RUAS president Christine Adams: ‘I knew nothing about farming until I married my husband’

Christine Adams will be among the crowds flocking to see lots of woolly sheep lose their winter coats at the Balmoral Show today.

By Helen McGurk
Saturday, 14th May 2022, 1:16 pm
Updated Saturday, 14th May 2022, 1:17 pm

Christine Adams will be among the crowds flocking to see lots of woolly sheep lose their winter coats at the Balmoral Show.

There is set to be fierce competition as sheep shearers from Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and France descend on the sheep fold today to compete for the coveted title of the Six Nations Machine Shearing Championship.

“I definitely can’t miss the sheep shearing,” said Christine, outlining her favourite events at Balmoral. It’s understandable this event would be one of her favourites, when sheep shearing skills are embedded in her family’s DNA.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

RUAS president Christine Adams with young Balmoral Show visitor Ellah, 2.

“I’m boasting a wee bit here,” she laughs, “But my husband Edwin was at one time the All-Ireland and British champion in the one year - I don’t think it’s been done since.

“Then my son sheared at Balmoral and now my grandson’s shearing - so we’ve had three generations.”

Has she ever been tempted to pick up the shears and give it a go herself? “No, definitely not!”

Away from the shearing competitions, Christine, whose career background is in food, also very much enjoys attending the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Pavilion, which this year wowed crowds with over 100 local food and drink companies and three theatre kitchens. There were also a number of new and innovative businesses that started during the pandemic with emerging trends in sustainability, health and food tourism.

The Healthy Horticulture marquee, where colour, flavour, aroma, knowledge, information and fragrances fuse together to ensure a great experience for all the family, is also among Christine’s favourites - she sat on the horticultural committee and was chairman for a number of years.

Christine, from Macosquin, Co Londonderry, was appointed president of RUAS in March, becoming it’s 36th president and the second only woman to hold the prestigious title after Margaret Collinson OBE who was appointed president in the 2000s.

“It was shock and honour to get to the position of president,” said Christine.

“Never in my wildest dreams when I joined as a member and then joined the council, did I think I would ever be in this position. I love meeting people and I hope I will be able to fulfil my duty as well as the past presidents before me have.”

Christine attended catering college in Portrush and was head cook in a hospital, and although she didn’t grow up in a farming family, she soon got to know the ropes.

“My parents had a footwear business in Kilrea, so I really didn’t know anything about farming until I married my husband.”

The pair have three sons and farming has continued down the line.

“The youngest of them manages a farm in North Dakota, America, the next boy is on the home farm, and the oldest son, he’s ill at the minute, but was managing director of a firm.”

The Adams family have been long-standing supporters of the RUAS and Edwin, a retired farmer, was vice president of the Society and to this day still remains a member of the RUAS and sits on Sheep Shearing committee. The pair also used to sell sheep and cattle equipment at the show.

As well as her devotion to agriculture, Christine has a keen interest in the Women’s Institute of Northern Ireland having been a member of Macosquin WI for 54 years and a few years ago was made an honorary member. She was elected to the WI Executive and served on the Balmoral sub-committee for nine years and then chairman of the committee for six of those years.

She added: “Being elected within this role (as RUAS president), provides me with the perfect opportunity to promote women in the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland,

“I am hoping that maybe when women see me at the head of RUAS they will be encouraged. We are getting quite a few women onto RUAS council, which is nice to see. And there are a lot of women involved in agri-food.

“I was at Coleraine Young Farmers 90th anniversary dinner - my granddaughter is their leader - and all the top table was ladies. My husband was saying that he was at the dinner 30 years ago and it was all men.”

On the days of the show, Christine has been busy doing interviews, showing dignitaries around trying to visit as many of the stands as she possibly can.

“I’m just trying to be a figurehead for the RUAS.”

She also oversees the show’s daily president’s lunch, which caters to invited guests.

Before the Covid pandemic, the Balmoral Show attracted some 120,000 visitors. Around 100,000 were expected to attend this year’s four-day event, which is back in its usual May slot.

But Christine believes there is room for improvement at the showground.

“I’d like to see more development at the site, more permanent buildings, especially for the members. We really would need a members’ pavilion, rather than a marquis, and generally get the show back to what it was before the pandemic with the exhibitions. But it’s so nice to see everybody back again.”

Overcoming unpredictable hurdles goes with the job of a farmer, but the pandemic brought a range of whole new challenges to not just the livelihoods of farmers, but to their mental health. Thankfully for Christine Adams and her family the impact of Covid wasn’t as harsh as for some in the Northern Ireland farming community.

“We weren’t too bad because we really have a small farm. Whenever I was there, we were mainly growing potatoes, but my son’s on the farm now and his son does a lot with sheep, but he is also a joiner - the farm is nearly a secondary thing for them.”

And Christine found that not living in a town or village during the last couple of years also had many positives, not least the great outdoors.

“The one advantage of living out in the countryside (during the pandemic) is you had the open spaces and you could walk around the fields. We are lucky to have a young family, so I think that helped as well.”