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Meet the student who has used crowdfunding to start his own farm

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A campaign that started out on Hubbub has led student Jack Stilwell into a future leading his own 600 acre farm.

And whilst the majority of students might spend their final months at university endlessly rehashing their CVs, squeezing in work experience placements and worrying about whether they’ll get a job afterwards, Jack is now preparing to lead his own herd of 200 Hereford and Angus cattle to market.

Jack, who studies at Harper Adams University, was fully aware that crowdfunding for his future farm might not work out – but he wasn’t going to let that put him off.

He says: “I started this knowing that it might fail, but you can’t succeed if you don’t try. 

“It hasn’t been easy – I have had people call me all sorts, accusing me of being a ‘sponger’ and worse, but I expected that. I have been open and transparent throughout– I desperately want to get started in a career I am passionate about.”

After raising £300 through his Hubbub page (“Get Jack Farming”) in order to fund his land lease and the buying of his cattle, he was brought to the attention of “an individual from the US” who had read about his project in Country Life magazine – and as a consequence decided to fund the entire £4,000 required from his own pocket.

The generous stranger was moved to donate the money, Jack says, because he had taken over a farm, with no previous farming experience, and was also trying to get the enterprise up and running.

Jack adds: “In return he has asked that I share my experiences with him and that if I am successful, I help someone else in the same position in the future – he said he was given a helping hand in business in the past so this is his way of paying it forward.” 

This apparent chain of goodwill caught the media’s attention, which in turn also led Jack into a ‘share-farming’ agreement with a farmer in West Sussex that will give him 600 acres to farm from next year, as well as “interest from a London venture capitalist, who believes in the idea and is looking to invest in the business as a result.”

Jack, from Chichester in Hampshire, also plays rugby for the Harper Adams first team and still has to complete his final year of study in rural property management before he can get farming full time.

We might wonder how he has the time – alongside the rugby and study and farm planning, he’s also used his own money to invest in Hereford, Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn crosses, and has sold his aged beef at Salisbury market whilst raising his herd on the 20 acres currently owned by his family.

He says thatthe outcomes of his campaign “have been so much better than I expected” – and adds that his crowdfunding was simply in the hope of getting him into an industry that he “desperately” wants to be involved in.

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