We call ourselves "accidental farmers." We didn't plan to buy the Beekman Farm in Sharon Springs, New York. We were on a weekend apple-picking trip when we got lost and stumbled on the place. One of us (Brent Ridge) was the vice president of healthy living at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The other (Josh Kilmer-Purcell) was an advertising executive and the author of I Am Not Myself These Days, a memoir about his life as a drag queen. We'd always considered ourselves city dwellers. But when we drove by the Beekman mansion, built in 1802, we knew we had to have it.
By the next spring, it was ours. And within a few months, we got a letter from a farmer named John who needed to find a new home for himself and his 88 goats. It's hard to say no to homeless goats, so we took them in. To use up all the goat milk, we created a company, Beekman 1802. We sell our goat-milk soap and cheese on the Beekman 1802 website, as well as housewares from local craftspeople. Anyone who has read The Bucolic Plague, Josh's chronicling of our first few years at the farm, or seen our reality-TV show on Planet Green, called The Fabulous Beekman Boys, knows that our dream has had its share of nightmares"zombie flies" that show up when the weather is warm, a ghost named Marybut we've never stopped. As long as there's a golden carrot planted somewhere in the garden, we'll keep digging.
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Life on the farm has taught us many things, including how to grow more than 110 varieties of heirloom vegetables. But more than anything, we've learned what it's like to step back in time a bit, to an era when people really knew their neighbors and depended on them. Last summer, when we needed to make some upgrades on our property, we asked our Sharon Springs friends to join us for a barn raising. Entire villages used to come together to help a farmer erect his barn, knowing that at some point they would need the favor returned.