Jack Stilwell wants to be a full-time farmer and is taking a novel approach to achieve that ambition.
Harper Adams student Jack is using the crowd-funding website hubbub.net to seek donations so he can expand his fledgling herd of beef cattle in his home county of Hampshire. He has seven head of mainly Hereford crosses alongside a few Angus and beef Shorthorn crosses and is looking to raise £4,000 to cover the rent for an additional 50 acres of pasture at £40/acre, to buy 10 calves at £150/head and for sundry and feed costs.
Unlike many crowd-funding initiatives, this promises no interest, repayment or stake in the business but simply seeks donations from people who want to support the project. Donors will get updates and will be able to visit the herd.
Jack, from Forestside, Hampshire, is about to start his fourth final year studying for a degree in rural property management, following a year at the Buccleuch Estates’ Bowhill Estate, Selkirk in the Scottish Borders.
His placement with the estate’s farm manager Sion Williams (Farmers Weekly Awards 2013 farm manager of the year finalist) and working alongside head stockman Douglas Rennie helped him to decide that what he really wanted to do was full-time farming. He also worked for Jonathan Bentall of Manor Farm, Chidham, West Sussex, for 18 months prior to starting at college and during his summer holidays. Mr Bentall’s support in the form of advice, support and machinery lending had been invaluable, said Jack.
“Over the past three years I have put every spare penny I have into getting my first few animals,” he said. “At present, I run a more extensive system producing stores, selling them through Salisbury market aged between 20 and 24 months, and have twice achieved top price of the day at market.”
He rears his cattle on a grass/silage-based system with minimal concentrate input and outdoors all year round. He keeps his animals on the family’s 20 acres of ground, as well as using grassland on a neighbouring farm, rearing some animals for the owner as payment for use of the pasture.
“If by some chance my target [on hubbub.net] is exceeded, then I can invest more into growing my beef herd, but similarly, if I fall short of my target, that’s OK, any additional funds or help would be greatly appreciated and a huge help,” he said.
“It is a relatively new concept, and I have not seen any other projects with an agricultural motivation such as mine.
Jack is also on twitter @getjackfarming. His hubbub page is https://hubbub.net/p/FarmerJack/