AMP grant winner cultivates Australia’s farmers of tomorrow

AMP Tomorrow Maker Sam Marwood and friends are matching retiring farmers with those wanting to work the land but lack the financial means.

Like many farm kids his age, AMP Tomorrow Maker Sam Marwood left the land to pursue a career in the big smoke. Dismayed to see so many young people unable to afford to move into farming, Sam set up Cultivate Farms with two friends who shared his vision to rejuvenate rural areas.

The social enterprise matches retiring farmers with people who are ready to work the land but lack the financial means, aiming to create a solution for both parties while benefiting local communities.

Sam shared with AMP News&insights how Cultivate Farms is helping to sow the seeds for a new generation of farmers.

What inspired you to start Cultivate Farms?

My parents said I wasn’t getting handed the farm, so I knew I’d never be a farmer.

At a very young age I intuitively knew that if I wasn’t going to inherit a farm then I’d never be able to afford one, so I stopped dreaming and put my mind to understand what else I could do with my life.

I became an environmental scientist and worked in environmental policy, but the farming dream always stuck with me.

It was 20 years later that I came up with the idea for Cultivate Farms with co-founders Tim and Tegan Hicks, who also had a farm-ownership dream that was stifled.

We decided to see if we could start a business that made it possible for anyone with a farming dream to own their own farm. We didn’t know what the answer was but knew it was an issue that thousands of people need solved. 

How many matches have you made so far? 

We have matched our first investor with an aspiring farmer and we are in the process of matching 20 retiring farmers with aspiring farmers from all over Australia.

Because we are dealing with farms there is a lot of emotion and history associated with them, so it does take a long time to get matches to happen. We focus on building relationships first, so that then people are comfortable transitioning ownership or selling.

Our model is that we connect an aspiring farmer with a retiring farmer or an investor to own and operate a farm together. There are many ways that this can unfold and are unique to the farm and the people involved.

What type of people are contacting Cultivate Farms?

We have spoken to nearly 1,000 aspiring farmers across Australia who all have unfulfilled dreams of owning their own farm. We are in discussions with more than 80 retiring farmers who are considering or are excited with the idea of transitioning their farm to kids that aren’t their own.

We are also investing in different options to locate investors who are keen on buying farms – so those with high net worths, and even equity crowdfunding… so for $2,500, anyone can now own part of a farm.

What’s been the reaction from the farming sector and rural communities?

Everyone gets what we’re trying to do. Intuitively, everyone knows that farms are expensive, and this is stopping young people from staying or returning to the bush. 

We know we’re in the ‘little red hen’ phase, where a lot of people are watching to see how we go before they believe what we are doing is possible and then participate. So, we’re working with as many people who get our vision and are willing to help as we can.

We know we have the solution. It’s now about proving it with some great case studies like our Freeland Pork farm in Central Victoria, which was a match with aspiring farmers and an investor.

What does the future look like for Cultivate Farms?

We want any eight-year-old with a vision to own a farm to know that through hard work and being clever, there is a pathway towards their goal.

We want to take kids who would go off to become a lawyer, accountant, artist or doctor and show them that it is possible to make money, do good and have an enjoyable life owning a farm and becoming a farmer.

We hope to have thousands of farms matched in the next 20 years, which will have brought thousands of young people back into rural communities, filling local footy and netball teams, and local schools with bright and passionate kids.

The AMP Tomorrow Fund program

Sam Marwood received a 2017 AMP Tomorrow Fund to grow his idea. Watch his Tomorrow Fund video and learn more at Cultivate Farms.

The AMP Foundation is currently assessing this year’s applicants and will announce the 2018 AMP Tomorrow Makers in November.

Thanks to everyone who spread the word about our $1 million grants program. You can find out more or express your interest in the 2019 AMP Tomorrow Fund on the Tomorrow Fund website.

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