Three great young farmers recognised

Alastair Hunter Blair, who farms in Herefordshire, James Griffin, who farms in Worcestershire and Jack Stilwell, farming in Hampshire were judged worthy winners of the Young Farmer of the Year award.

The judges applauded them for their fantastic entrepreneurial spirit. The winners are three very different young farmers whom the judges felt showed the drive, business acumen and determination that will be needed from the next generation of UK farmers to lead the way forward with vision, and innovation at heart.

A second generation farmer Alastair Hunter Blair took succession of tenancy from his father in 2012.

Heavily involved in technology a huge advocate of precision farming and the cost savings the business has made. Alastair has helped introduce RTK guidance, automatic shut off/on sprayer and variable rate nutrient mapping on the farm. He cites ‘flexibility’ as one of the most vital skills you need to be successful. He says he is lucky too that his father shares his passion for technology and ideas.

For the last couple of years, he was also involved in the Channel 4 series First Time Farmers which an average of 1.5 million people tuned in to watch.

James Griffin is a 7th generation farmer on a traditional, family run mixed farm focused on producing premium quality, sustainably reared meat from mainly UK native breeds.

Due to the commercial realities of keeping a small family farm going, James, reluctantly, had to leave school at 16 to begin mastering the art of meat farming and take over from his father who needed to take a step back on health grounds. From that moment he has dedicated himself to the development of the farm; it has been a hard journey with many ups and downs he said, but, with his establishment of the constantly improving farm shop in 2007 and commitment to honour the hard-working, quality orientated principles of his father in running the farm itself, James has turned Elm Farm into an exemplar of the kind of artisan quality of produce a small family farm delivers.

Jack Stilwell worked on a 2000 acre arable farm for 18 months prior to University, and then a placement year with the Duke of Buccleuch estates, where he said he “fell in love with the Beef shorthorn.”

He prizes good business acumen, taking inspiration from the wider business and entrepreneurial world as essential. Crowd-funding to kick start his farming career has been a real success. Jack says “the sky is the limit now”, “I will continue to take every opportunity that comes my way.” The business has grown from six Hereford crosses, on 20acres, to 150 and counting Hereford and Angus stores in a little over a year. He has started his own pedigree Hereford herd plus additional stocking for 600 acres of share farming.

He explains crowd-funding. “You pitch an idea online on a crowd-funding platform, stating what you are trying to fund and how much you would like, and if people like it, then they support you through donating whatever they feel they can or want to. “

“Naturally, this was a pretty controversial approach and I received a lot of negativity from a lot of peoplem,” he says. “However, I’ve got a pretty thick skin and I persisted, eventually achieving my financial target and even exceeded it as time went on. This then allowed me to buy more livestock, as the business wasn’t growing fast enough at its current rate. I then had a much stronger asset base, allowing me to approach the bank and discuss financing options for a business loan, something I simply couldn’t have done prior to the crowd-funding campaign, as I didn’t have enough assets to borrow against. “

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