Obituary: Expert Paul definitely knew his onions...

Paul Cripsey and Grahame Parrish
Paul Cripsey and Grahame Parrish

A passionate farm manager and agricultural innovator has passed away aged 65 after dedicating his life to Bedfordshire’s Ivel Valley.

Paul Cripsey, of FB Parrish and Son, lost his fight on August 15 to a rare blood condition, leaving behind his 44 year legacy as farm manager.

The innovative businessman joined the company in 1972, forming a close bond with 2nd generation company director Grahame Parrish, when the Ivel Valley was famous for growing brussels sprouts.

But in the mid 1980s, imports from Spain meant the British public had a wider choice of vegetables. Brussels were reserved for Christmas, and as their popularity declined, Paul came to the rescue.

Third generation company director, James Parrish, who is co-director with his brother Nick, and father, Grahame, said: “It was typically onion growing that took over and Paul became a specialist in growing this vegetable. First it was brown onions followed by red onions, shallots, and now banana shallots – not forgetting the Supasweet onion.”

Seizing an opportunity, Paul, along with a number of other growers and in partnership with the Cooperative Bedfordshire Growers, started to supply national supermarkets in the late 80s.

He also built up a successful partnership with D and V Brace’s at Bury Farm, Clifton, and farm manager John Wall, so the Ivel Valley became one of the main growing areas for shallots.

James added: “Paul was one of the first growers to try red onions in the early 90s and this became very popular after Delia Smith promoted it on her cookery programme.”

Paul grew up in Norfolk and trained at the Shuttleworth College, developing a love of vegetables. He leaves behind his wife, Sally, son Mark, two daughters Jo and Sue, the children’s partners, and eight grandchildren.

The spirited manager had battled ITP, a condition causing white blood cells to destroy platelets, meaning bleeding is difficult to stop. Paul had this condition on three occasions, however, complications meant that this time he was not able to recover.

But friends remember Paul as a lively manager. James said: “Paul was no doubt one of life’s characters. He always had a great sense of humour and was a wonderful positive inspiration to anyone he met.”

Paul cared deeply about the environment and in 2003 helped see Parrish Farms win ‘Vegetable Grower’ and ‘Overall Grower’ of the year at the glitzy British Grower Awards.

> A thanksgiving service for him is being held at St Mary’s Church, Haynes, at 2pm on Saturday, September 17.