Jill Willows – 1956 – 2016
Jill Willows was a bright, vibrant and independent woman who lived live to its very fullest.
As a farmer, business woman, Nuffield scholar, friend or relative, she was someone who burst with enthusiasm, kindness and generosity.
Born Gillian Mary Alton, the only daughter of Tom and Margaret Alton, Jill grew up with her brother Rob on the family’s 550 acre mixed farm, Newhall Grange in South Yorkshire.
Her parents thought having secretarial skills would be useful for her, so she initially went to college in Oxford to learn shorthand and typing.
However Jill had better ideas, and switched her studies to Newcastle University where she graduated in Agricultural Marketing.
After university, she went on to work for RHM Agriculture and the Higgins potato merchanting group, until she came back to the farm in 1980.
Unsure of how to develop the business, in 1991 she applied for a Nuffield Scholarship to study farmers’ attitudes to change. She continually pushed herself, and in 1994 she qualified for the course of Advanced Farm Management – the only woman among 18 men on the course.
The experiences altered her view about her farm, which in turn altered her life, as she decided to sell it and grow her links with agriculture in different ways.
She threw her support behind industry organisations including the Farmers Club, which she was a committee member of, and the Oxford Farming Conference, which she chaired in 1997.
She also spent some time on the rural affairs and agricultural advisory committee, became a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farmers.
Jill was also hugely committed to young people, and helping them to find ways to develop themselves in the farming sector. She sponsored several Nuffield scholars and set up an award for promising students at Harper Adams University.
Outside of agriculture, Jill was passionate about dogs – specifically Jack Russells – and her interest in horses saw her become an owner of race horses.
She also loved socialising, and many of her friends have happy memories of time spent in her company, whether at the Farmers Club in London, her home in South Yorkshire or her holiday home in Filey.
Jill’s friends are committed to ensuring her memory and her values continue to live on – particularly her passion for helping young people – which is why they are organising a range of fundraising events to help support the charities she supported.
You can find out more about the events being hosted here.