Of all the unusual student jobs we’ve come across, Lucy Ackers and her alpaca farm surely tops the lot!
Here at Save the Student, we love hearing about all the weird and wonderful ways that students make and save money.
Whether it’s living in a van to save on rent, or becoming a mermaid to earn some extra pennies, we’re always impressed by the increasingly creative lengths that students are going to. And in Lucy Ackers, we reckon we may have found the most wholesome and heartwarming example of this yet.
Why? Well, when she’s not studying for her degree in Agriculture at Easton and Otley College, near Norwich, Lucy owns and runs her very own alpaca farm!
As you might imagine, between running a farm and completing the final year of her degree, Lucy’s schedule doesn’t include much free time – but she generously gave us a few minutes to share the realities of her hectic lifestyle.
Becoming an alpaca farmer
If you’re looking to earn some money (or just do something productive with your free time) there are plenty of part-time jobs to try as a student – which begs the question: why did Lucy decide to start running an alpaca farm?
As she readily admits, Lucy started off in a very fortunate position – her family already owned the land she’d need, so half the job was already done.
From there, it was just a case of broaching the subject.
So, as an Agriculture student with some land to play with, you can see why Lucy was drawn to farming. But still – why alpacas?
We’re certainly not arguing with Lucy on that one – these guys are about as endearing as they come!
As for getting hold of some actual alpacas, a combination of an inheritance and savings from previous jobs were enough for Lucy to start populating Stubbs Farm. Again, Lucy is always keen to stress that she’s well aware of how fortunate she’s been, and that this may not be possible for many other students!
Running an alpaca farm as a student
It’s probably fair to say that most students can fit a part-time job into their schedules. But alpaca farming isn’t a part-time job – in fact, it’s more full-time than most full-time jobs!
What’s more, as the owner and manager of the farm, Lucy can’t just take a day off if she’s got a heap of deadlines to meet. At times, it isn’t so much a case of fitting her job in around her studies – it’s a case of finding the time outside of work to fit in some studying.
In fact, as a final year student, Lucy is currently writing her dissertation. She says that’s her priority right now, but with summer on the horizon, the alpacas are due a shearing… a week before Lucy’s dissertation is due.
It sounds daunting, but compared to some of her previous experiences, doing some major alpaca upkeep a week before an important deadline seems almost stress-free.
And, as you might imagine, this is far from the only time that Lucy’s alpacas have chosen an inopportune time to demand her attention.
That said, Lucy believes that there is at least one benefit to having so much to do: she’s become a lot better at managing her time.
It’s also worth remembering that Lucy is, after all, studying for a degree in Agriculture. Getting a job that’s related to your degree is a great way to boost your job prospects while studying, and Lucy is the perfect example of this.
The business side of running an alpaca farm
It’s not just practical skills that Lucy’s been able to use on the farm – agriculture degrees also teach you about the realities of owning and running a business in the modern world.
Alpacas are fairly unusual in that they’re not typically farmed for their meat or milk. So how exactly does Lucy manage to turn a profit from her alpacas?
Clearly, given the time it can take to get alpaca fur to market, and the constraints on Lucy’s time, the farm wouldn’t be able to operate on this income alone. As such, Lucy’s had to get creative and find other ways to keep the whole thing running.
Perhaps most excitingly of all, though, is the fact that Lucy could soon be opening Stubbs Farm up to the public for overnight stays.
Consider our interest firmly registered!
So, with the farm benefiting from an increasingly diverse stream of revenue, is Lucy living the student life of luxury?
Should you become an alpaca farmer too?
Lucy’s story is certainly impressive, and we wouldn’t blame you if you were considering following a similar path – but don’t go into it under any illusions.
As Lucy is all too keen to stress, owning and running a farm is a huge commitment in itself, let alone as a student. If you’re in it for the money, you’re probably better off looking at the best-paid student jobs.
Lucy also warns against anyone – students or otherwise – getting a solitary alpaca as a pet. As she points out, they’re herd animals and should never be kept alone.
Nonetheless, that’s not to say that you definitely shouldn’t get into alpaca farming – or any kind of farming, for that matter. Just be aware that it’s not all swings and roundabouts!
But before you go off and start farming alpacas, remember Lucy’s success as the owner and manager of an alpaca farm is thanks in no small part to studying an Agriculture degree. She was also hugely fortunate to have the land and finances available to start the project.
If you don’t have much relevant experience (or the necessary funds and land) but want to work with animals, get in touch with your local petting zoo and see if they have any roles with a little less responsibility!
Owning and running an alpaca farm isn’t for everyone, so here are 50 business ideas to start at uni.