A day on the farm with Oxbury customer, Oliver Surman of Surman Farms

Oliver Surman is a busy man.

His Worcestershire farm hosts an annual music festival, a camp site, a triathlon, a pub and an organic food business.

But before all those enterprises he is, he says, first and foremost a farmer.

“I don’t get out of bed every morning and rush to my computer to check my emails,” he says. “The first thing I do is put on my boots and overalls and go outside to check the livestock.

“People do ask me how I would describe myself and I always say, ‘I’m a farmer.’ I’m incredibly lucky to have the lifestyle that I do.”

At its heart, the Surman farm, which goes back four generations, is an organic mixed beef, arable and poultry farm. But Oliver’s head for business has seen a huge diversification of enterprises.

In fact, one of the distinguishing features when you arrive at the farm is the smell. Rather than cattle or fertiliser, you are hit with the delicious waft of whatever is cooking in the on -site organic food business – one day it will be fish pie. The next, lasagne. Another day it will be their home-made chicken stock. Or, if you are lucky enough to visit just before Christmas, you will be hit with an intoxicating aroma of cranberry sauce.

“Pegoty Hedge is an organic food manufacturing business which we started 15 or 20 years ago,” explains Oliver.

“It’s a way to add value to our produce and add value to the things we were doing,” he says. “Everything is made from scratch. So, if we’re making a cottage pie with beef stock, we’ll have spent 24 hours making the beef stock.

“But it couldn’t happen without the farm. The farm gives the back story and the provenance and the credibility, because when we show people around the food business, we say, ‘Well, this is where the beef comes from.’

“And it’s the same for the other businesses and events. The triathlon, for example, where people will swim down the river and run around the farm. And the music festival and campsite where people are able to enjoy these beautiful surroundings.”

The latest project on the Surman family farm is the construction of five new houses, built using finance secured from Oxbury. The project has kick-started a relationship that Oliver says is unlike anything he experienced with previous finance providers.

“The relationship is the key thing,” says Oliver. “Just to be able to speak to someone who knows you and who understands what you are trying to do. They understand that, sometimes in farming, payback can take a little bit longer.

“They are enthusiastic, they are understanding and they are approachable. They have an empathy for what we're trying to achieve.

“And I think that's the key thing – they know where we want to get to, and they are enabling us to get there.”

Oliver’s head is brimming with ideas. The success of the building project is just the latest to take shape but there are many more at the planning stage, including the building of a six-lane, 1,000-metre rowing lake.

But as he takes the farm into the future, he is aware that he is simply building on the entrepreneurship of the four generations of farmers who have gone before him.

“My ancestors kept detailed diaries and we can see that we’re basically doing the same things that they were doing 120 years ago – albeit a bit differently.”

The farm hosted a point-to-point steeplechase for 125 years and the Surmans were known for their hospitality. The modern day music festival could be seen as today’s equivalent. And the Pegoty Hedge food business is mirrored in the small cottage industries which were on the farm producing cheese, butter and cider.

But it’s always – always – about the farm.

You can see that what they were doing was a bit slower and a bit more labour-intensive but it’s fundamentally about looking after the land and raising animals in the right way.”

To find out more about Oliver Surman of Surman Farms, click the link and watch our video!