Tributes flood in for Clem Tompsett MBE - described as 'the greatest carrot grower in the UK- after his death was announced at the weekend
PUBLISHED: 15:11 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:55 25 March 2019
"He was the greatest carrot grower the UK has ever known," was one of many hundreds of fulsome tributes to Clem Tompsett, whose death was announced at the weekend.
Clem had farmed for over half a century and his family owned company produces over 75,000 tonnes of carrots and 9,000 tonnes of parsnips a year.
Willow Farm, where it all started, is made up of 1050 acres of prime fen land, almost all of which falls into the parish of Isleham.
Clem’s work also involved fundraising and 13 years ago he was recognised with an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for services to agriculture and the local community.
His death was announced by the family on their company social media page with the short statement that Clem “sadly passed away today. It is time of sadness for Mary, Jackie, Sally, Roy and Sam and all those who work for Clem’s companies.”
The tribute described him as a “true gent who achieved so much and did it with laughter and banter.
“Many tears will flow but it will be mixed with laughter”
The family said they would like to pass on thanks to Soham Lodge “who cared for him in his last few weeks”.
Clem, who lived in Soham all his life, had a remarkable career and being honoured by the Queen was a highlight.
He was 71 at the time and it was his business life – he was a former chairman of the British Carrot Growers’ Association – and his work on behalf of a number of charities and local sporting organisations that were recognised.
“I’m very honoured to receive the MBE, but I had to sit down in a chair for five minutes to work out what I was doing,” he said at the time.
It was not his first visit to Buckingham Palace – the year prior to his MBE he attended a royal garden party as one of the longest-serving district commissioners of the Pony Club.
He was particularly proud of his work for the Isleham Horse Trials but he also undertook extensive fund-raising for Macmillan Nurses, Papworth Hospital and Riding for the Disabled.
In one interview he described his route into farming, and it was all quite simple.
“Uncle was a farmer Cambridge way. He said I’d got to leave school. I was 15,” he said. “So I started on grandfather and grandmother’s farm with 80 acres in 1949.”
Hard work and enterprise, he said, enabled him by the 1970s to be “building the business up. And I kept buying land and now there’s 1100 acres”.
Over 300 people have written tributes to Clem on his company’s Facebook page.
“Clem was a caring gentle person and always had time for people around him; no class distinction and always the gentleman,” wrote one.
Another said: “I have so many memories of the pony club – and so have my children:
“Clem will be greatly missed by everyone”.
“It is an honour to have known him,” said another.
And one other friend wrote: “What a sad day for Soham. Clem was a larger than life character who gave so much for the community and in particular for Soham Pony Club. He will be sadly missed and thoughts go to all his family at this time.”
A Soham Pony Club member wrote: “We were so lucky to have such wonderful facilities to use and all thanks to Clem and family for providing them.”