Rock singer Bob Geldof has paid tribute to John James, the founder of Mole Valley Farmers who also played a pivotal role in the Band Aid relief programme, who died at the age of 87 on 30 December.
Rock singer Bob Geldof delivered a eulogy at Mr James’s funeral in South Molton, Devon, on 11 January, which was attended over 300 people.
Mr James formed the West Country co-operative in 1960, in a bid to drive down input costs on everything from farm machinery to Wellington boots.
Despite opposition from the trade – who were enjoying large margins at the time – and independent-minded farmers, he succeeded in building up a business which now has more than 7300 shareholders and a turnover exceeding £350m.
In addition, Mr James played an important role in helping to combat famine in Ethiopia and Sudan, becoming the field director of the Band Aid Trust in 1985.
“The man whom we are remembering today was responsible, without a shadow of a doubt, for keeping hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people alive,” said Sir Bob.
“The country he worked for most assiduously and eloquently is in the top ten fastest growing economies of the world and that wouldn’t have been possible without this most magnificent of men.”
Other contributors at the service included former MVF business partners Rob Connell and Brian Peace, who praised his unstinting efforts to help farmers in the region.
Mr James’s nephew Richard James said he would be sorely missed by his wife, Rosemary, as well as his children, family and friends.
“Perhaps he will be best remembered for his humour, and for the fact that he was a rebel, a maverick, a free spirit, and as a fearless achiever for whom nothing was impossible because he saw no barriers.”