Charlie Gardner and William Burrett are running a successful company on a Hampshire farm using rapeseed from the surrounding fields to produce top quality oil for consumers.
Neither of them came from a farming background: Charlie’s father used to be a partner in PwC, the accountancy firm, and Will’s father was a British Airways captain flying Boeing 747 jets round the world.
They do have strong farming links, though: Charlie’s father’s best friend is Richard Calver in Somerset, the farmer behind Westcombe cheddar with his son, Tom. “It seemed as though we were going down there every five minutes when I was young,” Charlie remembered. He enjoyed going to the milking parlour and riding a quad bike round the farm.
The farming bug continued, and in his gap year Charlie went to Australia and worked on a 12,000 acre farm which mainly produced hay and arable crops. “That was my first real encounter with rape seed,” Charlie remembered. “They call it canola over there, and I asked myself what the strange plant was – because here, of course, we call it oilseed rape.”
Charlie and Will, his partner at The Cold Pressed Oil Company, went to nursery school together. “Will is one month older than I am and we have known each other for 32 years.” They went to the same prep school and then on to Stowe, which Charlie described as “quite an agricultural and outdoor school.” There were many farmers’ sons there, so Will and Charlie were always going to friends’ houses on farms.
Tom Copas junior from the famous turkey farming family was at school with Charlie and Will and went to university with Charlie, where he was a flat mate in the second year. Charlie went to the University of the West of England in Bristol where he did an engineering degree, concentrating on product design and innovation. Will did a property degree at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. “We played them at rugby,” said Charlie. “Bristol usually won.”
After university, Charlie worked in Bristol for Lloyds TSB in group property management. But the Lloyds merger with HBOS created uncertainty about jobs, and Charlie moved to the events industry so that he could be outdoors more of the time. He continued with the events work while starting The Cold Pressed Oil Company and only gave it up three years ago.
Meanwhile, Will had been in London training to become an estate agent, but he had also done a cookery course and worked as a chalet boy in Verbier, Switzerland. “By that time, he had done the cooking side and I had done the engineering – both of which would prove useful when we were running The Cold Pressed Oil Company.”
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