A countryside career for farmer’s son

Mark Wheeler as a child with his dad and their dog Oliver
Mark Wheeler as a child with his dad and their dog Oliver

After growing up on the family farm surrounded by cattle, sheep and machinery Mark Wheeler chose a career that ensured his heart remained in the countryside.

By the time the Buckingham farmer’s son grew up the family farm had diversified into other areas and so a career in farming wasn’t an option.

Aylesbury NFU branch secretary Mark Wheeler

Aylesbury NFU branch secretary Mark Wheeler

But after reading media studies at the University of Lincoln Mark saw an advert in the Brackley and Towcester Advertiser that led him back to the world he truly loved.

Mark, who has just been appointed as branch secretary of Aylesbury National Farmers Union (NFU) said: “To do media studies I would have had to go to London but I wanted to stay in the countryside and at home. I saw this advert saying a young enthusiastic sales person was needed, and an agricultural background would be ideal.”

Mark, 36, applied for the position and became a sales associate at Brackley NFU, briefly taking on the role of assistant agent during his eight years there.

After an 18 month career break travelling he returned to work with NFU Mutual as the regional sales development consultant at their head office in Stratford Upon Avon for four years.

For the former Royal Latin Grammar School boy it seemed like the perfect career. Mark grew up on the family farm near Stowe that his great grandfather Chubb Wheeler set up. After Chubb came Mark’s grandfather Bob and then his father Stephen. Mark’s childhood on the livestock and arable farm was shared with his sisters Emily and Holly and their parents Stephen and Sally, who worked as a French teacher at Akeley Wood School just outside Buckingham.

Mark said: “I helped Dad feed the cattle and the sheep, particularly at lambing time. And I did power harrowing and rolling.

“Dad diversified when farming became tricky in the early 90s, when I was about 15. There was a lot of woodland and we were struggling with the amount of land that we had to farm. Dad looked at the alternatives and pulled right out of farming and at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.”

Mark’s father set up a corporate entertainment business offering team building and quad biking and he worked with some big blue chip companies. The business was very successful for 10 years.

Mark said: “The diversification was hugely successful initially but markets changed and businesses couldn’t get the budget to send their employees out for the day, and there was a lot of competition coming in.”

With a family rooted in farming for generations, Mark brings a wealth of understanding and expertise to his new role.

He said: “I am proud to have been born in Buckingham and to be part of a family with its roots very well set here.”

His uncle Paul runs Buckingham Plant Hire, Mark was a member of Buckingham rugby club for 17 years and he was also an enthusiastic Buckingham Young Farmer. He said: “Working in Aylesbury is ideal because the short journey to work each morning helps me to prepare mentally for the day ahead. And I know the guys at Buckingham NFU extremely well. I’ve worked with them for years when I was the regional sales development consultant and they are great.”

Another link with the Buckingham NFU office is Mark’s fiancee Lucie Rawding who works there as a customer service advisor.

The couple met five years ago and now live just outside Buckingham. They plan to get married at Stowe House in May next year.

Mark joined the Aylesbury office in September, working alongside his predecessor Virginia Stollery for a month before starting work officially this month. He has yet to meet MPs John Bercow and David Lidington but hopes to do so soon.

He has however been out and about meeting the farmers and said: “They are all absolutely delightful.The concerns out there at the minute are about the huge changes at European level, and the NFU is doing everything in its power to promote fairness. Prices are really struggling across all sectors in agriculture and it is important that there is local representation. HS2 is also a huge issue for this part of the country and it is my job to make the communication channels as efficient as possible, whether it’s speaking to MPs or writing petitions to present to the select committee.

“It’s a time of incredible change in farming in terms of environmental legislation, CAP reform, weather patterns and infrastructure developments.

“In any business times are never easy, there is always another challenge, I don’t think farming is any different. But we have to get the best deal for British farming.”