Busy city-folk who dream of escaping the daily grind and settling into a peaceful life in the country, be warned: Business struggles roost everywhere. Witness Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, a couple who left big-time jobs in Manhattan to raise goats on the 200-year-old Beekman farm in upstate New York. Their struggles (selling fancy goat's milk soap) and triumphs (paying the mortgage) will be documented on The Fabulous Beekman Boys, starting June 16 on the Planet Green network. We caught up with Ridge, a former VP at Martha Stewart Living, and Kilmer-Purcell, an ad exec and former drag queen, to hear more about turning the green lifestyle into a moneymaking enterprise.
What makes you guys different from all the other city slickers turned green thumbs?
Kilmer-Purcell: They leave the city behind. We bring our city slicker ways to the country, and we also want to create a business that will bring rural areas with small farms back to the city.
Why is getting your hands dirty chic right now?
K-P: There's more of a sense of style in the simple life. For a long time, if you gave everything up and planted your own vegetables, that was more of an act of desperation. Now people realize it's actually not just green and responsible, but it also can be very stylish to be providing your own food and researching heirloom vegetables.
Can you really get back to nature surrounded by TV cameras?
Ridge: It's odd. But as we became successful, we wanted to draw attention to other small farms and the importance of preserving these pieces of American history.
What has it cost you to fulfill the escape fantasy?
R: The simple life is not simple. When you have animals or crops to tend to or hay to gather, there's no vacation. It's seven days a week, and there's always something to be done. We're really, really working hard. And not nearly as financially rewarded.
Tell us about a success.
R: The core of our business is our organically managed goat dairy farm, and we wanted to develop an artisanal cheese. We needed a special-occasion product that would stand out on a cheese plate or in the case of a cheese shop, something unique and sexy. That's when we hit on the idea of ashing our wheels before we put them in the cave to age. The result is a gorgeous, edible black rind, which ultimately gave us the name for our cheese, Beekman 1802 Blaak. [Blaak is the Dutch spelling of the color.] By taking this calculated approach to designing our cheese, we occupy a place no other artisanal cheese maker does. And the result is that we are on the menus of some of the finest restaurants in New York, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen, and we completely sold out of our first year of production.