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Beekman Boys Interview

Apr 20, 2011 at 11:21 AM Chime in now

Last summer audiences fell in love with Manhattanites-turned-farmers Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell on their hit Planet Green television show The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Lately, the pair has been busy growing its company, Beekman 1802, expanding the farm, writing a cookbook or heirloom recipes and gearing up for the March 22 premiere of season two of the show. iVillage recently had the chance to talk with Brent and Josh to get the inside scoop on all of their projects and see how they're getting back to a simpler way of life.

Plus, check out our tour of the Beekman mansion!

iVillage: The Fabulous Beekman Boys premiered last year and grew in popularity very quickly. Why do you think audiences have responded so positively to the show?

Brent: Judging from the e-mails and Facebook messages, I think that what resonated most with people was our relationship. I think a lot of couples saw themselves reflected in us. I can't tell you how many e-mails we got that said, "Oh, I'm just like you and my husband is just like Josh," or some variation of that. I think that the reality show picked up right in our lives when a lot of Americans were going through the same things we were. We had both lost our jobs, and we were both in a kind of transition period of our lives and were starting a new at-home business. I think a lot of Americans could really relate to that.

What are you excited for audiences to see in the new season of the show?

Brent: I just can't wait for people to see the whole season—it just really focuses on us trying to grow the business, and there are so many entrepreneurs out there trying to grow their own businesses that I think will relate. There are both funny moments that happen and mistakes that happen, and tough decisions that have to be made. I think this season is just a real portrait of trying to grow a small business.

In the new season of The Fabulous Beekman Boys and in the past, you've had some really exciting guests visit the farm—Martha Stewart, Rosie O'Donnell, Top Chef Masters chef Marcus Samuelsson. Who were some of your favorite visitors to the farm?

Josh: I think Rosie was actually quite fun because it was a bit of a surprise. She came during the harvest festival and then visited the farm. It was funny because she is quite a Long Island girl--born and bred--so, as much as she liked the animals, I think she got a dose of reality when she walked into the barn and put her collar up over her nose. It stayed there for the rest of the visit. I also liked when Rachael Ray came to visit. She's an upstate girl and really appreciates what farmers are doing in upstate New York, and she was just really lovely.

Josh, right now you're splitting your time between Beekman 1802 and your advertising career. Much of season two focuses on that. Ultimately, is your goal to get to the point where you're at the farm full time?

Josh: Our show is reality and in real time, and we still have some filming left to go, so we don't know [where things will end up]. But the goal is, yes, for me to be able to spend more time at the farm and work on our business. We don't know if that means leaving my advertising career entirely or not. From a relationship standpoint—we just celebrated our 11th anniversary—we didn't really expect to be separated like this for two of those years, so the goal right now is to just try to be together in the same place.

You have been working on some really exciting projects lately. What can fans of Beekman 1802 look forward to?

Brent: Well, we're doing the Heirloom Vegetable Garden Seed Collection with Williams-Sonoma right now. Our goal is to get 10,000 people to grow 10 of the same seeds that we grow on the farm—we're calling it the world's largest community garden. We also have a couple of new beauty products launching this spring and winter, including a goat's milk lotion, which we call Stick of Butter, and it's amazing for the skin. Then, we'll have a couple of new food products when the third season of Blaak (the famed artisanal cheese produced from the goats at Beekman Farm) is ready to come out of the cave in May. We're launching a new accompaniment to that cheese, a rosemary cream honey. We're actually installing forty beehives on the farm as we speak. Then later in the summer, we're introducing our pourable goat's milk caramel.

Both of you focus and talk a lot about "community" and how the farm helped you discover that. How can the rest of us urbanites and suburbanites experience that without picking up and moving to a rural area or a farm?

Brent: Community is very important to us and it's something that we discovered the importance of when we moved to the farm. We didn't know the first thing about running a farm, and we really had to rely on the help of our neighbors to get the farm up and running. As we've grown our business we've been very committed to working with local artisans and local craftspeople to develop products that they can make for us, so that we can help fulfill their dreams as well. People often ask us about the community of Sharon Springs [where Beekman Farms is located] and why there seems to be this abundance of both quirky characters and talented crafts people in this area. While we do think there are a lot of those, there are quirky characters and talented people everywhere. I think that culturally, we've so divorced ourselves from the idea of going out and meeting our neighbors—we are sitting behind computers all the time instead. That's what we did, we went out and knocked on doors and met our neighbors. That is really what's contributed to our success and there are these kinds of treasures everywhere—right in your backyard—and you just have to go out and find them and meet them.

Josh: And I think that people can live more organically and more green by meeting and working with your neighbors. If one person has a space big enough for a large garden, then everyone can work in that garden and share in the food and that is living more green. If you're in New York and you have an apartment building, put all of your old books in the lobby and let people share that way. That forms a community and is also recycling. It's really about meeting people around you and sharing things.

You have a new book of heirloom recipes slated for October, and the heirloom seeds have been a recent focus. What have you learned from basing so much of what you do on looking to the past?

Josh: There are so many lessons that living in a 208-year-old farm has taught us, and those lessons are just as valuable as the options we have today. One quick example is that our house is built on top of a hill with the windows and doors facing in the right direction, so that in the summertime, we never have to turn on an air conditioner. It was just perfectly thought-out. The same goes with heirloom seeds: the reason people planted so many varieties in the past is because they didn't have pesticides. If one crop failed, they needed to have another version of it, with genetic diversity, so that it would succeed. What we found in looking to the past was that there are a lot of solutions for the future there.

What are your hopes for what the show will become?

Brent: Well, we always said when we first started this show that any time something is successful, there are copycat shows. So, we're hoping that there will be more shows that feature more small farms out there and that there will be more attention paid to all local farms. Now Roseanne Barr is trying to copy us with a farm show...

Josh: She's not copying; she's just doing the same thing as us.

Brent: That's called copying.

Josh: Emulating. I like "emulating."

Plus, check out Josh's hit book The Bucolic Plague,perback.

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