100 years ago, on 8 August 1919, Mr Monty White sold Haynes Brothers’ first tractor, a Fordson Model F, to an East Peckham farmer for £120.

In those days, it wasn’t easy to convince a farmer to move away from horses and labourers but the Fordson proved to be a revolutionary machine. As the first lightweight, mass produced tractor on the market, it came reasonably priced, which made it accessible and affordable for even the average farmer.

Inventor and developer of the Fordson, Henry Ford may have started his career in the automobile industry, but he began life on the family farm. While mechanics were more appealing to him than the prospects of toiling the land, he never stopped looking for a way to lessen farmers’ burden, writing in his autobiography: “to lift farm drudgery off flesh and blood and lay it on steel and motors has been my most constant ambition”.

In the early 1900s, Henry started working on his agricultural dream, initially building the ‘automobile plow’ in 1907. By 1916, his son Edsel had joined the business and together the pair developed a new tractor; with the Fordson Model F making its debut in 1917. The Model F was to farming, what the iconic Model T car was to personal transportation and by making its way down numerous farm tracks, it quickly transitioned the industry from horses to horsepower.

Celebratory centenary edition

While Haynes did not sell its first tractor until 1919, the first Fordson Model F, engine number 1303, was shipped from Henry Ford’s home town in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, to England in October 1917. Weighing in at 2,500 lbs, the 20 horsepower, four-cylinder petrol/paraffin machine came complete with three speed and reverse, multiple disc clutch, low tension magneto and four coil ignition.

A Model F tractor kindly lent to Haynes, by Simon Hiscock, is set to attend various agricultural shows with Haynes throughout 2019 in celebration of 100 years since the dealership sold its first Fordson. The Model F will sit proudly alongside a centenary edition New Holland T7.245 Auto Command, worth £120,000 – 1,000 times the original Fordson Model F value.

“Haynes has come a long way since its first tractor sale,” said Adrian Woods, agricultural operations director at Haynes. “The sixth-generation family-run business has witnessed nearly every single stage in farming innovation, the development of tractors and mechanical agricultural equipment. While the technology, size and shape of modern-day tractors has advanced significantly, we wanted to find a way to honour the Model F, so we worked with New Holland to design a special edition T7 which has a grey cab with red wheels.”

Readers unfamiliar with the complex merger history of various tractor manufacturers should note that Ford bought-out Sperry New Holland in 1986 to form Ford New Holland, which Fiat purchased an 80% interest of in 1991, before merging with Case IH in 1999, to give way to CNH, of which Haynes remains a main dealer.

Part of the community

Haynes had become an integral supplier to the rural community long before its first tractor was sold in 1919. Proudly sitting in the Wrotham branch’s office is a spectacular photograph of the agricultural dealers’ trade stand at the Royal Agricultural Show, which was held in June 1899 at Mote Park, Maidstone. It is clear to see that the company provided a vast array of agricultural implements, from horse-drawn ploughs to horticultural equipment and sundries for the hops and fruit sectors too.

There are few businesses around today which are not only able to celebrate over 225 years’ trading but can also claim to be actively managed by the founding family. Established in 1790, the original Haynes business was a popular ironmongers and general store based at Edgeware Road in London.

In 1832, William Haynes moved the company to Maidstone, Kent, where he continued to sell a vast array of products to the local community and trade, including the agricultural sector. In 1911, a pivotal test drive in an automobile changed the business forever, shaping it into the modern-day Haynes group.

“Bernard Haynes took a Ford Model T on a test drive and was so impressed with how the car handled and its competitive price that he ordered one on the spot,” said Andrew Haynes, managing director of Haynes Bros and the sixth-generation of the family to sit at helm of the business.

After that drive, the firm took on the Ford franchise and everything spans from there. Ford soon began to develop trucks and commercial vehicles and later agricultural machinery and tractors. During the war, the agricultural side of the business strived as the other sides of the business wound down.

Jumping forwards to 2019; Haynes’ head office is still based in Maidstone, operating from an impressive five-acre site on Ashford Road. Across the group, which includes the sale of cars, trucks, commercial vehicles and agricultural machinery, the company turns over £80 million plus per year, of which the agricultural sector is second largest contributor with a turnover of about £22 million.

“The business is very complex,” said Andrew. “We sell a lot of different equipment to a lot of different customers throughout the South East region. The agricultural community not only know us for tractors and machinery, but for trucks and commercial vehicles, such as the Ford Ranger.”

In total, the business sells about 2,000 cars, 1,350 trucks and commercial vehicles, 350 tractors, combines and telehandlers, and 800 farm implements per year. On top of that, over 30,000 vehicles are serviced and repaired per annum, with £10.8 million worth of parts sold in support of that.

“We look after over 10,000 customers, retail and trade,” said Andrew. “It is sometimes easy for farmers to forget how big the entire group is, especially when they have forged a close relationship with their local branch. With a business this size we have to be highly professional in our operations, but it’s very important we still maintain the personal touch.”

Unprecedented period of growth

The agricultural branches of Haynes spread from Birchington in East Kent, as far as Uckfield in East Sussex, with Wrotham and Great Chart, near Ashford, nestled in between. Across the four sites, around 65 Haynes employees are on hand to ensure that customers have access to the very best sales advice, service and support.

The agricultural business is spilt into two separate companies, with Haynes Agriculture being the main dealer for New Holland, Kuhn Farm Machinery, Väderstad, McConnel and Stewart trailers, to name a few, and Haynes Agritec looking after the franchises for Case IH, JCB and Krone.

“Over the last 15 years we have focused a lot on expanding the agricultural side of the business,” said Andrew. “When I joined the business, I was keen to grow our territory and relationship with CNH. In 2004 we moved into Sussex; in 2005 we took on the JCB and Case IH franchise; and we opened additional aftersales facilities in Uckfield in 2008. Then in 2010 the Birchington branch opened as a Case IH franchise; in 2011 we opened Great Chart for New Holland; and finally, in 2013 we launched Wrotham for New Holland and JCB.”

As well as hailing an unprecedented period of growth for the agricultural arm of Haynes, these developments combined have given the family-run firm a much better foundation from which to look after its customers for the long-term.

“Our ethos as a business is not to be the biggest, but to always do the best we can for our customers,” said Andrew. “We are keen to continue to grow the agricultural business and looking to the future, we plan to expand sensibly, as opportunities arise with manufacturers. Haynes is a three-legged stool – cars, trucks and agriculture – and it is important that the company has a long-term future in agriculture.”

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Photos: ©Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic