2020 winners follow-up: The Hodgson family

With multiple generations involved in a complex, diversified business, the Hodgson family was the worthy winner of last year’s Family Farming Business of the Year Award. As Ben Briggs finds out, they have used that family spirit to get through the toughest parts of the pandemic.

Despite last year’s British Farming Awards taking place online as a virtual event, members of the Hodgson family were better placed than most to raise a
glass to success.

With an established brewery as part of the diversified portfolio, winning the Family Farming Business of the Year Award represented hard-earned recognition for the multi-generational business.

For Matthew Hodgson, who runs the business alongside brother Jonathan, this particular victory was a special achievement.

He says: “Winning the Family Farming Business of the Year Award was great recognition of the hard work we have put in as a family over the years.

“There is a lot of plate-spinning going on and different enterprises being driven forward, so it was rewarding for us as a family.

“It was also very rewarding for our parents, who, being traditional farming people, were initially sceptical when we came to them with ideas for diversification, and rightly so.

However, awards like this make them proud about what we are doing.”


With Matthew and Jonathan’s wives involved in the business and the two men’s parents, Doreen and Laurence, still actively involved, as well as two of Matthew’s children working on-farm, it is certainly a family affair.

But the scale of the business means there is plenty for everyone to do.

Based 10 miles east of Hull, East Yorkshire, they grow more than 280 hectares (692 acres) of milling wheat, seed wheat, malting barley, seed barley, oilseed rape, vining peas for Birds Eye, spring oats, beans and linseed.

A high-welfare bed and breakfast pig enterprise also supplies a local abattoir.

In 2007, the family diversified and opened Great Newsome Brewery using the malting barley grown on-farm and sell throughout Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, as well as exported into Europe.

In 2016, they introduced shepherd’s huts into their portfolio and, in 2019, the family bought a log business from a neighbouring farmer and the purchase of a
new brew plant has doubled beer production capacity, which went live in January 2020.

The arable enterprise embraces conservation tillage principles and there is also a solar energy enterprise on-farm.

As Matthew says, there are plenty of plates to spin, but he believes the family unit tries to play to everyone’s strengths. He also says they strive to communicate as best as they can within the team; something which is not always easy on family farms, as he explains.

“Key for us is understanding we are better as a team than we are as lots of separate pieces.

“There are no written rules but we understand what each of our responsibilities are and we make sure we communicate. We might not be the best communicators, but we try and talk things through.


“We have carried through the farming practice of having that 9.30am chat every day. Okay, the kitchen table might now have been swapped for the office, but we try and communicate with one another.

“It is hard when you are starting new enterprises, but it is about giving the person who has come up with the idea the chance to give it a go. It is about knowing what people’s strengths are.”

And while each member of the team has their own strengths, they have also had to show collective strength over what has been a turbulent 12 months for everyone due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although farming has largely escaped the worst aspects of the crisis, with consumer-facing parts of their business, Matthew says the challenge was immense.

He says: “The pandemic was the biggest change we have every seen and was something you could never have planned for. However, we were never going to so sit back and do nothing; as farmers you are not wired like that.

“We did have to furlough some staff, but we have kept them all longer term and just got stuck in. We will emerge from it stronger, although I would not want to go through it again.”

With pubs shut for a lot of the last year, the brewery’s e-commerce presence was ratcheted up and has driven things forward.


Plans to expand the glamping business in 2020 were shelved at the peak of the pandemic. However, with the tourist economy starting to reopen, the plans for a new bell tent glamping site are being reinvigorated this month as the UK economy begins to emerge from its slumber.

And, slightly unexpectedly, the firewood side of the business has really expanded.

Matthew says: “People have been spending money on their homes and properties during the pandemic and installing log burners in the process.  That caused a spike in sales for us and new customers.

“The shepherd’s hut is also  booked up until mid-September and, with people holidaying in Britain, visiting this area and also heading to our brewery shop, it means there will be positives to emerge from the pandemic.”

With their business looking forward to a positive future, what advice and encouragement would Matthew give other farmers thinking of entering the British
Farming Awards in 2021?

He says: “As farmers we are often very modest and do not want people looking at our business. But it is time for a change and [farmers] should not be put off by thinking they do not have a chance of winning or being shortlisted.

“Something which you take for granted in your business might be something other people are amazed by or influenced by.

“It is about time we rewarded ourselves as an industry with a pat on the back. You should step up and put yourself forward and you will be amazed by the recognition you will get and the positive comments from other farmers.”

A word from the sponsor

Morrisons is one of the UK’s largest fresh food manufacturers serving about 12 million customers each week. Uniquely, we source and make most of the fresh
food we sell through our own manufacturing facilities.

This helps us maintain our commitment on only selling 100 per cent British across our fresh beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs and milk.

Because we make food ourselves, we have built up many long-term relationships with British farmers, making us British farming’s biggest direct supermarket customer.

We are long-term supporters of British farming and, this year more than ever, would like to thank and celebrate the work of British farmers and growers who
are helping us feed the nation. The effort, innovation and skills which go into providing food farmed to the high standards we all enjoy is something we should all be proud of.