Agricultural engineer remains at cutting edge

thisisoxfordshire: Agricultural engineer Graham Cherry in the workshop at his company’s base near Enstone Buy this photo » Agricultural engineer Graham Cherry in the workshop at his company’s base near Enstone

AS A teenager, Graham Cherry was already earning pocket money labouring on local farms and left school with a determination to work for himself.

He started Cherry Products at the age of 18 and has never looked back.

Now, on reaching his 50th birthday, he can look at just how much his youthful determination enabled him to achieve.

Cherry Products is a manufacturer and supplier of all types of farming equipment, with particular expertise in materials handling equipment, and also provides precision engineering for companies in other areas of industry, including Formula 1 motor-racing teams.

The company, which is based at Oathill, near Enstone, has 25 staff and serves customers across the UK and abroad.

Mr Cherry is himself still out on the road several times a week, continuing to broaden his client base — a role he enjoys.

The company also works for major manufacturers in the farm machinery sector such as New Holland and Claas.

Some items manufactured at Enstone are sold under these brand names as well as Cherry Products.

Looking back to his earliest working days, Mr Cherry remembers how he had his own lawn-mowing round as an 11-year-old and, coming from a farming background, was able to find work helping local farmers.

On leaving school he took a course in agricultural engineering at the then Banbury Technical College and began his full-time working life with a local agricultural contractor.

“I had always had an interest in design and that’s where I first had the ideas for developing projects. I asked if I could make gates, to show what I could do,” he said.

“If something was broken, I would try to mend it, but then I thought that it would be better to build a new – and improved – one, rather than to repair it.

“Many people locally were very supportive. I did a lot of work for one or two of the bigger farms and large estates and they still support me now.”

In 1980 he founded Cherry Products at nearby Sandford St Martin. The company's agricultural trailers, a familiar sight on local roads at harvest time, were one of the early lines.

“It was the introduction of telescopic handlers that enabled the business to make more rapid progress,” Mr Cherry said. “We made attachments to suit the needs of our own customers and I worked on a series of designs.”

Innovation at Cherry Products continues to be the key.

“We are trying to develop new designs all the time,” said Mr Cherry. “You have to keep moving forwards. As soon as you market a new idea someone else makes it too.

“Over the years it has happened that way frequently. These aren’t necessarily always new concepts, just developed with the aim of making something better than everybody else does. There are one or two new ideas that we are working on at present.”

Mr Cherry holds his staff in high regard.

“I am well supported by a fantastic team of people,” he said. “I have always believed that if somebody is better at a particular job than you are, you should hand it to them and leave them to get on with it.”

Among this loyal team is Pete Parsons, who joined Mr Cherry at the very start of the business.

With production at Enstone in safe hands, Mr Cherry travels many miles each week visiting dealers and other customers throughout the UK.

The company has particularly strong sales in the north, including Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, as well as Scotland.

While the workshops at Enstone are always busy, there are also times when they are particularly so – in line with the seasons and the farming year.

“The build-up period to particular seasons can be incredibly busy,” said Mr Cherry. “In May, June and July all the farmers are preparing their equipment in readiness for getting in the harvest. When they’re getting busy, so are we.”

Another busy time is spring, when crops are about to be sown. Seasonal weather can also have an effect on business, with variations in the type of equipment needed.

Even in these difficult economic times, Mr Cherry is able to say the business is growing.

“Business may be tighter nowadays but we still stick at it,” he said.

He likes to emphasise how much he and the company owe to other people.

“Without the huge support of my family and friends over many years, I could not have achieved what I have,” he said. “And I value my staff, in every department, very highly indeed.”

The aims of the company are the same as they were when Mr Cherry set up in business in 1980 — to produce the highest quality equipment on the market at the right price.

“Our business is centred on catering for the needs of farmers,” said Mr Cherry.

“We do not build down to a price but commit ourselves to keep the design simple and over-engineer our products for longer life and less down-time.”

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