Very Berry Farm
Barclays sows the seeds for a fruitful business
Follow Lidija Newton's journey from fashionista to berry connoisseur with the help of the Agricultural Specialist and Regional Lending Team.
Lidija Newton’s career move is unlike many. For 15 years Lidija sold high couture fashion for labels such as Alexander McQueen. Today, instead of browsing the rails of the next season's collection, Lidija can be found tending her 7,000 raspberry bushes and 2,000 blueberry bushes at her soft fruit farm in Ninfield, East Sussex – Very Berry Farm.
'I've wanted my own patch of land since I was a little girl,' she says. 'We lived in a little concrete town in Croatia with a paved back yard. In summer I was sent to stay with my auntie in the country and I loved it. As an adult I lived in Hampstead with my little Alaskan puppy, which grew into a 60kg dog. He needed more space – and so did I. So I began my search for a place in the country.
'I wanted a small holding to keep chickens. During my search I rented a house on a raspberry farm for 2 years. My landlord said if you keep chickens you'll always have to feed them – you'll never have a day off – but with raspberries you can have Christmas off. I thought he had a point. So I started watching and learning from him.'
Barclays helps grow Very Berry
'When the 17 acres at Ninfield came up I went to my Barclays branch to ask about a mortgage, and they put me in touch with David Pilling, one of their Barclays Agricultural Managers. They knew that I wasn't just looking for a mortgage – I was looking to build a farm and realise my dreams.'
David was impressed with Lidija from the start, even though she had no previous agricultural experience and was starting from scratch. But she was different. She had passion, a spark – David knew she would succeed.
Reaping the rewards
David explains, 'She'd done her homework and had a strong business plan. The numbers were worked out and she projected how long it would take before she was profitable. She asked for a Barclays Business loan to buy the land, and set up 1 acre of polytunnels. She had a good deposit of her own money to put down and the tenacity to make it happen. We then supported her with the additional £130,000 she needed.'
It's a decision that Lidija is grateful for. 'If David and Barclays hadn't agreed to the loan I wouldn't have my farm – that’s the bottom line. He’s how a business banker should be. David helps people who are serious about going into business actualise their goals. I still call him for advice, to bounce ideas of him or as just a shoulder to cry on. He’s even spent a day on the farm with me, fencing and clearing brambles. Together we cleared a pond which turned out to be a spring that now irrigates all of the crops. My business loan from Barclays means that I can say "I am a farmer", 'smiles Lidija. 'For me fashion is so last year.'
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