February 29, 2008

Even though her family has had a personal computer for 10 years, Bath County resident and cattle farmer Patricia Razor never had enough interest or time to learn how to operate it – that is, until now.

Razor enrolled in a basic computer class, offered through a partnership between Maysville Community and Technical College (MCTC), Bath County Cooperative Extension Service and the Commodity Growers Cooperative, after receiving encouragement from her husband, Fred.

The class is part of a grant the community college received to help farmers, who live in tobacco dependent counties and receive tobacco buyout funds, increase their knowledge of computers. Sessions typically last for three hours, and the class lasts between five and eight nights. Its main focus is on how to use spreadsheets for farm records and expenses, but other topics include basic computer set up, functions of the keyboard and mouse, word processing, Internet and e-mail. After the class, participants get to take home a refurbished computer.

“It’s a great opportunity for people like myself,” Razor said. “We’re out in this computer world and don’t know how to operate one. And there’s a world of opportunities on those. It really just astounds me that there’s so much out there.”

Sharon Staviski, the class’s instructor from MCTC, said she’s been teaching this class since 2004. So far she has taught the class in 15 northeastern Kentucky counties, and has been to some of the counties twice.

“We’ve done this probably 25 times at least,” Staviski said. “And that’s approximately 350 people that have gotten to take advantage of this course.”

Bath County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent Gary Hamilton said he never has any trouble filling the 15 person class.

“Actually, I had to turn some people away,” he said.

Staviski said one of the reasons the program has been such a success is MCTC brings the class directly to the farmers in their home counties, which is more convenient for them versus having to go to the college’s campus.

Razor said she looks forward to the opportunity to be able to search for recipes on the Internet and use e-mail. She also plans to help her husband with his farm records and tax preparation. Since they already have one computer, the Razors plan to use the computer from the class strictly for farm expenses and records.

Staviski said class participants often have varying levels of computer experience, but all work together to help each other.

“Everybody’s very patient, and everybody learns something from the class, which is really great,” she said.

Kim Withrow, a Bath County hobby farmer and class participant, said she uses a computer daily in her work at a factory in the county, but her job tasks are already programmed into the computer; so all she has to do is turn it on. Like Razor, she wants to learn more about how she can use a personal computer for farm records and tax preparation. The computer she will receive after the class will be her first personal computer.

“I’m excited about it,” Withrow said. “I’m already getting a spot fixed for it in my spare bedroom.”

There was a $41 registration fee for this course, but that is a relatively small amount of money when the participants consider the cost of the computer and the software that is involved with it, Hamilton said. He added that he hopes to be able to offer the class in the county at least every other year.

News Topics: