I chat with Brent Ridge (that's him on the left below), Manhattan doctor-turned-goat-farmer extraordinaire, as he and partner, journalist Josh Kilmer-Purcell launch The Fabulous Beekman Boys on the Cottage Life Television on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Fans can catch Brent and Josh signing copies of The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook at the Yorkdale Williams-Sonoma store in Toronto from 5-7 p.m. on October 1, 2013.
House & Home: You and Josh won the Amazing Race in 2012. What's tougher, the race or goat farming?
BR: Goat farming. Your livelihood depends on it.
H&H: Tell us a little about how you, a doctor and your husband Josh Kilmer-Purcell, a writer for The New York Times, ended up farming the 19th-century Beekman farm?
BR: We bought a farm in 2007 in Sharon Springs, New York just as a weekend place, we had jobs in the city. Shortly after a local farmer approached us because he couldn't pay the mortgage on his farm and lost it. He asked if he could graze his herd of 120 goats on our property, otherwise he would lose those too. We thought it would be fun to have goats to play with. Then we both lost our jobs in the recession in 2008 and that's how we started our business, Beekman 1802. We sell products like goat cheeses, jam and our soaps to Williams-Sonoma and Henri Bendel. And Josh wrote a book about it, Bucolic Plague.
H&H: Now you and Josh have another book launching, The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook (Raincoast 2013). Who is the best cook?
BR: I am better at savoury, Josh makes a fantastic pie crust. (We've got their recipe for Apple Tarte Tatin, shown above, try it here.)
H&H: Do you miss any cuisine from the city?
BR: No, we have everything we need. We have 110 varieties of heirloom vegetables. We produce our own beef, pork, chickens and turkeys. We keep two pigs a year, you get attached to those animals over time and it's difficult to harvest them but that is part of the process. It should be difficult, and you should think about what is on your plate. Our farm in Sharon Springs in 3 ½ hours outside New York City. We go into the city about twice a month and really appreciate the creativity and energy, it's the best of both worlds.
H&H: Your show is going to be airing in Canada this fall, what will fans love most about The Fabulous Beekman Boys?
BR: When you work in an urban setting you are often working for someone else and don't see immediate rewards. Watching the Cottage Life Television is about a weekend that lasts all week, dreaming of a life outside, and maybe one with more meaning. Others might live vicariously through us, watching us launch the business and save the farm.
H&H: Why is rural life a cause célèbre for you? Why are small farms so important?
BR: We have to work hard. We're here to tell the story why food produced on a small farm tastes better and is worth more than what comes from factory farms or imports from China. It's reassuring to know there are people who don't want the cheapest thing, that are willing to pay a premium for a great product. Anybody who chooses to be a farmer should be able to make a living, on par with a teacher or fireman or any other professional. Farmers are the backbone of the country, if you run a small farm you shouldn't be living below the poverty level.