Last year, TV viewers fell in love with two city boys-turned-farmers and their gaggle of goats and clamored for a second helping, which they’ll get March 22 when Planet Green premieres the first of two new back-to-back episodes of “The Fabulous Beekman Boys.” We checked in with Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell to see how life has changed since they bought the Beekman 1802 farm and what’s ahead for them this season.
What did you learn from your first year on the farm, particularly since watching it unfold in Season 1?
Josh: Rarely do you get to see your partner at the time you’re not with them. We got to see how hard each of us was working to make our dream a reality. I think we learned to respect each other a little more.
Brent: Watching Season 1 has improved our relationship. When that was being filmed, it was a very stressful time for us. We were very strapped for cash, we were apart from one another for the first time in our 10-year relationship history, and we were fighting a lot because we were under a lot of stress. Any time you’re in a long-term relationship, you start taking one another for granted, and you don’t often realize the things that you’re saying or the cavalier way in which you speak to one another. Having yourself reflected back at you and seeing how things really were does make you a little more conscientious.
Did you expect the show to be so popular? How is dealing with the fame aspect?
Josh: Sharon Springs is pretty remote from the paparazzi. When we’re there it’s pretty much life as usual, just a bit busier. We’re really grateful for the fact that it is so popular. We have a lot of people on Facebook now and a lot of people visit our website. We had the Harvest Festival the first year and we thought it was great because we got 500 people. Then the episode aired showing the Harvest Festival and then this past year we had over 5000. Rosie O’Donnell showed up. It was insane! One of the surprising things is we hear from a lot of farmers. At first we thought that farmers would think we were making fun of them or not presenting their life accurately but as silly and novice as we are, farmers have written in to say that we capture the amount of work that it takes to keep a farm running.
What are the challenges you’re facing now?
Brent: We’re a growing business, and as we grow we have to decide whether to hire new people to help us out. If we do that, it means it’s a little longer before Josh can move to the farm full time and that’s a hard decision to make.
Josh: Our first year was our year of sacrifice, not living together. This year our goal was to make a million dollars so I can move up to the farm full time. We didn’t expect to be separated this long.
Brent: I always tell Josh that things don’t always happen as quickly as you want them to.
So how’s business?
Brent: Last year we produced just over 2,000 pounds of cheese, and we sold out of every single ounce of it. The soaps we now sell all over the world with Anthropologie. We do have other products we develop on a small scale using local craftspeople as the producers. We do heirloom linens, letterpress stationery, home décor items with our blacksmith. We design the products and have them create the products using their skill set and we find a market for them. The iron block bud vase we designed with our blacksmith has been featured in “Architectural Digest” and is in every room of the Greenwich Hotel, Robert De Niro’s hotel.
And we’re doing a big seed project with Williams-Sonoma right now. They contacted us last year and asked if we would like to do some kind of gardening project with them. We had just finished doing the big heirloom vegetable auction at Sotheby’s, which you will see in Season 2. We really do want to encourage people to grow their own things; even if it’s their first or only time, to go through the process will make them value what it takes to grow the food that we eat and also highlight heirloom vegetables because we feel that genetic diversity is really important.
We created a set of seeds from ten of the vegetables we grow, like tomatoes, carrots, squash, pumpkin, and we’re trying to create the world’s largest community garden, an online community. The idea is to get 10,000 people across America to grow ten of the same vegetables that we are growing. We chose ten things that we thought people would have some degree of success with and feel that they accomplished something. We had a contest on our website to find experts in each growing zone and chose two from each zone, and if people have a question they can ask the experts in our forums. Every two weeks we send out a garden checklist specific to your growing zone that tells you what you should be doing in your garden over the next two weeks. So far, we’ve had over 4700 people sign up for the checklist, so it’s going surprisingly well. At the end of the season when people start harvesting, we’ll have people weigh their vegetables and we’ll tally how many pounds the project generated.
Besides the organic farming and composting you do, are there any new green elements you’ve added lately?
Brent: We got the villagers to come over and help us redo our barn, and we added a wind spire, a turbine. It’s saved us at least $300 a month. It’s powering the refrigeration and milking machines in the barn. It’s pretty great. That’s the third episode.
What else will we see this season?
Josh: We started a Victorian celebration this year for the holidays and it was really quite lovely. People dressed in Victorian garb and for one day, Sharon Springs was transformed back 100 years. I think people are going to get a kick out of that. People seem to love Sharon Springs and what it represents. We love any time we can show off the town.
What goals are you setting now besides making that million so Josh can quit his day job?
Josh: People ask us what are the tricks to getting where we are, and the truth is we’re just taking advantage of things as they come along. We don’t really have a plan for what’s next. We want to continue growing the business and most importantly, the community.
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