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Death of leading Norfolk farmer

PUBLISHED: 07:19 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 14:57 07 July 2010

A leading Norfolk farmer, Philip Gill, who helped to create the country's biggest specialist agricultural buying group, has died suddenly at his home aged 55.

A leading Norfolk farmer, Philip Gill, who helped to create the country's biggest specialist agricultural buying group, has died suddenly at his home aged 55.

He loved farming and over 35 years built up the family's arable and dairy enterprise into a major operation at Coston Hall, near Barnham Broom, where he also ran several contract farming arrangements.

Mr Gill, who became the first deputy chairman of Anglia Farmers about four years ago, was determined that merger of Norfolk's two rival buying groups should be a success. As a member of Mid-Norfolk Farmers, he worked tirelessly to ensure that the absorption of Loddon Farmers into the new structure, benefitted all members.

And today, Anglia Farmers, which moved last autumn to new headquarters at Colton, near Norwich, has an annual turnover of about £150m and approaching 1,400 members.

As chairman of AF's membership services, Mr Gill, took a close interest in the co-operative group's recruitment of new members.

Born at Coston Hall, where he lived his whole life, he went to Cawston College, near Aylsham. He didn't go to agricultural college because he had to return to the family farm to take charge of the dairy enterprise.

While he did expand the herd to about 250 Holsteins, later it was reduced to about 200 milking cows. It was run alongside about 700 arable acres and two beef suckler herds, including one with pedigree Herefords. He also took a keen interest in the development of the Coston Hall fisheries and trout lakes and was also a long-serving member of his local parish council.

Although he was a member of Dereham Young Farmers' Club, he enjoyed going to other clubs where he made and met so many friends across the county.

A keen sportsman, he played for Dereham Hockey Club and later the Exiles. He did play for Holt Rugby Club but stopped when it conflicted with his dairying responsibilities.

Mr Gill also loved the social side of the farming industry because he really liked people. A good shot, he really enjoyed the atmosphere and the banter of shooting with friends and sharing good company.

He leaves a widow, Helen, three children, Mark, Anna and John. He is survived by an older brother, Michael.

Funeral arrangements to be announced.

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