Supporting the Farming Community

Liam McSheffrey is a farmer in North Inishowen and when farming administration went online a number of years ago, he (and his fellow farmers) needed to undertake some computer training to help them with all the forms and other paperwork. In this blog Liam reflects on his experience of these courses with our Further Education and Training (FET) Service and offers some advice to others.

I was asked to write a blog of our experience with the courses I have been through with the ETB’s FET Service. For me, this is a complete contradiction for what I would normally be doing, for as you see, writing and me don’t go hand in hand as they say.

I will let you know a little about myself before I start and little being what it means: I am a farmer from North East Inishowen (a very beautiful place I might say) and the next thing people think ‘are you a big farmer?’ Well, I will give you some facts: I am 6’ tall and weigh about 18 stone on a good day; my name is Liam McSheffrey and Redcastle is the place I’m from. I was born in the early Sixties or some even say I was quarried, because my heart would lay mostly with the land. This, as we all know, was a great time with music, craic and rock and roll. It was a time of great change in almost everything we would have known before this. What I mean by that is the farming industry, fishing, housing [etc.] was moving through a transition. Even the money was changing from imperial to metric.

With that I have to recall what my mother said to me when I didn’t want to carry on at school. She said ‘a bit of schooling was easy carried.’ She went on to tell me of her experience of school: my mother was left handed and she was punished severely for this and had to learn to write with her right [hand], so you can imagine the trauma she was going through as well as trying to learn.

This takes me onto what I want to say about education today: I had no such bad experience at school – my only problem was I didn’t stay long enough. This leads me onto talk about the ETB and how we became involved and I mean we i.e. a group of farmers had to get some training to work with IT to help fill out application forms to do with farming activities. I think this was around 2012 or so (the memory is not so good now, grey hair and all things considered!). As I was saying – a group of farmers – that was how it all started.

I remember the first night and I have to thank the teachers for that because it was all night classes we attended. We were all sat around these computers afraid to touch anything in case, as someone jokingly said, we might put the lights out in the town: that was how nervous we were.

To think since then we can email, Google, Done Deal and all that goes along with that, even Skype friends and especially my son who is away from home in England. WhatsApp is very useful when you want to explain something, just by photographing it.

This group, which may have been about thirty or so, has now dwindled down to about six or eight, depending what may have been happening at home at the time i.e. cows calving or sheep lambing – to say farming can be done from 8.00am-6.00pm is an understatement: 24/7 comes more to mind, summer and winter. With this in mind, technology has now left us that we can accomplish most of these writing tasks at any time, day or night. I think I speak for most of the group when I would like to thank the ETB for their time and perseverance for that is what it was, because the group really enjoyed the experiences of which I must say were many, because it was a social event as well as learning something new for us farmers as well as the teachers (I think some of them came away very enlightened indeed about us farmers and what could happen at times).

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all the tutors of which we have had many because we have tried all the courses we could and achieved a result in them all (a pass with flying colours).

The only thing I am sorry about is that we did not meet soon enough with regards to the ETB and with this, whoever might read this (which I think will fly off the shelves … hmm …) if you are thinking about a course, don’t think about [it] just get started without delay as the old saying goes: the world is your oyster.

Liam’s course were co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.