BELMONT COUNTY — At 15 years old, Meg Garrison of Barnesville has already helped perform an emergency C section on a pregnant cow. Plenty of teenagers love animals — and some dream of working professionally with them — but it’s safe to say Garrison’s ahead of the curve.

She’s well on her way to realizing her dream of becoming a veterinarian thanks to the hands-on experience she’s gotten beside Em Mowrer, the veterinarian she works alongside. Mowrer helps mentor several future vets, but Garrison is the youngest. Since she started tagging along, Garrison had assisted in births, embryo transfers and similar things that require a sturdy stomach. If someone wants to learn how to care for cattle, riding along with a vet is the best way to do it. 

"It’s very common with large animals, because you have to have someone show you how to work on them," Mowrer said. "I started at 13."

The two were both at the Belmont County Fair on Wednesday— Garrison showing steers, and Mowrer advising in the beef barn. The 4-H activities there have been a sort of field experiment for both of them. Now a veterinarian, Mowrer said 4-H and the fair were probably the greatest influence in her career choice. She and her brother, Matt, were both involved in the program as kids. Em went on to care for cattle full time, and Matt went on to become an electrical engineer. 

The community ingrained in the fair is a resource Garrison and the Mowrers used to learn the skills and build the relationships that turn into careers. It’s where Em Mowrer found Dr. Harold Kemp, the veterinarian she rode along with as a kid. Now, she’s looking to return the favor to the next generation. 

"I always had a love for animals, and [4-H] really helped develop it," said Em Mowrer. "Some of the people that took us under their wing here are still helping out— it’s a family thing. You try to help the people coming down the ranks, just like [people] did for you."

Getting the chance to work with experienced professionals can be a significant advantage for people looking to break into certain fields.

"A lot of kids who don’t own animals don't know how to take care of them," Garrison said. "[4-H] help’s you prepare. You figure out how to speak to people and learn about responsibility."

Now a sophomore, Garrison has been in the program since she was nine. She proudly describes the year she won showman of showman and earned the polished belt buckle situated on her belt. She plans on attending Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center, even though she’s well aware many are struggling in that field. 

"I like being around the animals and helping them feel better," Garrison said. "A lot of vets are going out of business, but once I get into it I’ll be able to help."

The work she does with Mowrer will certainly help get her off the ground and propel her froward, which is what Mowrer said happened to her. Her brother shared a similar story. Matt said spending years experimenting with electrical projects and rocketry in 4-H was where he learned to experiment. Recently, he finished leading a project at a Columbus medical company in which they were able to read electrical signals from the brain that would enable machines to contract muscles, allowing disabled people to move. 

"A lot of that got started here," Matt Mowrer said. "It’s where I got the opportunity to tinker."

The journey from tampering with circuits to reading brain impulses was a long one, but it started as a kid at the fair.

"Learning is like a staircase," Matt Mowrer said. "You can’t jump all the way to the top, but you can take each step one at a time."

Garrison is at that first step that the Mowrer’s took so long ago, having fun and looking forward at the fair.