This week the UK horticultural industry mourns the untimely loss of one of its champions. Derek has sadly passed away after a short battle with cancer at the age of 73. There cannot be a person in the UK industry that does not know his name.
Derek started his working life as a lecturer at Askham Bryan College before becoming a Horticultural Advisor with ADAS in Beverley E.Yorkshire. He quickly learnt his trade and established himself as the man to contact for agronomic information on protected crops, especially cucumbers, he was instrumental in helping cucumber growers adopt new hydroponic growing systems which required significant technical input compared to soil and/or straw-bale crops and he quickly adopted the role as National Consultant for MAFF/Defra.
Derek provided exemplary service to the UK horticultural industry over many years working tirelessly to troubleshoot industry problems and help growers improve their crop production practices to ensure UK food production was of the highest quality and able to compete successfully with imported produce from mainland Europe and beyond. In this regard he helped change cultivation practices, improving efficiency allowing increased economic production, aid food security and helped protect consumers and the environment more broadly. Whilst he always provided advice on a range of crops, especially those under protection, he became particularly renowned for his expertise with the cucumber crop and this culminated in him becoming the National Cucumber Specialist/Consultant in MAFF/Defra.
From 1991, Derek worked as an independent crop consultant in the private sector but continued to serve the horticultural industry right across the UK and beyond. He was instrumental in helping to establish the British Cucumber Growers' Association in 2000 and he went on to provide his knowledge and expertise through the role of CGA Technical Officer. In addition to this, Derek also sat on the British Tomato Growers Association (TGA) technical committee and the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) protected crops panel.
He was awarded the Harlow Carr medal by the RHS for services to the salad crops industry in 2008.
Throughout his career Derek showed passion and enthusiasm regularly acting as an ambassador to support the industry. He gained a great degree of respect from both customers & colleagues alike exemplified by his determination and commitment to any task presented to him. He was tenacious when needed to resolve difficult issues satisfactorily.
The real measure of his success, is appreciating how different the glasshouse industry is now compared to 30-40 years ago. Crops are almost unrecognisable and the amount of technology adopted to achieve this is due, in no small part, to Derek’s vision and tenacity to get growers to adopt innovation at all levels. He earned the respect of the industry through his desire to see UK growers lead the world in the production of high quality residue-free crops, providing produce on the shelves of major UK retailers throughout the year.
Derek leaves a wife and two sons.