Women in Agriculture profile featuring Christine Robinson
Occupation: I am a full-time communications and digital manager for a national
charity. My husband and I also farm on our farm which my husband inherited from his father over ten years ago.
recently invested in a spotted Dutch ram and look forward to having cross Dorset and spotted Dutch lambs this Autumn.
How did you become involved in farming?
My dad is a farmer, and both my grandads were too! I was lucky to be exposed to farming and the community from a young age. Although, that being said, I did very little work, but I enjoyed the lifestyle.
As I grew up and moved to Belfast and then Switzerland for university, I became less involved in farming.
I later met my husband who is a part-time farmer and full-time engineer. As we began to date, I started to help out on his farm and this rekindled my love for farming – especially lambing season. Farming with my husband broadened my knowledge, skills and experience, and really opened my eyes to real life farming. Before I met him, I enjoyed keeping my dad company on the farm but was very sheltered from the ‘hard work’ of farming. My husband really taught me a lot and gave me the confidence to be the farmer I am today. I remember phoning him in a blind panic when I saw a ewe lambing during our first lambing season together and now, it’s a breeze for me! Helping to bring new life into the world is such an incredibly rewarding feeling and worth all the lack of sleep!
Earliest farming memory: On the quad bike with my dad and twin brother, driving through the fields to check on the sheep.
What personal characteristics did you develop from agriculture?
Resilience – not everything goes to plan. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. You keep going for the good of the animals and the farm.
Organisation – fail to prepare, prepare to fail. My husband and I make sure that we organise as much as we can in advance, so things run smoothly. We now use a mobile app to keep a record of all sheep which has helped us to stay organised throughout the year.
Patience and perseverance – especially when the sheep have different ideas to what you have planned for the day. If you get knocked down (literally), you have to get back up and get on with it.
Life lesson you learnt from farming:
- With the best intentions, you can only do what you can do with the time you have, and the weather conditions you are given.
- Never be afraid to ask for help.
- All mistakes are learning opportunities.
- Farming is about continuous learning and development – keeping up to date with research, training, technology and grants.
What do you enjoy most about the farming lifestyle?
The variety and being out in the countryside. If you’re not working with sheep, there is a list as long as your arm to work through! Whether it’s building new dikes or sheds, right through to topping fields, sowing, liming and getting ready for cutting. I enjoy feeling accomplished when I return from the farm, knowing that what I’ve done has made a difference.
Describe a farmer in three words: Dedicated, resilient, hard-working.
What would you like the public to know about NI farming?
Behind the scenes, farmers like my husband and I who are part-time farmers with full time jobs, spend most of the time outside our day jobs working on the farm. There is a common misconception that farmers are ‘rich’ which can be really demoralising for small scale farmers like us. In the current economic climate, it can be really difficult for small farmers to make a profit, never mind a living. The cost of living has also impacted on our regular costs including animal feed and fertiliser for example.
Calculated and measured decisions are taken by farmers like us regularly to ensure return on investment to stay afloat. This demonstrates how passionate farmers are about their work, so that they can continue to operate a sustainable farm and ensure high quality standards.
I would like the public to be more aware of the increasing hardship farmers are now facing and the lack of direction regarding the future. Without local farmers, we don’t have food on our plates or our beautiful countryside which is managed under the stewardship of farmers. The world needs farmers and we need sustainable practices, but without the support of the public and government, many farms may not be around in the future.
If you could give farmers/farming families/ farming community one piece of advice what would it be?
We are stronger together! Keep having a thirst for knowledge to improve practice and standards.
What would you say to others who are considering a career in the agri industry?
It’s not a job for the faint hearted – but there’s an incredible feeling belonging to the farming community.
Have a willingness to learn and get stuck in! Every day is a school day. Find your nesh and you’ll thrive – I love lambing, power hosing and making hay when the sun shines!
It is a great way of life for a family and something I look forward to sharing with my own children in the future. I feel really lucky to have grown up with farming.
What are your hopes for the future of Northern Ireland’s agriculture industry?
I would like to see:
- More young people and women becoming involved in the industry and advocating for positive change to support the community.
- Further education around the farm to fork piece so that the public can learn where their food comes from and the entire production process. This will
showcase the hard work and dedication of farmers across the nation.
- Increased funding opportunities for small scale farmers to develop, supporting them to tackle key issues such as climate change.
- More subsidies and fair allocation across the sector to ensure that small scale farms are not forced to shut down.
- Fair prices for meat, milk and all produce. Farming needs to be profitable for all so that it is sustainable, and we can continue to provide food for the nation.
If you would like to keep up to date with Christine’s daily life on the farm, you can find her on Instagram and Facebook by searching for ‘Mullaghsandall Farmers’.