As Seasons Pass: A Ripley Family Farm Story - PhMuseum

As Seasons Pass: A Ripley Family Farm Story

Michele Abercrombie

2018 - Ongoing

New York, United States

Seen through the eyes of the Ripley children, 'As Season's Pass: A Ripley Family Farm Story' unveils a childhood of growing up, living and working on a dairy farm in upstate New York. Scenes infused with both wonder and reality reveal the great breadth of life within the very real, yet lyrical, landscape. Children naturally saturate their day to day life with curiosity, emotion, and an eagerness to teach and be taught. This series exists as a capturing of a portion of this existence.

While these images reside within an almost fantastical landscape, they also hold residence within the very real dairy farm space of long hours, hard work and economic hardship. Dan and Shari Ripley run the family business passed from generation to generation, and their eight children are immersed in what is a trying life, yet the experiences are lessened by the love, care and patience both practiced and taught. Reflecting this duality and difficulty, the participants in this series, including four of the Ripley children, narrate a whimsical vision; childhood harbouring creation.

“This one is Caroline” Keziah, age 9, explains, pointing at a red orange chicken with black tipped feathers. “There’s Jewel, there’s Groot, there’s Hawk, and Oak, Eagle, Lightning, Cookie, Spiderman, This is Orange… Wait a minute…” Here, Keziah looks around wildly. She stumbles forward before whispering: “I don’t know where Pearl is.”

“Her died” Jonah, age 4, announces, pointing at an assortment of white feathers resting on the grass.

Keziah runs to the place and comes to a stop looking down at the feathers –– a moment passes before she bends down and uncovers what appears to be the head of a chicken. After another long moment, blinking rapidly, Keziah cradles her finding and runs up to the house. When she returns she sits quietly by the feathers, hugging her knees into herself as if trying to make herself small. In the large, tall grassed field around the chicken coop, and the field of corn stalks running the length of the backyard beyond, she is small.

Jonah sits down beside her as her blinking slows. She swallows and murmurs, “When the fox gets one of our chickens and it leaves a pile of feathers in the yard, I usually take one of those, to remember that chicken. Like Lightning, she got attacked and she left a pile of feathers so I collected some of them. And my chicken from last year left a pile of feathers so I took one of hers. And now I got one of Pearl’s.”

Keziah breathes: “Daniel needs to build a barn. He said he would but he hasn’t yet.”

Daniel, age 20, the oldest of the Ripley children, doesn’t quite have the time, as he works full time on his family’s dairy farm while also attending SUNY Morrisville, where he is pursuing a degree in Dairy Sciences, so the infamous fox will likely to continue pursuing Keziah’s chickens for the time being. Daniel is part of a new generation of dairy farmers who continue to emerge, despite the growing difficulties of maintaining an increasingly difficult business. The belief in his family urges him onwards. His siblings echo the same sentiment. “Is it true some people don’t have chickens?” Keziah questions.

Shari, mother of eight, remarks, “I don’t think people realize their milk is coming from small family farms. The milk is [then] processed by big companies, [such as Garelick Farms and Byrne Dairy] but the dairy farms –– the farms are family run.” Shari Ripley explains. “But because we process and deliver our own milk, we’ve cut out the middle man. We hoped that would help.”

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