For 30 farmers of Moyne and North County Longford, bales and e-mails are beginning to fit together as snugly as cows with calves at foot. The farmers are attending computer classes on Thursday nights at Moyne Community College in order to keep abreast with the gathering speed of Information Technology (IT) and they are loving it.
“It’s great to get a chance to learn new things and to enjoy it too.” explained one enthustiastic student! The duration of the course is thirty five hours and classes are three hours long. There are also two groups of farmers attending classes in Granard Adult Learning Centre and one group in Ballymahon Adult Learning Centre.
The farmers come in all age groups from thirty-something to fifty-something plus. Up until now addressing new technology meant depending on their families and loved ones. They all wish to be able to do more of their administration duties and general computing themselves. They are making progress.
As one of the farmers says “I’m beginning to get a handle on the basics. Before now, any of the wellingtons at the back door would have done better.”
IT, like the tractor, is such an important tool of farm life nowadays. Farmers, through computers and smartphones, can now get information, buy and sell websites, register their calves online and apply for subsidies and grants, and lots of other things. Some of the participants are already doing their farming administration online.
“Once you start there’s no going back. It takes less time, it’s easier and you are not left with paperwork the height of what we saw during the beef tribunal.” says James Gray.
It is a new way though and it takes new learning. There is often a fear attached to learning new technology. This is only natural. But computers aren’t as difficult as perception would have them and once people take care in regard to their personal security when doing things online, they are safe. If you can use a mobile phone you can use a computer!
The classes try to allay fears, bring confidence and good basic knowledge in a nurturing, safe and friendly environment. Classes are limited to nine participants per group so they get lots of individual attention.
The farmers learning computers in these classes are adding to their many other skills. Their future is an ever-changing one; robotic milking machines are already here, soon to be joined by outdoor robotic machines like remote controlled tractors. What’s next? It may not matter to these farmers. They have started and they are set to be prepared. As an old wise man once said, “storms are less feared when you know how to sail”.
There are other real benefits with classes such as these.
Marian O’Reilly, co-ordinator of SFW sees a more holistic side: “Farming can be a lonely life, so it’s good for the mind to get a chance to meet and mix with fellow farmers during the well-deserved tea break and catch up on local, national and world events.”
The classes are delivered by the LWETB (Longford and Westmeath Training Board) through the Adult Learning Centre and funded by the Skills for Work national programme which is aimed at providing training opportunities to help employed and self-employed groups like farmers deal with the basic demands of their workplace.
If you are a Longford farmer and interested in upcoming classes please contact Frances Stephenson at 043 33 4560.