Roger, Richard, Robert and David Nicholson

When Roger Nicholson approached his bank to fund an open farm project, he was told in no uncertain terms he would never be able to make it viable.

Undeterred, he approached another bank, secured the required funding and went on to reinvest the subsequent profits year on year to grow the business into what it is today with the support and help of his family.

Today, Cannon Hall Farm welcomes more than one million visitors across its multi-functional site, comprising a working farm, adventure playgrounds, a farm shop, two gift shops and three restaurants.

Key investments have been into a new farmyard, built in 2013, which allows the public to view the farm from purpose-built galleries while allowing farm work to go on unhindered by visitors.

An indoor play area, The Hungry Llama, opened in 2015, and is one of the largest and best equipped in the region.

Covid-19 provided a huge turning point for the business, and they embraced their already strong social media presence to staggering new heights. Determined to adapt what they could control, brother Robert broadcast
on Facebook Live to thousands of people every morning at 7.30am throughout lockdown for more than 150 days, showcasing the happenings on-farm and providing a lifeline of communication for thousands of people stuck in their homes.

At the peak of its popularity, the Facebook page had a reach of 24m people each month. Their efforts were rewarded and included receipt of The Prime Minister’s Point of Light Award, which offered the family a renewed sense of purpose, raised their profile and drove future sales.

Social media activity continues to thrive, and a weekly live cooking demo and subscription service have now been introduced.

Richard says: “If the last few years  have taught us anything, it is that you cannot forsee the future. We are, however, proud of the way we have coped with those challenges and emerged on the other side, a more diverse and adaptive business.

“We continue to review performance  in different areas of the business and that will help to guide our way forward. Our approach has always been to think on our feet and adapt, and we will continue to do so.”