GREENFIELD — They hear it all the time: “There is no way you guys are triplets.”
They roll their eyes. Laugh it off. Get back to their chores, to caring for their cattle, their goats.
But they always reassure that, yes, they shared — as Gabriel Cochard likes to put it — one very little, but very important room for nine months.
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They’ve walked shoulder to shoulder ever since, riding a wave of success together that has cemented their family’s legacy in the local 4-H community.
Hannah, Rebekah and Gabriel Cochard — the set of triplets falling in the middle of Brian and Deb Cochard’s family of eight — are celebrating their final year in the Hancock County 4-H program.
It’s been a bittersweet time at the fairgrounds this week, the siblings say. As they show animals and hand in projects for a final time, they reflect on the great experiences the program has afforded them, and what it’s been like to compete alongside their siblings.
Mostly, they’re focused on what lies ahead.
Each is headed to college next year, and though none expects to study agriculture, they know their time in 4-H helped them find their path.
And doing so alongside their family made it all the more special, they said.
Hannah, Rebekah and Gabriel Cochard are their parents’ second set of triplets, their mother said.
The couple struggled with infertility for years before turning to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to start a family, Deb Cochard said.
First came Levi, Joshua and Isaac, though Isaac died shortly after birth because of a heart defect. Hannah, Rebekah and Gabriel came a year and a half later, filling the family’s Buck Creek Township home with five babies, all under 22 months old.
Their youngest son, Noah, was born a few years later.
It was a hectic time, Deb Cochard admits with a smile, but she wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
And life has never really slowed down.
Deb Cochard homeschooled her six children while encouraging them to volunteer at church and in their community and help around the family’s little farm. And, of course, when the time came, each signed up for 4-H — a program Brian Cochard, a 10-year 4-H’er himself, insisted his children participate in.
Hannah, Rebekah and Gabriel Cochard were mini-4-H’ers in 2007. That year, the Cochards produced nearly 30 projects for the fair, and they’ve kept that workload up over the years.
Annually, they come to the fairgrounds with dairy goats, cows, a few chickens and a pile of various projects for the foods and fine arts contests. They leave with a stack of ribbons and invitations to appear in contests at the Indiana State Fair — a feat achieved every year. They’ll each receive special recognition in August for their 10-year streak of appearances at the state’s highest contest.
4-H is a year-round commitment for their family, the triplets say. They run their own club — the 4-H Friendz — and participate in Junior 4-H Leaders. Deb Cochard works for the Hancock County Purdue Extension Office, and Brian Cochard took up leading the archery and shooting sports for all 4-H’ers after serving as dairy cattle show superintendent for years.
But Gabriel Cochard said he can still remember that first 4-H meeting, when members of the goat club met at their home, and they practiced walking their animals around the driveway. He was surrounded by kids who were older and more experienced than he was — though his sisters were, as always, by his side.
Being a triplet means always having a friend, Rebekah Cochard said. The trio tackles everything together, and now, they’re ready to move on to the next big adventure, Hannah Cochard said.
Rebekah and Gabriel Cochard are headed to Ball State University in the fall. He’ll study nursing, and she’ll major in elementary education. Hannah Cochard will attend classes at Indiana University-Purdue University Indiana to study speech language pathology.
It was their time in 4-H that led them to these career paths, the triplets say. Gabriel and Hannah Cochard both found a heart for the medical field while attending Purdue University classes in the 4-H Academy, a summer program for students. Rebekah Cocahrd said she learned to love working with kids while volunteering for 4-H and at her church.
And though they’re off to different colleges, they plan to commute to classes each day so they’ll never be too far apart.
Deb Cochard is glad for the good character and responsibility 4-H has helped her children build. She hopes they look back at these years with pride and gratitude.
“These are opportunities some kids dream for,” she said.