At the peak of Andy’s 4-H showing career, he says, he took part in four fairs and two additional 4-H shows through the summer and fall. “It was something that connected my home farm experience with other young people who had similar interests,” he says. “It gave me an extra level of ownership and pride in our farm and our herd and a way to prove myself.”
She and Hannah will be staying at the fair in a camper loaned by friends, while Andy will try to get there every day between milking and other chores. The Birches say that showing at the fair takes a lot of preparation. “Despite all that work, we still look forward to it,” Sarah says. “Some of our friends have kids the same age. We joke that they’ll all be competing against each other at the fair some day.”
These days the Birches are so busy showing and visiting with friends, they don’t have time to do much else at the fair but, from her younger days, Sarah remembers enjoying the tractor and truck pulls and going on the rides almost every night. Her fair food favorites include fried dough, caramel apples and maple milkshakes. Andy says he usually gets a fried dough at some point, “but I try not to live on it.”
Both of their mothers are also on-site for much of the fair. Andy’s mom, Lindy Birch, manages Orleans County 4-H programs and is responsible for running some of the shows at the fair; she is also on the fair board of directors. Sarah’s mom, Julie Brochu, supervises the poultry barn and will take care of Hannah for some of the time.
Little Hannah “is a chicken fanatic. She would spend all day in there,” Andy says. “At home, she has one special chicken friend who jumps out of the pen and comes to visit Hannah,” Sarah adds, noting this might be partially because Hannah is generous with the cracked corn the family keeps for chicken snacks.
Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming, and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).