“Once farmers realise Farming Connect training will help them run their business more effectively, their very first course often sets them on a path of lifelong learning, their reticence disappears and their confidence grows.”
These are the words of professional trainer Julie Thomas, managing director of Simply the Best Training Consultancy, who recently won the Lantra Wales Lifetime Achievement Award 2022. Mrs Thomas said she was delighted to be honoured ‘for doing a rewarding job I absolutely love’ and which she has done for more than 20 years!
Leading Welsh agriculturalist and Lantra Wales chairperson Peter Rees, who was also chair of this year’s Lantra awards judging panel, said that Mrs Thomas has made a significant contribution to Welsh agriculture over many years.
“There are so many people who have benefited from her personal input. She has shown an outstanding commitment to learning, skills and lifelong development, and in providing the level of training that the industry needs so much, particularly now as our industry faces many new challenges and opportunities,” said Mr Rees.
Mrs Thomas has been an approved trainer for Farming Connect accredited training courses since the programme was first launched in 2001. She has gained an impressive reputation as not only an accomplished trainer but is also highly regarded as a mentor to the countless students she has supported. The judging panel said that thanks to Mrs Thomas’ exceptional personal commitment to her role, individuals of all ages and from many different rural sectors had developed their skills and been helped to progress their careers within the land-based sectors.
An articulate and engaging communicator who instils confidence in her students, Mrs Thomas set up Simply the Best Training Consultancy in 1996 with her husband Geoff, who delivers much of the technical training from the couple’s 300 acre sheep farm in South Wales. Since that time, she has dedicated her professional life to tutoring on topics ranging from agricultural business and financial management to staff development, marketing and diversification. An innovative and creative thinker, she is also in regular demand as a public speaker and is a former judge and trainer for Wales YFC public speaking competitions.
She has a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), is a registered instructor with the English-Speaking Board (ESB) and holds the ESB diploma in Oral Skills in Management. She is also an approved Institute of Leadership & Management tutor and a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society. Mr Rees said that the judging panel were unanimous in awarding Mrs Thomas this year’s Lantra Wales Lifetime Achievement award.
“Julie has made an outstanding commitment to the rural training sector and has personally, over the last 20 years, done much to professionalise the farming industry in Wales, making her a very deserving winner.”
Mrs Thomas said that for many farmers, their very first training course often sets them on a path of lifelong learning and training.
“Once they attend a course on a topic they are interested in and find they enjoy it, they appreciate it as a useful insight, and it so rewarding to hear someone say, ‘that wasn’t so bad, what can I learn next?’
“While farmers, farming families and training providers need me and as long as I feel I can help people strengthen their skill set, there is an important job to be done and I'm delighted that I’m able to contribute.”
Mrs Thomas is also a keen advocate of all her trainees utilising Storfa Sgiliau, Farming Connect’s online personal record-keeping tool.
“With all training undertaken through Farming Connect automatically uploaded to each individual’s online personal Storfa Sgiliau record, this is a hugely important tool with which to evidence courses ranging from on-farm skills like driving farm vehicles and handling machinery safely to managing business and financial affairs confidently and efficiently.
“By providing proof of continuous professional development (CPD), Storfa Sgiliau can also provide a very helpful basis for farm assurance schemes, job applications and CVs too,” said Mrs Thomas.
For further information about Farming Connect’s skills training and personal development services, visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect or contact your local development officer.
This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.