When Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, aka the Beekman Boys, bought a farm in upstate New York, they were urbanites seeking a country escape. Now they live year-round on the farm, where they create provisions and home goods for their Beekman 1802 line. At their current pop-up in the lobby of the Lenox Hotel, you’ll find a curated selection of those wares, including a candle custom made for Boston. We got Ridge on the line from the farm to talk shop.
Finding out what to Google. Because almost everything we had to learn—farming, cheese-making, making soap—we started out by Googling it. And you’d be surprised by how much you can learn by watching a YouTube video.
We grow or raise about 90 percent of the food that we consume. So we are literally farm-to-our own table.
What do you miss most about living in New York? It’s funny, when you live in a big city you don’t really appreciate it. You get mired down in all the hassles of living in a big city. And I think now when we have to go into any big city, whether it’s Boston or New York, we really appreciate the creativity. I really just love walking down the street and looking into the store windows and seeing what people are doing.
Be honest: Who does the most work on the farm, you or Josh? [Laughs] Oh totally me! No, it’s 50/50. We run the whole farm with just three people—Josh, myself and Farmer John. So all three of us are constantly working to get things done. We have a great group of people helping us with the other aspects of our company, like merchandise. It takes a village to run our company.
Now that you see where all your food comes from, has your diet completely changed, and have you seen a difference in your health? Well, my career before this was in medicine, so I’ve always been a health-conscious person. But I would say we eat a lot less meat now, because we’re raising so many vegetables. And when we do raise pigs and cows, you think more about the harvest of those things.
Was it hard the first time you slaughtered an animal? It’s really hard. We cried—we still cry. Oddly, we don’t cry when we have to do the chickens or the turkeys. The poultry don’t really get you quite as emotional.
Tell us about the partnership with the Lenox. They started working with us last year when they brought in our hotel amenity line, all of which is made with goat milk. We worked with them to create dispensers for the rooms. … So they’re going to put 200,000 fewer bottles into landfills this year. So, after we started working with them almost their entire management team came to visit us on the farm, and they just fell in love with the farm and what we were doing there, and they asked us if we could do a bigger project with them. So first they started using our goat milk caramels for their turndown service, and then they asked if we’d consider opening a holiday pop-up shop in their lobby.
It’s kind of an edited selection of what we have in our home mercantile, so it has all the goat milk skincare, some of our artisanal food products, goat milk caramels and chocolate covered goat milk caramels. It has our cookbooks, some of our home wares. We designed a candle exclusively for the pop-up. We had one of our artisans hand-throw each of the ceramic vessels, and the interiors of them are glazed with 14 karat gold, so that when the candle burns down it flickers into the gold, and then it’s scented with Mayflower blossoms, which of course is the state flower of Massachusetts. So people can only buy that at the Lenox location—you can’t get that in our online shop.
How did you discover that goat milk was good for the skin? We Googled it. [Laughs.] A local farmer was moving his farm and asked if he could bring his goats to our property to graze. We allowed him to do that, and shortly after that, in the recession of 2008, we both lost our jobs and had to figure out a way to make the farm sustain itself. So we were just Googling “What can you make with goat milk?” It turns out that goat milk has the same pH as human skin, so it’s really moisturizing.
You guys competed on The Amazing Race—and won! What was that like? It was terrible, until the last 30 seconds! But the most amazing thing was when we were in Indonesia. Before doing the Race we had our show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, so before we left we printed “Beekman Boys” on our T-shirts, so that when we were on TV, people would see it. So we were in Indonesia and had just finished a terrible task that had depleted every bit of energy we had. It was like 110 degrees, and I think at that point we were in, like, last place. We were running down this little alleyway, and all these little kids came out from school and read our shirts and started chanting, “Beekman Boys! Beekman Boys!” That really gave us a breath of life.
If you could be on another reality show, what would it be? Well, Josh would say Survivor. In Josh’s mind he’s like “all you do is sit on the beach the whole time.” But for me it would be Dancing with the Stars. Not because I’m a good dancer, but because I love learning things, and they get to learn all those dances in just a couple months.
You could YouTube learn those dances, you know. That’s true, that’s true—but there’s not a mirror ball to win. Well, I suppose I could make my own mirror ball. [Laughs]