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The English Apple Man


15th Dec 2023 - The English Apple Man pays tribute to a doyen of the Fruit & Cobnut industry and visits a pre Christmas machinery event.

The English Apple Man Journals......



My regular readers will have read my last two Journal editions totally focussed on Richard Dain and his remarkable Cobnut, Walnut and Piano business.


Well, just 2 miles as the crow flies, in the valley below, lies Roughway Farm where the Cannon Family have been growing Cobnuts and Fruit for over 50 years. The cobnut, which is a type of hazelnut, has been grown in Kent since the 1600s - and three generations of Cannons have won multiple awards for their crops. They cultivate 52 different varieties in orchards - known as plats - where some of the trees are 150 years old and still producing the nuts.


The death of John Cannon on 19th November meant the loss of a 'doyen' of the Fruit & Cobnut world


My personal memory of John was of a Gentleman; always charming and accommodating. I remember back in the early 1983 attending The National Farmers Union Annual Conference in London. As the Chairman of our small Hawkhurst and Sandhurst NFU Branch, who in rotation with other small branches, were eligible for an invitation that year, I set off for the annual opportunity for farmers across the country to vent their frustrations on Government representatives. That year the Welsh famers were in 'rebellious mood' and Minister of Agriculture Michael Jopling (now 93 year old Lord Jopling) was in the line of fire!


In the evening at the black tie Dinner, John as one of the senior NFU representatives on our table was very welcoming to this inexperienced young branch Chairman.


Over many years I have visited John and his son Giles at Roughway Farm walking apple orchards and Cobnut Plats.


John always looked totally at ease, wether in Black Tie and Dinner Jacket or in a Barbour on the farm!



JOHN IRELAND BLACKBURNE CANNON 20.3.31-19.11.23. His Farming story



John was born in rural Tasmania in 1931 to Sam and Joan Cannon, 1 of 4 children. He grew up on the family farm at Gunns plains outside Launceston.


A momentous decision to emigrate to England was made after the war, when his mother inherited the Oxenhoath estate, near Hadlow in Kent.


He soon left school and was in the thick of it helping out at Park farm on the dairy, beef and arable.


Following his mother's untimely death in 1950 The estate was sold and John briefly farmed in partnership with his brother David at Old Soar, Plaxtol before buying Halebank Orchards nearby to farm on his own account but also assisting his father running Goose Green Farm near Hadlow.


Halebank orchards was planted up with Cox, Laxton Superb and Fortune, Worcester and Beauty of Bath mostly on M2 initially cultivated but later gang mowed on a square pattern at a generous 24-foot square plant.



Marriage to Rosemary and 3 children followed and in 1972 neighbouring Roughway farm was purchased. He was to live here until this year. Roughway farm was a hop enterprise at the time but adjacent was a small area of Kent Cobnuts.


This was to become significant later. The 1970's and early 80's were a good time for hops at Roughway. Guaranteed forward contracts as long as the right varieties were grown and wilt avoided. He won many awards and accolades for Roughway and Goose Green hops.


During this period, he was able to develop off farm interests, becoming involved with the NFU in particular, being one of the last elected County chairmen in 1984 and serving on central council.


He was a long-standing director of apple storage cooperative AGA in Horsmonden and later Chairman. Also, director of Topfruit Ltd and after a merger, fruit marketing coop SGT. The environment was important to him, before it was as fashionable as today, assisting with early FWAG - Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group and CPRE - The Campaign to Protect Rural England committees.








In the late 1980's a European Community ruling on moisture levels in fresh nuts would have spelled the end of Kent Cobnuts. All nuts would have to be dried in future potentially. Someone would have to do something and that someone was John Cannon.


With backing from the NFU and a marketing agent the ruling was overturned and the industry saved. In 1990 a cobnut marketing group was created with the aim of breaking into UK supermarket supply. At least 5 different retailers did start to stock nuts.


However, this number has since contracted as nut growers have tended to sell direct or convert nuts into value added products. The group was renamed the Kentish Cobnuts Association and today acts as a hub to promote the industry in every way. John was chairman for many years and more latterly life president or chief 'nutter'.


Below: left. John Cannon visits a Cobnut Plat in winter and right. Chairing a Cobnut Meeting in his Barn at Roughway



During the 1990's John gradually stepped back from day-to-day farming and other roles but was always on hand to act as a sounding board and point out jobs that had been missed! When difficult decisions had to be made, for example, exiting hop growing, grubbing old orchards or developing new crops, once convinced of their validity, he would support the decision. He would not recriminate over mistakes made by the next generation either, and there would be plenty of those. There was a understanding that the industry was changing and therefore the old ways had to change as well -with the possible exception of mowing the orchards every week!


Sadly, many of his farming contempories have already passed away. That he had so many friends in the industry is testament to his character. Modest and non-judgemental he was rarely critical of others. The Australian upbringing taught self-reliance, practical skills, and an aversion to complaining while giving others a 'fair go.'


Outside of farming John was a keen squash player, expert clay pigeon shot and TA soldier. In later years he enjoyed his golf and was active in local societies and did terms as Parish Council Chairman.


John is survived by 3 children and 7 grandchildren.





Yesterday, Thursday 14th December, The English Apple Man attended a very enjoyable Pre-Christmas Open Day at KIRKLAND UK near Maidstone in Kent


Below: Hollie entertains!


This annual event is a great day out for growers and their farm staff who can enjoy the generous hospitality provided by Scott Worsley, his wife Jenny and the Kirkland team. Plenty of refreshments and tasty burgers and chips, cakes and entertainment from Hollie who doubles up as company Administrator and Singing Superstar!


Below: Antonio Carraro Mach 4 R Quadtrack



Antonio Carraro Mach 4 R Quadtrack


Featuring the impressive Antonio Carraro MACH 4R. The ultimate in traction and weight distribution, this model barely marks the ground even in very wet conditions thanks to its four independent rubber tracks and it will go just about anywhere! Designed for use in extreme conditions where other tractors cannot operate: steep gradients (including side slopes) and tough terrain.


On mud, snow, and even rain-soaked ground, the MACH 4 tracked tractor works with minimum ground compaction. Whatever the weather, you can keep on working, even in conditions that would halt a conventional wheeled tractor.


Built with an ACTIO full chassis with oscillation - the cast iron full chassis hosts the tractors transmission with a central articulated joint which allows a longitudinal oscillation up to 15 degrees; the two oscillating ends follow the contours of the terrain independently, thus assuring stability & traction at all times.


OLMI De-Leafer for Orchards


The Olmi de-leafer for Orchards ensures effective and targeted removal of the unnecessary leaves in orchards, without harming the fruit. Based on the 'Precision Air Stream Technology', it's also able to blow away possible hidden impurities ( nests, pests) reducing the discards during the fruit processing phase.


Below: left & right. OLMI De-Leafer for Orchards



Gregoire Grape Harvester GL7 Range


GL7.4 is a compact and versatile self-propelled harvester. This model is equipped with a Deutz 4 engine 156 HP delivering impressive power and optimized fuel efficiency even in the hardest conditions (Harvest, Spraying). GL7.4 is equipped with the largest cab on the market focusing on a large working space, wide screen surface, upgraded soundproofing, reinforced safety and driver ergonomics. GL7.4 tractor base can be equipped with front canopy management tools and multi-row sprayers.


Below: left. Gregoire Grape Harvester and right. a view of tractor with trailer in position for 'unloading grapes from harvester



Below: left. A collection of Carraro Tractors and right. Mowers and Cultivators



Multiplex Electric Harvester


This fully electric fruit harvesting machine has been designed and tested to speed up and facilitate harvesting. Using the same base as the Multiplex Platform, the system with belts is able to work optimally on slopes of up to 20%.


Manufactured in Italy, these impressive harvesters are built with a unique levelling system, providing extra stability on steep slopes.


Benefits include:


-A lot of use with one charge of batteries: you can work up to 5 days with the platform (8h per day) and 3 days with the belts before recharging


-With the automatic unloading of bins with belts for harvesting you can unload a full bin and load the empty one in LESS than 30 seconds


-Increased productivity and reduced labour costs.


Below: Left to Right: Tom Wheatley Fruit & Vineyard Manager - Ben Devine Sales Manager and Scott Worsley Senior Partner in front of The Multiplex Platform Harvester



"Chatting to Scott Worsley, I asked about the trials carried out in November on late harvested apples. Scott told me that there were several clear advantages resulting from the trials; 1. 'So quiet, less stressful 2. Much better on soft ground - the independent four wheel drive did not sink into the ground 3. Fuel saving. 4. Harvester unit can be detached and platform for pruning/tying/thinning etc added. circa £10,000. 5. When seeking matched funding grants from PO's sustainability of unit appeals to decision makers RPA Rural Payments Agency


That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man