Matt Family planting roots in Lee Center, culmination of five year project


LEE CENTER, N.Y. (WKTV) - More than 100 members of the Matt family will gather in Lee Center this weekend to plant thousands of trees. The Martin and Sarah Matt Memorial Forest is a unique tribute the family is creating in honor of the couple who started it all.

"The whole objective is to set up something for future generations down the road," said Karl Matt, one of Martin and Sarah's nine children. Karl and his wife still live on the farm today.

Martin was a logger. Sarah was a teacher until she gave birth to her first child at the age of 29. Over the next 13 years, the couple had nine children, eight sons and one daughter.

A 100 acre farm on Skinner Road in Lee Center became the homestead in 1942. "It was an active farm when we were brought up," said Karl Matt. "We're doing it as a momento to our mother and father."

For the past five years family members from across the country gather at the farm to plant as a group. "We're expecting 100 or more," said Karl. "Primarily family members, nieces and nephews and grandchildren and so on and so forth."

"We've had this farm in the family for a long time," said Karl. "What's the point of trying to sell it and divide up the proceeds from it? We thought it would be a lot more beneficial to do something that the future generations would benefit from it."

Vincent is one of Martin and Sarah's eight sons. He also has a PhD in Forestry. His knowledge certainly comes in handy this weekend. "One of the things you wanna do is keep the roots covered at all times," said Vincent. "Especially with a little bit of a breeze they'll dry out in a hurry."

Vincent shows the first-timers the ropes. "Right here you have a slight discoloration between the root system and the remainder of the tree. So that's the depth you should plant."

Alan Matt now lives in California, where he works in the construction business. He and his family make the trip to Lee Center every year. "I think the original nine of us all talked about it after inheriting the property from my father and we decided we wanted to leave some kind of heritage and this was one of the things. My father was in logging and that type of thing so we decided that we would plant trees."

This Memorial Forest is a year round project. It begins with a gridline and then an auger goes through and creates the holes where the trees will be planted. "And then we put some top soil in and then the trees come in and then we put a collar on them and then a weed pad," said Alan.

Even the younger generations take part in the work. Cavan Gorman is one of the younger members of the family. This is the fourth year he has taken part in the planting. Cavan was in charge of making sure every hole was equipped with a weed guard and a trunk protector. "I like seeing my family." Cavan says his favorite part of the weekend is the food!

There's actually a committee of about five family members who are in charge of providing enough food for the family throughout the weekend. There are tents with picnic tables and chairs set up by the main house where everyone gathers for meals.

Mother Nature is providing an excellent weather weekend for the gathering. "We've been lucky," said Alan. "Each year has been just about like this in the last four. The first year we had a little bit of rain but not too much. Otherwise, we've been very very fortunate."

The Martin and Sarah Matt Memorial Forest is really a combination of the two people who started this family many decades ago. The trees are in honor of Martin, who was a logger. And their purpose is in honor of Sarah, who was a teacher. Decades from now, if future generations decide to harvest the trees, any money made will be used to pay for the education of future Matt children.

"We will never realize anything out of it ourself," said Karl. "The old cliché is if you plant a tree you'll never be able to sit in the shade of it."

This weekend the family will plant 4,700 trees. All together the family will have planted a total of 20,000 on 55 acres over the past five years.

The work doesn't end this weekend. The grass around the trees will have to be mowed several times a year for about 5 years.

The planting may be over with but the family still plans to gather every year. "We're going to probably shift it to October for the pruning process," said Alan. "There's a pruning process that goes on also that will take place for the next 5-7 years."

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