The Burden family originated from Devon, Wallace (known as Wally) left the family farm and worked on several farms throughout the south of England. When Wally became Farm Manager of a farm in Sussex the opportunity arose for Wally and his wife Francis to purchase Friningham Farm at Detling, Kent in 1957. Wally, Francis and their children Peter, Paul and Peggy all worked on the farm.
In 1968 Peter and Paul purchased Old Rides Farm a 560 acre arable farm on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. Peter, his wife Mavis and his young family moved to Old Rides in the early 1970s and lived in one of the Old Rides Farm Cottages until the new farmhouse was built and completed in 1985.
When Peter’s eldest son John left school he made a proposal to his father to allow him to use a few machines from his used machinery stock in order to offer contracting services. Peter, needing convincing at first, allowed John to pursue this opportunity, and as a result Burden Bros Contractors was born. Guy and Dale joined John in providing contracting services as well as working on the farm. Peter had a strong ethos for empowering his sons to make decisions, he believed that they would learn by making good decisions and also the challenges created by making others. This ethos still lives on in the business today through encouraging members of the team to be innovative and to make their own decisions.
In the early 90s, Peter and family continued to farm Old Rides and further establish his renowned used agricultural machinery and breaking enterprise, with Paul continuing to farm at Friningham focusing on mixed farming. Burden Bros, formerly Peter and Paul, then became the trading name for Peter’s sons’ John, Guy, Dale and Alex.
In 1992 the opportunity arose to contract farm Harty Farms which neighbours Old Rides, this saw the farming operation exceed 3000 acres. Machinery was drafted in from the used stock in order to start farming the Harty Estate. The farm needed more machinery and therefore invested in several new machines, with the idea that the assets could generate revenue for the farm all year round, should they be used by the contracting business. This widened the portfolio of services that Contractors could offer and with the purchase of a forage harvester they were able to better utilise the fleet of tractors and trailers. Soon after, Contractors had established a reliable customer base.
1995 saw Burden Bros purchase two of the Harty Farms, a third was sold to E.J. Mackelden & Sons Ltd., which is contract farmed by Burden Bros today.
By 1997 all four of the brothers were all working within the businesses. From an early age Guy had an interest in used machinery, therefore joined his father in growing the machinery business. Burden Bros Machinery ships machinery and parts all around the world.
In 2000 Burden Bros diversified and purchased the Ferry House Inn, a 16th Century Inn adjoining the farms at Harty, the family could visualise the potential of the property and therefore Alex and Mrs Burden set to work transforming the Inn into a family friendly pub and restaurant. The Ferry House is now run by Alex and his wife Victoria and has won many coveted titles including the Taste of Kent Awards, Dining Pub of the Year.
2002 saw the start of the beef enterprise at Old Rides Farm, initially rearing in excess of 600 dairy-cross bull calves. The decision was made in 2004 to focus on producing higher quality beef and subsequently a South Devon suckler herd was introduced to the farm. This breed was chosen for its familiarity and historical importance to the family. Today the farm has 2,000 head of cattle which includes a breeding herd of 700.
In order to expand the herd, infrastructure works needed to be made on the farm such as silage clamps, new livestock pens and the installation of a Temple Grandin designed Livestock Handling System. All works on the farm were completed by the contracting team. When local farmers saw the results of the works carried out on the farm, Burden Bros Contractors started providing construction services to local farms. In 2013 Burden Bros Construction was formed.
In 2007 Burden Bros was awarded an area of responsibility to sell and service John Deere agricultural machinery, and built their first dealership at Stockbury, Kent. Headed by Dale, Burden Bros Agri started trading in March 2007 with six members of staff and by 2009 it had opened its second branch in Framfield, East Sussex. In 2015 the business expanded further by being awarded the East Kent area of responsibility, which then saw the opening of its third branch in Ivychurch. In 2016 Burden Bros Agri had the opportunity to expand the business further by acquiring the John Deere Turf franchise for the area. Burden Bros Agri now employs 95 members of staff and has been named Swale Business Awards’ Employer of the Year and Sittingbourne Business of the Year.