Farmlove – SleevesUp with Andy Birch

Sometimes peer pressure can be a positive thing. Back when Andy Birch was in college studying agriculture, he tagged along with friends who were donating blood and decided he might as well give it a try himself. “It was peer pressure in a good way,” he says. “I think it’s important to give back and when I was a college student, it was an easy way I could do that since I didn’t have money to donate, or a lot of time. We’ve all got blood inside of us!”

“Giving what we can is what makes our community whole,” says Jenni Tilton-Flood, Cabot farmer and member of co-op’s American Red Cross team. In honor of our Centennial Anniversary, 100 Cabot farmer-owners and employees will give blood… Click To Tweet

After college and some years working on other farms, Andy and his wife, Sarah, came back home to Derby, Vermont. His parents had stopped milking at the family’s Maple Grove Farm, but Andy and Sarah slowly saved and invested in a new, small dairy herd. The couple also welcomed two daughters into their family; Hannah and Ida are now 3 years old and 8 months.

Andy & Sarah’s daughter Hannah

A busy life of farming and parenting does not leave much room for other commitments, but Andy kept donating blood regularly and made time to deliver Cabot cheese samples to his local blood drive site as post-donation energy boosters. Whenever things got too busy, he’d think back on a friend who’d had a serious accident and needed massive blood transfusions. “That really brought it home,” Andy says.

Andy helping a new calf with a lift to the barn

For Andy, it’s also part of giving back to the community where he was raised and to which he feels very attached. “Sarah and I both wanted to come back to be closer to family. This is the place I grew up and it means something to me,” he says.

Sarah and Andy showing cows

As a regular blood donor, Andy had loaded the American Red Cross blood donor app on his phone to track his donation history and vital health information. He noted that there was a team function, which allows donors to set up a group with fellow members and establish collective goals. “A couple years ago, I started a team for Cabot and we began putting out the word for other farmers and employees to join,” Andy explains.

One of those who signed up was Jenni Tilton-Flood of Flood Brothers Farm in Maine. Jenni was not new to donating blood, she says, “but over the past years, I just seemed to not be a regular donor anymore because life…because everything else just seemed to get in the way.” When Andy started the team, she continues, “it was just the push I needed to remember why I donated blood in the first place: because giving what we can is what makes our community whole.”

This Centennial year for the co-op, in addition to encouraging a team of 100 farmers and employees to donate, Cabot will be sending cheese and coupons to donor sites throughout the Northeast for the month of May. Supporting the Red Cross goes along with the co-op’s mission to encourage people to volunteer within their communities via the Reward Volunteers program.

“I’ve always been in awe of the spirit that moves people to give blood and the volunteers and staff that make it all possible,” says Jenni. “And that I can share Cabot Cheese with them as a wee thanks? That just makes it all even more wonderful.”

Andy is proud of the role he’s been able to play in putting peer pressure to work in a positive way to get the Cabot American Red Cross donation team up and running.


If blood donation is not your thing, Andy encourages everyone to find a way to give back that works for them. For him, having the regularly scheduled donations keeps him on track. “Just do what you can,” Andy suggests. “Find little ways you can contribute. There are lots of organizations that need help in some way whether it’s financial donations or a helping hand.”

Comments (2)

Kristin Haskins | May 08, 2019 | 6:58am

I know I repeat myself sometimes, but when I see these glimpses of farm life, and the beauty of the bovine…I really FEEL something wonderful, and sunny, and genuine. Thanks for sharing these moments with us.

Kristin Haskins | May 08, 2019 | 7:29am

Kristin Haskins | May 08, 2019 | 6:58am
I know I repeat myself sometimes, but when I see these glimpses of farm life, and the beauty of the bovine…I really FEEL something wonderful, and sunny, and genuine. Thanks for sharing these moments with us.

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