New farm management firm head focuses on ‘critical’ five years ahead

Andrew Mason, Sentry. Picture: BRUCE HEAD

Andrew Mason, Sentry. Picture: BRUCE HEAD - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich-based farm management firm has a new head.

Paul Christian, Sentry. Picture: PAULA CHRISTIAN

Paul Christian, Sentry. Picture: PAULA CHRISTIAN - Credit: Paula Christian

Andrew Mason handed over the reins as managing director of Sentry to Paul Christian in February. The company, based at Willisham Hall, is one of the largest farming companies in the UK with more than 40,000 acres under cultivation for clients across the UK.

It offers services to private and institutional landowners and investors including farm and estate management, advice and alternative enterprises.

Andrew, who managed the firm from 1986 and continues to chair the board, said Paul, with his knowledge of Sentry and the wider agricultural industry, would be a “major asset” to the firm, along with a cohort of other younger directors appointed over the last 15 months.

Andrew, who comes from a farming background in the southern counties, graduated from Shuttleworth Agricultural College and joined the company in 1976, making his way up the ranks from a farm manager in Worcestershire to a senior management role in East Anglia, before moving north in 1981 to oversee the company’s business interests from Stamford northwards.

He moved to Newmarket, and became general manager in 1985 and was instrumental in the success of a management buy-out from Sentry Insurance in November 1986, becoming managing director of the new company.

In 1990 it merged with Associated Farmers plc, and in 1995 the firm joined the official list of the London Stock Exchange. The following year, Sentry Farming Group plc acquired Hallsworth Ltd. In 1999, Andrew led a second management buy-out from Sentry Farms Group plc, retaining all employees and taking the company forward to a private, employee controlled company, which it remains to date.

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Paul, who is 50 and lives in Hertfordshire, has been with the company for 23 years, joining from Shuttleworth Agricultural College and moving around the UK and eastern Europe in various roles. He believes the next five years will be critical in ensuring businesses are resilient. “We know that if a business is not going forward then it is effectively going backwards and for the benefit of our clients and ourselves we have to do our best to keep doing the right things and making the right choices,” he said.

Senior manager Andrew Mason, who began his career 38 years ago as a Sentry lorry driver, also retires this year.