Farm of the Week: Meet the rock-loving farmer who hosts concerts and music nights in his Yorkshire barn
Peter Fall has farmed at Grazing Nook Farm in Patrick Brompton near Bedale all his life and he and his wife Barbara have been to see the band, led by original lead singer Ian Anderson, thirty times since first seeing them in the 1982.
“We’re both music fans,” says Peter, who always dons his red satin suit for The Barn That Rocks and wore it at the awards.
“We have been to about 250 music concerts and this December we are going to York Minster where Jethro Tull will be playing, but it was Barbara who came up with the idea that we should put on our own concerts here at the farm.
“It was 2011 and we were at a funeral. I don’t want to be morbid, but you know how it goes, you meet up with people you haven’t seen for years. All you want to do is catch up, and you talk as if you were only in their company the day before and always say ‘call in when you’re passing’ and no-one ever does. So, Barbara said let’s do a concert. That way we will see everyone.
“We started doing it for charity that same year, just a small one, and we raised £3800 for the Great North Air Ambulance. I was allowed 499 people on that licence and we sold out. People said this is fabulous.
Twelve years on and eleven concerts later The Barn That Rocks now attracts 800, a figure Peter says he will not go over.
“We put on four bands, for an hour and a half each. Doors open at 5pm. The music starts at 6pm to 1am. The limit of 800 is sensible for licencing, insurance and safety concerns, bar staff and food. The tickets sold out in eight days this year. I’ve had a waiting list into the hundreds for the last four years.
Peter is an arable farmer, growing wheat, barley and oats with his son Andrew and the concert takes place in his grain store. It’s a family partnership between Peter, Barbara and Andrew with all decisions, Peter is keen to point out, made collectively. The Barn That Rocks is dealt with just the same with all the family involved, including daughter Lauren and her partner Shaun.
“There’s a lot of work goes into putting it on,” says Peter. “It takes a month beforehand. All the grain is sold and gone before we start. We then clinically clean everything and only then do we put all the drapes up and transform the barn into a venue. It all comes down a lot quicker than it goes up.
“I never take anything for granted, because you never know what’s around the next corner, but we receive tremendous support from everyone.
Peter’s words have never been more true than those, as he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer just a few weeks before the Yorkshire Post Rural Awards were to take place, but he’s prepared for the fight, as he has been on the farm in the past.
“We were a mixed farm until April 2001 when we unfortunately lost all our stock in one fell swoop and then couldn’t get back in as the price to replace had gone through the roof.
“It was an awful, terrible time, except that our youngest daughter Lauren had just been born and was six weeks old. Having Lauren here helped us through, but we lost about 400 ewes that had all just lambed. We’d sat up all night to be with them and keep them safe, hours spent mothering and helping them, including the pet lambs, and they all had to go. We also lost about 120 beef cattle that we’d had a year or more and were all ready to go for beef.
“Worst of all, we had a small herd of sucklers, which we’d bucket reared from calves and knew all of them by name. They all had to go. It was devastating.
“We got all cleaned out. It was a long job because the main road runs through middle of the farm and they (Defra) wouldn’t let us bring produce from one side of road to the other to dispose of it. We had a bit of a stand off. In the end we got a licence for one day.
“The trouble for us was that our animals were all commercial and when I went to try and re-stock I couldn’t live with the prices. We’d only got about £550 a head for our prime beef and the stock that we used to buy at 19 months old were then making £850, so we were out and we’ve been out ever since.
Peter is never one to feel down for too long, even though he has a tough road to travel at the moment given his health concerns. He tells of how he and his brother John, who passed away in 2019, restructured the farm as a predominantly arable concern.
“We let the grass out to local farmers on the low side of the main road, and we concentrated our arable farming on the high side. The farm runs to 234 acres and with Andrew now farming alongside myself and Barbara we have 150 acres of arable cropping.
“This year’s harvest saw us growing 60 acres of winter feed barley, 35 acres winter biscuit wheat, 30 acres porridge oats, and 25 acres spring malting barley.
“We’ve always been very conservation minded and have wildflower margins around all the arable fields and we are also lucky enough to own two species rich, historic wildflower meadows.
Peter says the award, which was the evening’s Surprise Award at the Rural Awards 2023 held at Pavilions of Harrogate, was just the tonic he needed given his current situation.
“I was ecstatic. The joy and the boost it gave me. I think the video that is now on The Barn That Rocks Facebook page describes it all, because it was so natural, so perfect for me, my feelings at the moment and my family’s feelings. We don’t want stress.
“Barbara and I were lucky enough to be at Buckingham Palace in May for services to the local community, now we are able to shout that The Barn That Rocks has won something.
“I’ve had four scans and a biopsy. I think we’re getting to the crux of the matter. I was diagnosed with the most aggressive prostate cancer level which has slightly spread but not too badly. I’m off to James Cook Hospital this week to find out exactly where it is, then it’s radiotherapy or chemo.
“But the date I’m looking forward to most is 1 June. The Barn That Rocks 2024. I’ll be there!