December 8, 2021

Ripley Farm in Moravia part of World Guernsey Federation tour

Dairy producers a breed apart

Michael McCleary

Patty Ripley and Roland Ripley give introductions Thursday as part of the World Guernsey Federation post-conference at Ripley Farms in Moravia.

MORAVIA — Roland Ripley beamed as he introduced his family one by one. By the time he reached his grandchildren, he lost track.

“And his — children,” Roland Ripley said.

“Seven,” his son, Dan Ripley, replied.

The nearly 100 people that gathered laughed. It used to be just Roland, his wife, Patty Ripley, and his five children on their farm in Moravia. Now, the Ripley’s are a family of 64. Their milk business, which has grown in the greater Cortland area, gained inspiration internationally and has more than doubled in size in the past year, Roland Ripley said, and their 3-year-old milk plant in Moravia has allowed them to distribute products across Central New York.

Thursday was the first day of the World Guernsey Federation’s post-conference tour through New York, which will run until Saturday. Guests came from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, England and elsewhere.

The Ripleys, who raise and milk Guernsey cow breeds, found 15 years ago their milk has A2 properties, which allows it to be digested by some lactose-intolerant people.

Though low milk prices have made dairy farms across the Northeast struggle, the A2 milk, sold to supermarkets and recently coffee shops, has allowed the Ripley farm to survive, said Chris Axtel, Roland Ripley’s oldest daughter.

“No comparison,” Roland Ripley’s cousin Charlie Ripley said. “I’m drinking quarts of it at a time. It’s that good.”

The Guernsey cattle originated in the Channel Islands between Britain and France, according to The Livestock Conservatory. It was named for the Isle of Guernsey.

The cattle has long been a staple in American dairy products because of its high beta carotene content.

Charles Ripley, Roland Ripley’s father, started buying Guernsey cattle in 1945, Roland Ripley said.

Paired with the Hereford cattle that dominated their farms, Charles Ripley made a living for his family.

Ripley Family Farm brand milk has expanded to nearly 20 coffee locations in the past year. The A2 milk the Ripley farms produce, besides being easier for people with lactose intolerance to digest, froths well.

When Roland Ripley was 15, Charles Ripley went out for a cup of coffee and when he exited his car he stumbled into oncoming traffic. After his father died, Roland Ripley’s mother forced him to remain in school, but he had to keep the farm running.

“We (were) bankrupt when I took over,” Roland Ripley said. “But I didn’t know anything more to do.”

He maintained it and in 2003, the Ripleys went to Australia for that year’s World Guernsey Federation conference, and learned about A2 milk in Guernsey cattle. Researchers at Cornell University tested their cattle and found their milk had A2 properties. Three years ago, Dan Ripley contacted a milk plant to become its distributor.

The Ripleys now produce milk at a number of farms in Moravia, and own 900 cattle, most of which are Guernseys. The milk has a sweeter taste than most cow milk and comes in several varieties, the most popular being chocolate, regular and strawberry.

Though they were dropped by their state distributor in February 2018, Dan Ripley said, their milk remained in high demand. James Rayburg, the owner of Public Espresso, a client based in Ithaca, contacted Dan Ripley last year.

“How will you get your milk to me?” Dan Ripley remembered Rayburg asked.

“Well, I guess I’ll bring it to you,” Dan Ripley said.

Rayburg was using the Hillcrest milk in their store, but Dan Ripley brought some samples of the A2 milk. Dan Ripley said Rayburg steamed the milk and was shocked.

“Oh,” Dan Ripley remembered Rayburg said. “That’s different.”

A2 milk foams naturally, Roland Ripley said, and the sweetness of the milk allows it to blend with coffee easily. The milk is now used in around 20 coffee shops in Central New York, including all Cafe Kubal locations in Syracuse, seven Gimme! coffee locations and Grindstone Cafe on Main Street in Cortland.

Recent youth programs and raffles aimed to spread Guersey cattle around.

Patrick Courtwright bought a raffle ticket for a Guernsey cow at the New York State Fair every year since he was 2. When he was 15, he won one of the Ripley’s Guernsey calves. Now 21, he now has four Guernsey cattle — and the Ripleys continue to help Guernsey numbers grow.

“We’re really committed,” Roland Ripley said. “And everybody knows about this.”