NI farm­ing women tell why it’s al­ways a high­light of the year for their fam­i­lies

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

As all roads lead to the Bal­moral Show this week, it will be an ex­tra spe­cial event for the Ul­ster Farm­ers’ Union as it cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary. The union is stag­ing a host of events through­out 2018 to mark its 100th an­niver­sary and has set it­self the am­bi­tious tar­get of rais­ing £100,000 towards the run­ning costs of North­ern Ire­land’s Air Am­bu­lance.

Farm­ers will be in­vited to have their mem­o­ries recorded at a spe­cial stand at this year’s Bal­moral Show, which will hon­our the con­tri­bu­tion of mem­bers over those 100 years.

The stand has been de­signed to high­light all that is good about agri­cul­ture and the work of lo­cal farm­ers dur­ing the union’s life­time.

Food will yet again fo­cus on lo­cal pro­duce and the union has ap­pointed Old Barn to cater on the stand over the four days with a menu de­signed to cham­pion each sec­tor of farm­ing.

Known as ‘the voice of farm­ers’, the mem­ber-led or­gan­i­sa­tion has pro­moted the farm­ing in­dus­try through many chal­lenges and po­lit­i­cal changes, in­clud­ing both world wars and the par­ti­tion of Ire­land as well as the BSE cri­sis in 1996 and the foot and mouth out­break in 2001.

The union is cur­rently in­volved in se­cur­ing the best deal for agri­cul­ture dur­ing the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, seek­ing so­lu­tions in re­la­tion to the bor­der, trade deals, di­rect support and ac­cess to labour.

We caught up with two farm­ers’ wives, who are also ac­tive mem­bers of the UFU, to give us a glimpse into life on a mod­ern day farm and what the Bal­moral Show means to them.

Igrew up on a small farm and al­ways said I wouldn’t marry a farmer. I met my hus­band, who also grew up on a farm, on a blind date in the lo­cal pub, and he asked to see me again over a game of pool.

Grow­ing up, I was one of six and Mum and Dad got us out and about. We went to the lo­cal youth club and mu­sic lessons and were in choirs and played bad­minton, so we never felt iso­lated grow­ing up in a ru­ral com­mu­nity.

I had a bit of a health scare a few years ago when I was on Ar­magh Coun­cil and lost my voice for four months. I left the coun­cil to spend a year on the farm to get bet­ter. I started work­ing on the farm and found it ad­dic­tive. I just loved be­ing out­side.

I also help out with milk­ing. We have 160 dairy cows and two houses of chick­ens, and no two days are the same.

It can be hard work, but it’s so re­ward­ing.

To­day, I am wait­ing on the vet to come to scan two heifers.

It was when I first lost my voice and was sit­ting at home that I watched my first ever cook­ery show, Aus­tralian MasterChef. I re­ally got into cooking af­ter that. Now I col­lect cook­ery books and have them all over the house.

I was run­ner-up twice in an All-Ire­land cook-off com­pe­ti­tion, and as a re­sult of that I was ap­proached by a lo­cal food pro­ducer, Pinker­tons, who I now do recipes and demon­stra­tions for.

I have cre­ated some of my own sauces, and at the Bal­moral Show this year I will be on the cook­ery stand, The Mighty Spud, cooking my own recipes for two days on Fri­day and Satur­day.

I also hold fundrais­ing Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook events and re­cently staged one and raised over £5,000 towards the union’s cen­te­nary char-

‘It’s so di­verse — you’ll find some­thing new each year’


Co Down farmer Shaw Hanna with wife Fionaand their chil­dren, Ewan (2), Char­lie (5), Zoe (6) and Callum (8)

Mum-of-four Joy Roll­ston on her farm out­side Newry

Ex-Ar­magh City coun­cil­lor Joy Roll­ston lives on a poul­try and dairy farm out­side Newry. Chair of the Ul­ster Farm­ers’ Union ru­ral af­fairs com­mit­tee, she is a pas­sion­ate cook who runs char­ity cooking events and also works as a cook­ery demon­stra­tor for a lo­cal food firm. Joy is mar­ried to Wil­liam (46), and they have four chil­dren, Daniel (24), Jayne (22), Stuart (15) and 13-year-old Jack. Joy says:

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