OBITUARY: Dougal Campbell

Dougal Campbell was a pioneering figure in the world of farming, and the founder of Welsh Organic Foods, the first specialist organic cheese- making company in Britain.

Campbell had migrated to a farm in west Wales by accident. He was attracted by the wish to enact a dream, in his case a very practical dream. After he had completed his schooling at Westminster and a degree in Civil Engineering at Southampton University his love of climbing led him to seek employment in the high Alpage, in the Valais canton of Switzerland, where he worked as an assistant cheese-maker. His fortuitous encounter with cheese-making developed into his principal activity. He learnt that the quality of the hard cheeses produced from cows grazing the herb-rich pastures of the High Alpage was unsurpassed and that cows, like people, are what they eat.

He transferred his skills to west Wales in 1976 and flouted convention by turning his back on the Milk Marketing Board and making the milk from his 15-cow herd into an unpasteurised Cheddar. The cheese, Tyn Grug, developed a national reputation and he became a leading figure in the renaissance of farmhouse cheese-making. By 1984 there were a handful of organic dairy farms in west Wales, all selling their milk to the board but getting no organic premium. It was decided to set up a company committed to purchasing organic milk and turning the raw material into a product which reflected the conditions of its production and which could be sold with added value to a new, discerning market. This led to the formation of Welsh Organic Foods, the first specialist organic cheese-making company in Britain.

Campbell's commitment to the development of Welsh Organic Foods was absolute. He tackled the challenges of turning a small industrial unit into a fully fledged dairy with enormous enthusiasm, even when times were tough; having to deal with procurement of milk from far-flung farms, the finance for purchasing equipment, and all the other problems faced by companies pioneering new markets. Campbell did an enormous amount of work in developing his market through creating an awareness amongst the consuming public of the nature and benefits of organic cheese.

There was something about Campbell that made a huge impression on everyone he met, even those who only had a fleeting contact with him. I think it was his strength and directness, his kindness and his extraordinary energy. One of my first encounters was a visit to his "Alpine" smallholding of 46 acres, 1,000ft up in the hills above Lampeter in west Wales in 1978. He had only been there about two years, but already the place bore his imprint; the precipitous but sturdy concrete track, mixed and laid by hand, winding down to reveal a cosy farmsteading, carefully restored by somebody who obviously had building skills. Outside the house was a huge quantity of firewood, immaculately stacked Swiss-style, easily enough to see Dougal and his family through the oncoming winter.

Campbell had a great love of climbing. Some of his energy was both generated by and expressed through this channel. He would tackle Alpine routes that only the toughest and the most competent could handle. Those who climbed with him speak of his rubber legs, and his ability to place his feet so exactly that no stone or rock was dislodged. I only went climbing with him once, in 1992, an interminable morning "in extremis", with no room for anything but the next breath as I struggled to keep up with him. He was an amazingly fit man. Climbing remained his great love and he was due to fly to Switzerland for a week in the Alps on the evening of the day he was fatally injured in a tractor accident on his farm.

Campbell never let the everyday difficulties of life get him down. After the great snows of January 1982, when farmers in west Wales were trading heroic hard-luck stories about how they survived the elements and milked the cows against all odds, I asked him how it had been for him. It was immediately clear that he had simply enjoyed the extreme conditions and taken great pleasure from the challenge rather than the struggle of surviving. He would think nothing of getting up at five o'clock in the morning, milking the cows, driving to Bristol or sometimes even London for a meeting and still coming back to milk in the evening.

Campbell was a member of the Soil Association Council and the Board of Directors of the Symbol Scheme as well as being chairman of the west Wales group of British Organic Farmers. His name and achievements will live on, both through the future of Welsh Organic Foods, where Marilyn James, his partner of three years, now works full-time, and through the establishment of a Dougal Campbell Memorial Fund by the Soil Association.

Dougal Campbell, farmer: born Sydney, Australia 28 October 1951; married 1979 Alexandra Jane Erskine (two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1993); died Lampeter, Dyfed 28 August 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future