In 1961 when Chubby Checker was riding high in the charts with Let’s Twist Again and then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was telling the country we’d never had it so good, a 16 year old Geoff Brown started his first job as an apprentice with car and agricultural machinery dealers Glovers of Ripon.
Today, 60 years on, Geoff is Managing Director of agricultural machinery specialists Ripon Farm Services and one of the most famous and most respected figures in the farming sector in North Yorkshire.
Looking back on his 60 years, Geoff said: “I’ve seen many changes, both in the world in general and in farming in particular, but the values that I’ve followed throughout my career – hard work and an unwavering commitment to the very best customer service – have remained the same.
"Many of our customers are also long-standing friends.
“This gives me tremendous pleasure, but I would stress that the success of Ripon Farm Services is down to the loyal and committed staff we have employed over the years. They have been the bedrock of this company and their dedication and expertise is second to none.”
Geoff’s journey from young apprentice at Glovers to managing Director of Ripon Farm Services really began in the mid-1960s, when Glovers were taken over by motor and agricultural dealers the Appleyard group.
When Appleyards took on one of the very first John Deere dealerships in the UK, Geoff was promoted to the John Deere demonstrator for the company.
Today Ripon Farm Services are one of the UK’s largest John Deere dealers with 11 depots and groundscare machinery departments as well as three Ifor Williams trailer dealerships and a newly opened vehicle Paint and Body facility.
In 1982 Appleyards were selling their agricultural machinery division, prompting Geoff to found his own agricultural machinery business Ripon Farm Services that October with local businessmen the late Maurice Hymas and late Bill Houseman along with two other directors at Borage Lane in Ripon. They took on both the John Deere and Land Rover franchises and in their first year, with only 19 staff, they doubled their initial business plan target.
Geoff recalled: “The 1980s and the 1990s were successful decades for business and for agriculture, the company flourished prompting a move to premises on Dallamires Lane Ripon.
"Our relationship with John Deere went from strength to strength and we took over a number of dealerships including Smith Brothers at Crosshills near Keighley, and E A Clayton Ltd at Carlton near Stockton-on-Tees.”
“We have continued to expand, purchasing RBM Agricultural Ltd and their five branches at Market Weighton, Malton, Retford, Brigg and Louth in 2019. We are opening a new depot in Malton very shortly,” he said.
“We also intensified our focus on agricultural machinery by selling our Land Rover dealership in 2016.”
Along the way Geoff has also been honoured for his work. In 2019, at the Great Yorkshire Show, he was presented with a Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) award for outstanding contribution to agriculture. And, in the previous year, he was named Employer of the Year in Stray FM’s Local Hero awards.
This year Ripon Farm Services hit the headlines by launching the largest combine harvester in the world at the Great Yorkshire Show. The John Deere X9 1100 state of the art machine took pride of place at the Ripon Farm Services stand at the showground.
Geoff commented: “The Great Yorkshire show is one of the highlights of our year and launching the largest combine harvester this year was very special. So too has been meeting Prince Charles at the show over the years, who has a keen interest in farming and rural life.
“Another highlight is our own two-day January show, which will be on January 19 and 20 next year, where will be previewing the new John Deere 6R tractors along with a wide range of machinery from many of our suppliers at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate.”