By HOWARD BALABAN firstname.lastname@example.org
Medina Journal-Register — KNOWLESVILLE - For Bert and Merri Mathes, the Orleans County 4-H Fair is truly a time to celebrate family.
The Barre Center couple started showing animals at the Fair when they were children. Merri said she showed sheep while Bert showed dairy cows. The two were on opposite ends of a barn in which the animals were housed.
Farming is in their blood.
“I was born and raised on a dairy farm, and Merri was born an raised on a sheep and beef farm,” Bert said, noting that his parents’ farm has been in the family for several generations.
The pair actually grew up “a road apart,” according to Merri. That road had them in separate school districts — Holley for Merri, Albion for Bert.
But the Fair helped bring them together.
The Matheses have three children — Emma, Lilly, and Adele — who have taken to raising livestock as well. Together, the three have 38 sheep at their grandparents’ farm.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too,” said Emma, 11.
“Getting the animals ready for the show is hard,” she added. Her animals include “a lot of sheep, some cows, and a pig.” Emma has shown animals at the Fair for six years, starting as a 4-H cloverbud when she was 5 years old. Lilly, 8, also started as a cloverbud.
The youngest, Adele, attended her first Fair when she was just a few days old, Merri recalled.
“She was born just a few days before the Fair a couple years ago,” she said. Merri added that Adele has shown no fear with any of the animals.
“She’s taken some of the big cows on walks around the farm.”
Merri said the best part about 4-H is that it is inclusive, and since she and Bert have “always been heavily involved, we knew we wanted to get the girls involved.”
The couple’s respective parents showed at the Fair years ago, and have been supporters of 4-H for a long time, Bert said.
As the Mathes children continue to show animals at the Fair, they will have the advantage of learning from multiple generations of farmers.
That will surely help Emma, who smiled when she mentioned one of her favorite parts of the Orleans County 4-H Fair, the only one the family attends.
“I like winning ribbons,” she grinned.
With farming in the family genes, earning ribbons should not be a problem.