The Beekman Boys

By Ari Karpel

Originally published on Advocate.com September 17 2010 4:00 AM ET

When Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge bought the Beekman Mansion in Sharon Springs, N.Y., it was meant to be their quaint weekend home, an escape from stressful jobs in the city. But when the Great Recession hit, Ridge lost his position as vice president of healthy living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia and the 60 acres took on a much greater role in their lives. “What started out as a weekend place and a sort of play farm had to turn into a business,” says Kilmer-Purcell. “We realized we had to make a go of this as a business or we risked losing the farm.”

So while Kilmer-Purcell, a novelist and contributor to Out and The Advocate, toils away Monday to Friday as a creative director at a major advertising agency, his partner Ridge is making hay, as it were, turning the farm into a sustainable business that produces new products all the time, including goat cheese, candles and jams. “In the city you work really long hours, but on the farm you work even longer hours,” Ridge says. “All the farm aphorisms you hear, like ‘Getting up with the chickens’ or ‘Making hay while the sun shines,’ all of those things apply.”

With the cameras rolling for Planet Green’s reality series The Fabulous Beekman Boys, the couple of 10 years have had a crash course in all of them. “If there’s any place where a year makes a big difference it’s on a farm,” Kilmer-Purcell says. “Winter’s always hard. We preserve most of our food, so winter’s when you eat all the things out of your freezer that you didn’t want to eat earlier in the year.”

BRENT RIDGE JOSH KILMER-PURCELL 01 XLRG (PLANET GREEN) | ADVOCATE.COM

A big lesson for them—and for viewers—was
the slaughter of their beloved pigs, Porky and Bess, raised in comfort,
wandering the perimeter of the farm, munching on whole vegetables,
intended to yield food that would sustain the boys through the winter.

It
was a painful process, which showed them researching how to handle it
humanely, and they stood by while a friend killed them with as little
pain as possible. It’s an offal process, but someone had to do it.

“You
hear a lot of stories about people who give up the city life and move
to the country to live the simple life, but most of those stories are a
one way street that leave the city behind,” Kilmer-Purcell says. “What
we really want to do is try to help small farms in small towns in
America by making the introduction between that way of life and people
in the city.”

And sometimes between
the city ways and country situations. “Google is our friend,” he says.
“If we have a question like ‘Why is the chicken losing its feathers,’ we
type in ‘Why is the chicken losing its feathers’ into the Google search
bar. What do we do when the llama collapses? Go to Google.”