FW Awards 2009: Farm Manager of the Year finalist – Matthew Bowe

Matthew Bowe has brought his own brand of drive, enthusiasm and entrepreneurship to the Gliksten family’s Denham Estate in Suffolk. So much so that the estate’s owners quickly realised his talents meant he was capable of far more than just supervising the farm’s arable operations.

In just five years he’s helped develop the business which now includes one of the UK’s biggest breeding deer herds, a premium lamb and venison slaughter business, a rare-breed sheep flock and an extensive arable farm.

The first bottles of Denham Estate’s own beer – “Rutting Buck” – found their first customers last Christmas and the long-term aim is to establish an on-farm maltings producing Suffolk beer from the estate’s own barley.

Matthew’s next project, conceived and researched alone, is by no means modest. Once built, the estate’s biogas plant will produce 1.1MW of energy.

Matthew joined the estate as arable manager for farm management company Sentry, but his role has grown as his involvement has become key to the wider success of this diverse estate.

“When Matthew came for the job interview five years ago my husband and I met a very young man who looked slightly intimidated,” says the estate’s owner Cecilia Gliksten. “Five years down the line and we have a confident, mature and extremely hardworking farm manager who is completely dedicated to Denham Estate. Matthew has exceeded our greatest expectations and of his own initiative, developed and diversified the farm.”

Matthew’s position is unusual – he is responsible for managing an operation that is half commodity production and half high-value, niche products – and he is expected to develop relationships with all customers.

On the arable side, this means maximising income while selling to local markets – this minimises food miles and reinforces the carbon-friendly credentials of the estate’s other produce. While Mrs Gliksten is responsible for negotiating contracts with restaurants, Matthew is the frontman for the estate – meeting and greeting many of the butchery customers when they come to see what they’re buying.

A farmer’s son from Northamptonshire, Matthew trained at Silsoe and Moreton Morrell College. In 2006, he was among 12 young people chosen for the John Edgar Trust farm management scholarship.

Matthew’s pragmatic, practical approach combines a great deal of common sense with a shrewd eye for improvement. He successfully set and a contract farming agreement on a neighbouring farm and continues to run this within the estate’s existing staff and machinery fleet.

When he took over in 2004 he inherited a plough-based cultivation system, but pressure on margins and a desire to be more environmentally friendly led him to adopt a minimum-till policy. Now, in partnership with another Sentry-managed farm, he has switched to direct drilling.

Similarly, he was quick to identify the benefits of machinery sharing with other, similar Sentry farms to maximise efficiency. “That can be quite a big shift for a landowner to get – when everything disappears off your farm in the middle of drilling,” he says.

The whole estate is in the Entry Level Stewardship scheme and also in its second, 10-year Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Matthew takes part in Open Farm Sunday and about 20 schools visit Denham Estate each year.

Matthew has demonstrated he is much more than the job for which he was chosen – he now has a sophisticated role managing the operations of a hugely diverse and varied estate.

Farm Facts

  • Arable manager for farm management company Sentry, reports to client
  • Denham Estate, 1200 acre mixed farming estate owned by the Gliksen family.
  • UK’s largest breeding fallow deer herd.
  • Deer and lamb slaughtered and processed on site to supply leading restaurants and caterers.
  • 270 acres contract farmed for a neighbour.

What the judges said:

“Matthew has a very consumer-focussed approach to the business he manages. He’s an entrepreneur who has to deliver against the farm requirements of profit, diversity and sustainability.”

Key achievements

  • Combine and other machinery sharing arrangements
  • Customised drilling and cultivation kit to suit local soil conditions.
  • Adapted old farm buildings to add 350t of grain storage
  • Taken on neighbouring farm under contract


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