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Oliver Hudson has wanted to be a farmer since he was a teenager. Aged 18 and with no background in agriculture, he persuaded a dairy farmer in the Bedfordshire village where he grew up to teach him to milk a cow – and was instantly hooked.

After university, he bought 14 pedigree Shetland sheep and a sheepdog and began “a frantic period” of moving his sheep between the tiny fields he managed to beg and borrow. But this period of uncertainty came to an end when he approached Barclays to help make his dream of establishing an artisan cheese business into a reality.

“It was difficult getting off the ground because farming is very capital intensive to start farming on your own account,” he says. “I’d spoken with a different high street bank initially. They were fairly unhelpful. I was unable to speak to the same person more than once and I didn’t have an agricultural specialist. So I went into Barclays. They were incredibly helpful from the start.”

We’ve done a huge amount here. We’ve increased the value of the land from about £200,000 to over £1m.
Oliver Hudson , Wodehill Farm

Mel Alfieri, agricultural manager at Barclays, has worked with Oliver for eight years. “We looked at his business plan and his website, which was all really good, and from that we were able to support offering him finance for this business to grow.”

Funding growth

Oliver now runs Wodehill Farm in north Bedfordshire, and has moved from selling handmade cheese into farming native and traditional breeds of sheep, cattle and pig to produce grass fed lamb, beef and pork.

He says Barclays has been “instrumental” in the growth of his business, helping him turn “four empty fields” into a fully functioning smallholding that he is now hoping to sell.

Two years ago, the bank financed the building of a four-bedroom farmhouse for Oliver and his then-fiancé, Helen. “We started building literally a week before we got married, which was quite good fun!” he says.

There are now five buildings, a feed silo, fencing, a concrete yard, drainage, a new drive and obviously the farmhouse. “We’ve done a huge amount here. We’ve increased the value of the land from about £200,000 to over £1m.”

Describing Mel as “very supportive and very positive”, Oliver says building up Wodehill with the help of Barclays has given him and Helen the opportunity to climb what he calls the “farming ladder”.

“What we have here is wonderful but I’m not going to be able to fulfil my personal ambition to be a serious farmer on this farm, because it’s too small,” he says. “We now have the opportunity to move onto something more serious – and probably start all over again! It’s been a really important stepping stone for me.”
 

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