Keep it in the family

PUBLISHED: 10:50 23 February 2006 | UPDATED: 14:35 12 May 2010

From left: Ben, Chris and Peter Cannon at Hyde Hall Farm

From left: Ben, Chris and Peter Cannon at Hyde Hall Farm

IT was a natural progression that father and son, Peter and Ben Cannon took over the responsibility of running the 16th century farm. After all, when Frank Cannon died the first generation of the family to run the farm, both Peter and Ben were aware of

IT was a natural progression that father and son, Peter and Ben Cannon took over the responsibility of running the 16th century farm. After all, when Frank Cannon died - the first generation of the family to run the farm, both Peter and Ben were aware of the heritage tied up in the business and felt a duty of care and responsibility to keep it running to make sure there will be something there for future generations. Frank Cannon took the farm over during the last agricultural depression. His family were from Rushden and he used to ride his horse from Rushden to Hyde Hall every day. The farm consisted mainly of grass at the time. And although a lot of land was up for sale, there was no money for farming. Mr Cannon and his son Brian, however, worked hard to gradually develop the farm. And four generations later, Peter and Ben are working in partnership with one another. Ben, 33, said: "Many changes in farming have taken place at Hyde Hall since 1906, but that is a natural progression in the farming industry. We have just had to adapt to the times." Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, sheep, cattle (both dairy and beef), pigs and turkeys were produced, whilst most of the land was used to grow wheat, barley, beans and oilseed rape. However, 20 years ago prices fell through the floor. Ben said: "Nowadays there is a lot less livestock farming because of market demands and today beef stock is the only livestock at Hyde Hall." Producing a crop to harvest is, therefore, a priority, but with wheat, barley and rape prices all currently less than they were 30 years ago, the Cannon family have had to produce additional income and spread their costs over more acres to sustain their business. Some 25 years ago the farm would have employed 10 people, but today the Cannons share one full-time employee with a neighbouring farmer, and operate over 1500 acres, doubling in size. Ben said: "Because of modern machinery you can get over the land a lot quicker. For instance, we can plough 50-60 acres in a day, whereas it took my great grandfather one day to plough just one acre." Hyde Hall also owns Mill End Equestrian. The centre offers a livery service and is run by Chris Cannon, Ben's uncle. Seven years ago Chris ran the farm's dairy herd, but changing markets led to big changes and dairy herds became unsustainable. Chris took the decision to sell the cows. Ben said: "There used to be 20 dairy herds in a ten mile radius of Royston, but now there is just one." Peter who has run the farm for the past 30 years said: "The main difference in farming in the 30 years that I've worked here are the regulations. Once upon a time we were allowed to just get on with farming, but now I spend 90 per cent of my time in the office doing paperwork." None the less Ben and Peter said farming is a wonderful way of life, but a lifestyle choice rather than a financial one. "As a farmer you grow up with all your neighbours. It's a close-knit community where people look after one another," Peter said. In the winter the Cannon family also run a fencing business and let out traditional barns with modern interiors and rural views. "We're open to any ideas to bring life back into the barns in order to provide an income and build working partnerships with businesses in the area," Ben said.

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