meetings with ministers and MPs, giving evidence to Select Committees, running events at Clarence House and hospitals, taking organic businesses to Westminster, loads of fantastic farm visits, travelling to far flung research institutions and universities and meetings with big and small businesses alike. Whatever event we went to, Peter always showed the same high level of enthusiasm, charm, incisive questioning, sprinkled with a good dose of chuckling good humour. There were usually plenty of stories about his farm as well!
Peter started, led and worked on a huge number of projects, campaigns and other areas of work across the Soil Association. I’ve put together this little collage of photos of reports and campaign logos which Peter was closely involved in. I’m sure others will spot many I’ve missed! This only covers a fraction of the work he was involved in.
In recent days many current and past Soilies have talked about just how central he was to the organisation. He developed many of the positions we hold, questioned us and held us to account. Alongside all this, he produced a quite prodigious amount of work behind the scenes. Constantly emailing to gain or impart information, writing letters, articles, briefings, editing press releases, comments and reports.
I am thankful that Peter recently saw important leaps forward on some issues he had been closely involved in. They include the landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice that a controversial new generation of genetic engineering techniques will be subject to the same safety checks and product labelling as existing GMOs.
In August a US court ruled against Monsanto on the negative health impact of glyphosate. We also heard recently that the Foston pig farm has closed down. The farm was the centre of what I think was my most memorable piece of work with Peter.
We launched the ‘Not in My Banger’ campaign after we were threatened by the infamous libel lawyers Carter Ruck. The Foston Pig farm owners were trying to open ‘mega’ pig farm which would have housed over 20,000 animals. The campaign included meeting the pig farm owners who offered to show us the proposed site in their private helicopter. Peter politely turned down the offer! We’re still mentioned on the Carter Ruck Wikipedia page, which Peter and I were always quite tickled by.
It’s wonderful to hear how many people also count Peter as a mentor and how many of their stories have a similar narrative to mine. I look forward to sharing more memories of this brilliant man with them and others.