Andy and Sarah Birch met officially at the Orleans County agricultural fair, known locally as the Barton Fair, where both were showing animals. Sarah—a classmate of Andy’s younger brother, Jared—was finishing up high school at the time, while Andy was wrapping up his college degree. “He picked on my sister and me,” Sarah says with smile. “I was known for being quiet. He said, ‘Oh, you do talk!’”
The Birch brothers had grown up working with their family’s 50-head dairy herd whereas Sarah came to love animals through her experience with the local 4-H club. She knew she enjoyed working with animals but never expected to become a farmer. Then she met Andy. After some time, the pair moved to Wisconsin where they each worked on farms before deciding to return to Vermont. “It was nice there,” says Sarah, “but it wasn’t home.”
Andy’s parents, Scott and Lindy, had themselves become first-generation farmers about a year after his birth when they bought their 100-acre Derby farm. Each had earned agriculture degrees and had grown up doing 4-H, too. Scott worked with breeding technology and decided to buy a farm from a customer. After 17 years, with Andy leaving for college, they sold their herd. “They kept the land, though, and the equipment,” Andy says. “They knew I still had an interest in farming.”
For nine years, the 120-year-old barn sat quiet while Andy worked at other farms. “But I always hoped I’d be able to come back and have my own farm, be my own boss,” Andy says. About a year after Sarah and Andy were married, they reintroduced a small herd to the old barn. “We saved every penny we could to buy the animals and then we spent a month breathing life back into the barn,” Andy says. He recites the key dates without a second of hesitation: “On April 28, the first calf was born and on May 8 was the first milking.”
The couple grows corn and hay and puts the 50 milkers and other cows out to pasture almost every day. They also raise their own replacements and have plans to improve the barn facility. Andy’s brother and parents help out, but farming life has taken some adjusting, Sarah admits. “I really love working with the animals and seeing Andy so happy,” she says. “But it’s seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s certainly not to be taken lightly.”
“Life hasn’t been the same since,” her husband agrees, “but I love what I do. I like being with my family. I like being with the animals. I like being out in the country.” And, he adds, “I’ve really liked getting to spend more time with Sarah.”
Watch Andy & Sarah talk about starting their farm, courtesy of USA Today.
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