TRIBUTES have been paid to a pioneer of agricultural education and "amazing character" Johnny Ball.

Johnny, of Moss Nook Farm in Rainford, passed away from natural causes aged 71 on Christmas Eve.

As the face of the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU’s) ‘Lets Talk Farming Roadshow’, farmer Johnny spent 16 years of his life travelling the length and breadth of the country talking to adults and children alike about the industry.

Johnny has been described as a character in every sense of the word and "a larger than life personality whose enthusiasm and energy brought farming to the masses".

Every year he travelled thousands of miles attending county agricultural shows and schools to promote the industry.

In a tribute, the NFU said Johnny was "as happy with a prince as he was a pauper and "an extrovert who was passionate about the industry and would always put himself forward for media work, becoming a bit of a local farming celebrity".

He loved talking farming with whoever turned up on the roadshows which included members of the Royal family, Prime Ministers, ‘A’ list celebrities and sports stars.

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Johnny Ball

Before hitting the road with the NFU's Let’s Talk Farming Roadshow, Johnny farmed as a tenant on Lord Derby's estate.

Following on from his father, Johnny farmed 80 acres of mainly arable land, growing potatoes and vegetables.

He then progressed into beef production, operating a mixed farm until taking a job with the NFU.

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Much loved character Johnny Ball

He was a popular figure with NFU members and officeholders he would often work alongside and it was said he "could charm an audience with his wit, poems and jokes".

He was also at the vanguard of promoting Red Tractor, fielded many questions about animal welfare and always raised funds for RABI.

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Christine Knipe, chief executive of the Westmorland County Agricultural Society, which organises the Westmorland County Show, where Johnny was a regular described him as a 'very positive’ person who was passionate about his work.

She said: “He was an amazing character. Very bright and bubbly. He had an amazing way of being able to relate to people of all ages.

“He made agricultural education fun and really did enjoy engaging with the general public to try and explain where their food comes from.”

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Johnny Ball

Sarah Kitching, an agent at rural insurers NFU mutual, added: “He just had a really good way about him and a good way of communicating and getting the message across in a fun way. So he’ll be sadly missed, he really will.

“He was always so cheerful. He always had a smile on his face. He was a really nice chap - very genuine.”

Upon his retirement from the NFU in 2016, he returned to Moss Nook Farm.

He leaves son John and daughter Suzy and three granddaughters - Olivia, Bethany and Sophie.

Johnny's funeral will take place in Rainford All Saints Church, Church Road, Rainford on Monday, January 20 at 2pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.