COMPUTERS are now an essential farm management tool and are likely to play an even bigger role in the future.
Martin Sands, 33, is an award-winning Welsh farmer and college lecturer.
He farms 260 acres in partnership with his father, Colin, at Llangollen, as well as lecturing part-time at Coleg Llysfasi and running an agricultural contracting business.
Coleg Llysfasi, in conjunction with other further education colleges across Wales, offers free ICT training courses for beginners, those with basic skills and on-farm specific computer programmes. The courses are taught by tutors like Martin, who come from a farming background, at a time and venue convenient to small groups of up to 10 farmers.
The tutors are so flexible they've held courses in pubs, farmhouse kitchens and remote village halls.
After completing a National Diploma in agriculture and later studying digital and microelectronics at NEWI, Martin's potential as an IT-literate farmer was spotted by Coleg Llysfasi and it gave him a part-time lecturing job.
This led to him becoming Tutor of the Year in the UK Business Enterprise Awards in 2003. He now teaches farmers of all levels of knowledge how to make computers work for them by creating spreadsheets, databases and downloading information from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS).
'Computers are now an essential tool for farmers, not just for record keeping and accounts but also for internet communications which are going to play a bigger role in the future,' said Martin. 'I wouldn't like to run a big farm without one.'
The need for accurate and up to date farm records has never been greater as farmers risk losing the Single Farm Payment (SFP) if their farms don't come up to the required standard.
For more information about the free Managing Farms with IT courses available from Further Education colleges across Wales, contact Ruth Whittingham at Coleg Llysfasi on 01978 790263.