The Mertens aren’t sure how far back farming goes in the family, but their best guess is at least seven generations. Photographer Elliot Ross says he is one of the only children in his generation to have left the tradition. But he still remembers vividly the sensations of growing up on the rolling plains of Colorado.

“I miss the hoots of the night hawks that would whirl around the rim of the canyon just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon. I miss the symphony of crickets on late summer nights. I miss the massive thunderstorms that I would watch build over the course of the day and eventually explode in the evenings in the most awe-inspiring and often times frightening ways,” he said in an email.

In 2015, those storms produced emerald pastures as well as the biggest bumper crop that anyone in the family could remember seeing. It was that same July that Ross returned to Colorado, where he focused on capturing the Mertens family as they sank everything they had into the crucial July wheat harvest. His resulting work is a project named “The Reckoning Days.”

Harvest took an additional week that season. The family and hired hands took shifts in the fields so the combines could perpetually harvest. But because of an increased supply on the market, profits were just average, Ross said.

Despite the unpredictable yields and need to adapt to evolutions in farming technology, Ross said the Mertens family has never given thought to leaving. “I attribute that to the amount of pride my family has for what they do, the connection to their land and being able to pass these skills down to the next generation,” he said. “It’s a way of life, and a great one at that.”

Elliot Ross is a photographer based in New York City. To see more of his work, visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

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