For Ernest Doe Power, the new dealership at Woodchurch, just outside Ashford, is particularly exciting as it strengthens the company’s position in Kent and allows it to take the impressive Case IH range to a new customer base to the east of the county.

While the Woodchurch branch is the 19th to have been unveiled by the company, which dates back to 1898, it is the first expansion since incoming managing director Angus Doe took over the reins at Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd. “As a company we never tire of the excitement generated by opening new premises and we are looking forward to welcoming customers old and new at the new dealership,” he commented.

The spacious, modern premises, formerly a transport depot at Hendon Barn, Woodchurch, was unveiled to the local farming community at a well-attended open evening at the end of October and boasts a well-equipped four bay workshop, generous parts depot and large outside display area.

The building has been extensively refurbished, with new cladding, rearranged internal office space, uprated electrics and heating and new external concrete areas, giving the impression of a completely new building although retaining the footprint of the original.

The large, spacious and well-lit workshop is particularly impressive, boasting a dedicated welding area and served by new air lines. Each of the four bays is large enough to cope with a combine harvester or class-leading Case IH Quadtrac, while service manager Janet Noakes’ glass fronted office at the rear of the space supports her aim of being a vital link between the workshop and the customer.

“My aim is to ensure our customers receive excellent service, and an important part of that is keeping them informed about progress on their job,” she said. “They deserve to know what’s happening with their equipment and when they can expect it back. It’s all about delivering service with a personal touch and that’s what I am here for.”

Like the rest of the six-strong – but expected to grow swiftly – team, Janet is local and has an agricultural background. She was born in Brookland, near Rye, where father Howard and brother James farm at King Farm.

Having moved from an assistant service manager’s job with another dealership, Janet is excited about the challenge of keeping the workshop working smoothly and believes the team’s complementary local knowledge will help the dealership settle in quickly with local farmers. “This is a great site with easy access and it’s well located for customers right across the county,” she added.

Angus Doe agreed. “We have existing depots at Sutton-at-Hone, Dartford, at Ringmer near Lewes and at Albourne. This new site at Woodchurch completes that ‘square’, giving some existing customers shorter journeys while allowing us to reach many more potential new customers in this part of the world,” he said.

The journey has not been an easy one. Ernest Doe Power spent a considerable time searching for the right location and has been hampered in its refurbishment efforts by supply issues with cladding and other materials, but the bulk of the work was done in time for the open evening – and the result is impressive.

Branch and sales manager Steve Patfield, also well known locally after working for many years for another dealership, has overseen and contributed to the process, having been invited to join the team in August 2020, 14 months ahead of the building’s opening.

Steve is looking forward to introducing more of Kent’s farmers to the impressive Case IH range, from the mighty Quadtrac, with its low ground pressure and articulated steering, through to the Quantum range of fruit and vineyard tractors.

The range runs from 50 to 700hp and includes the US-built Magnum AFS Connect, which is bristling with state-of-the-art telematics and connective technology, and the Optum, Puma, Maxxum, Vestrum, Luxxum and Farmall ranges, all of which are built in Austria.

“Case IH offers an unbeatable range of high specification, supremely engineered tractors that benefit from an in-house power unit and an attention to detail that ensures both efficiency and reliability,” he said. “The top end models also boast an impressive new cab introduced this year.”

Along with telehandlers and balers, Case IH also manufactures a range of Axial-Flow combine harvesters, culminating in the 9250, that are renowned for their comparatively low running costs, thanks to the single rotor design and fewer moving parts, Steve said.

“A winter service for an Axial-Flow can cost just half, or even less than half, as much as for other leading combine brands,” he explained.

Another vital member of the team at Woodchurch is parts and assistant branch manager James Emery, another well-experienced professional whose role is to make sure visitors to the new depot can pick up the spares they need or arrange for them to be transferred from one of Ernest Doe’s 18 other dealerships across Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Sussex, Surrey and Hertfordshire.

“Nationally, Case IH stocks, on average, 94% of all the parts that customers could require,” said James. “If they aren’t here in Woodchurch and we receive the order by 6pm one day, we can have them shipped here and ready for collection by 8am the next.”

With Steve Patfield having overall responsibility for the branch, he is supported on the sales side by area sales manager Tom Wheatley, while parts supervisor Tim Walter has moved down from Doe Power’s Dartford office, bringing a detailed knowledge of the company’s systems with him.

The sixth member of the new team is technician Martin Watson, soon to be joined by additional workshop staff and supported in the meantime by existing service van technicians based at Dartford, Ringmer and Albourne.

While the ambitious and customer focused team members are essentially new, they are far from on their own in their mid-Kent outpost, with the hands-on Ernest Doe & Sons management team ready, willing and able to offer support and advice.

“We have a family business philosophy and a well-defined support structure that ensures help is only one phone call or email away,” commented Angus Doe. “We are excited about the future of this new branch, and we feel we have put together a great team – one which will grow over time – but it will have all the back-up that a business that employs around 530 people can offer.”

Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd was set up in 1898 in Maldon, Essex, when Angus’ great, great grandfather Ernest began life as an apprentice blacksmith. His apprenticeship papers are framed and still hang on the wall at the company’s current Essex headquarters.

The company took off when Ernest and his successors spotted a succession of opportunities, many of them related to the two world wars and the need to feed and arm the nation. It now has the franchise for Case IH equipment across the South East from The Wash down to Brighton.

As well as the impressive motive power at the heart of the dealership, the new depot at Woodchurch supplies and services equipment and machinery from a range of leading brands including Lemken, KRM, Shelbourne, Dal-Bo, Maschio, Marshall, SIP, Bednar and Spearhead.

“It’s taken a lot of work to create something special here in Woodchurch and we hope the local farming community will take the opportunity to drop in and see what we have to offer,” Steve concluded.

Photos: ©Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic