Farmers Weekly Farm Adviser of the Year 2014: Gary Markham

Gary Markham
Churchgate Accountants, East Anglia

Gary Markham has impressively achieved his vision of a one-stop shop for all farm business and financial advice with Churchgate Accountants.

With a wealth of experience in both tax and accountancy, Gary has built a business that goes way beyond numbers and tax returns.

He saves his clients money by offering professional, financial, tax, accounting and legal advice, but in addition helps shape their businesses to give them confidence for the future.

The business started when Grant Thornton closed its Bury St Edmunds office and Gary and a small group of fellow employees decided to lead a management buyout.

Taking over the office, along with staff and clients in 2011, Churchgate Accountants was born. It now advises 525 predominantly arable clients across about 49,000ha in the eastern counties and East Midlands.

“Gary is very influential on how his clients set up their businesses, using novel methods to provide the right structure for a profitable and secure future.”
Jake Freestone, farm manager, Overbury Farms, and independent judge

Through reputation and word of mouth, the firm has increased its client base and doubled its turnover, taking on 11 young recruits and a second office opened in Huntingdon.

Gary’s infectious enthusiasm for his trade is transferred to his clients, among them Cambridgeshire grower Andrew Rampley.

The family business – based in Southoe – has made many changes recently, setting up a machinery syndicate, taking on a new farm business tenancy, building a new grain store and hatching plans for a wind farm.

Business Facts

  • Servicing 525 clients across 49,000ha
  • Providing advice on accounts, business and tax, investment and pensions, estate planning and trusts, legal issues and mediation services
  • Provides benchmarking reports and seminars

Winning Ways

  • Vast knowledge of specialism and wider agricultural issues
  • Positive and infectious enthusiasm drives the meeting of customers’ needs
  • Novel methods to set up business structures for a profitable and secure future

Andrew says Gary has supported these changes and his knowledge of the practicalities of farming and ability to see the bigger picture has been invaluable.

Once the machinery syndicate was set up as a limited liability partnership with neighbours, it allowed more efficient use of machinery and the partnership could take on extra land and farm in its own right. The two core member farms now farm 1,220ha between them.

Gary has set up a self-invested personal pension for Andrew, using taxable profits to fund the new grain store that is rented back to the farm, and a discretionary trust fund that receives farm property rental income that is used as a tax-efficient source of school fees for Andrew’s children.

“During the past five years, we have saved a substantial amount of tax and we now have a solid business structure in place that gives us the confidence to expand or invest in improvements,” explains Andrew.

The structure put in place for the Rampley family is now his blueprint for Gary’s future family farm clients, addressing the issues of tax planning, succession and machinery use and cost efficiency.

Gary is keeping one step ahead to adapt the structure to reflect constant industry changes, and arranging debates with solicitors and land agents keeps his knowledge on the cutting edge.

His influence stretches beyond his clients, regularly speaking at farmer meetings, agronomy groups and conferences, on top of contributing in the national agricultural press.


Nerys JonesNerys Llewelyn-Jones
Agri Advisor Solicitors, Camarthenshire

Nerys built an impressive client base of 550 from scratch by offering a personal approach to agricultural legal advice, for farmers in Wales and parts of England on all aspects of agricultural and planning law and CAP consultancy.

David CoombesDavid Coombes,
Cedar Farm Practice, Hampshire

David is the complete farm vet, offering not only treatment, but also advice on herd health, nutrition and reproductive services. A passion for livestock and his own dairy herd offers all his clients the perspective of both a vet and herdsman.

Sponsor’s message

Mole Valley“Congratulations to the winner. Gary works tirelessly to help shape farm businesses and improve efficiencies, which are some of the key values we share as a farmer-owned business.”
Julie Edwards 
Head of agricultural marketing and corporate communication