STUCK behind a dreary desk in an office, Matthew Loveday dreamed of the day he could work outside and be his own boss.

Given a patch of land in Little Wittenham and a handful of seeds, three years later that wish has become a reality.

And his business The Little Salad Company is one of the growing stars of the Oxfordshire agricultural community, heralded by Defra at the Oxford Farming Conference this week.

The 30-year-old works his hectare patch of land at the Earth Trust Farm in Little Wittenham each day with wife and business partner Kirstin.

It is leased to him by The Earth Trust, the charity which runs the Wittenham Clumps nature reserve and surrounding farmland.

He said: “I’d thought about food growing projects but never got off the ground.

“Then one day I came across the Earth Trust while I was out looking for a wedding location.

“They run a scheme for people who don’t have an agricultural background.

“They help with start up costs and give you a small bit of land to get going.

“It’s perfect for people who couldn’t mass produce their products. Ours is hand picked, so we use no machinery at all.

“We’ve been going almost three years now and it has been a dream come true. I was stuck behind a desk and now I’m out in the fields all day.

“We’re not the only ones on the land, other people have pigs, lambs and bees. There is a lot of green land out there in Oxfordshire and room for businesses of all shapes and sizes.”

One of the UK’s most significant annual agricultural events, the Oxford Farming Conference draws on big names in agriculture, politics, campaigning and the environment to debate and discuss the impact of cultivation.

Every January for more than 50 years the city has been host to the event, which sets the agricultural agenda for farming policy in the coming year.

The conference at the Oxford University Examination Schools, which ends today, also included a political debate, a session on technology and innovation, and one on inspiration and global technology.