The origins of the 2017 Barnsley and Rotherham Business of the Year were first laid more than four centuries ago. Cannon Hall Farm was singled out for praise amongst judges for the way in which owner Roger Nicholson drew on his lifelong commitment and passion for farming, stared adversity in the eye and made 2016 his best year of trading to date.
Roger’s association with Cannon Hall Farm began in 1957 when the manor estate was broken up. His father purchased the farm, but little did Roger know that within twelve months, the then sixteen year old would be running the business.
Farming, particularly for smaller farms has always been a difficult way to earn a living and by the 1980s the prospects for Roger’s farm were looking bleak. Spiralling debts meant the business was faced with a stark choice: diversify or close.
Never being someone to roll over without a fight, Roger began drawing up plans to transform his farm, developing ambitious plans to open the farm to the public as a tourist attraction.
Today, Cannon Hall Farm has established itself as the best attraction of its kind in the UK. In 2016, it achieved its best financial results to date, turning over £7.68 million and employing more than 250 people. Now aged 74, Roger continues to often be first out in the morning and the last to finish at night and everything that happens on site reflects his attitude and passion for all things farming.
Throughout the year the farm hosts a variety of successful events, allowing more full-time staff to be employed, whilst the Cannon Hall Food Festival has become an event which attracts tens of thousands of visitors over four days in August.
Despite the success enjoyed in the tourism sector, Cannon Hall Farm remains very much a working farm, producing beef, pork and lamb alongside bakery products including its famous pie. The result is a completely joined up business bringing together all aspects of the food, retail and service industry on the same site.
David Kernahan of Universal Components commented, “Cannon Hall farm have proven over a significant amount of time what a progressive and forward-thinking business they are. The great vision they had many years ago has come to together with plenty of hard work and dedication now employing 250 people. The facilities and produce that they provide to their customers are first class. They truly are a credit to the area.”
Roger Nicholson of Cannon Hall Farm said, “I would like to thank everyone so much, it was truly unexpected for us to win the Business of the Year Award. We also accepted a 60 year Salute to Business on the evening, it has been a long journey for us and it has been my journey. The farm has been my life and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We had a great evening and we’re all really proud to have won this award. It really is a team effort and we couldn’t have done it without the fantastic team back at the farm, who work so hard and do such a great job welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.”
Since 2015, Roger has invested more than £2.5 million in Cannon Hall Farm, resulting in growth of 22% across the business in 2016, following growth of 29% the previous year.