Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Those Fabulous Beekman Boys & me plus Omaha

OK, so I'm a big fan of the Fabulous Beekman Boys --- Josh (left) and Brent --- but it's not clear to me how many of us there are out here in Lucas County despite plenty of good reasons to be.

I have read both of Josh's best-selling memoirs, I Am Not Myself These Days and The Bucolic Plague; watched every episode of their two-season reality television show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, and even own and cook now and then from the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook (killer orange gingerbread).

What I did not do was watch their come-from-behind win of the most recent Amazing Race, broadcast on CBS, which netted a $1 million first prize (and allowed the couple to pay off the mortgage on the Beekman farm in upstate New York). Sorry, but you know the status of my television --- not connected to anything other than an electrical outlet and a DVD player.

Anyhow, I mention this now becauses the boys --- Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge --- will be at the Home and Garden Expo in Omaha this weekend --- just in case you're in the neighborhood --- giving presentations at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, signing books and, as they put it, "gossiping about Sharon Springs," the small town three and a half hours north of New York City where they live. The Expo will be held at the CenturyLink Center. If I were a little closer, I'd go.

In case you need it, there's a good primer on the two men, their lives and enterprises here, in the most recent Web edition of Frontiers, southern California's premier LGBT magazine.

To make a long story short, Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge became the Beekman Boys in 2007 when they  purchased as a weekend retreat the 1802 Beekman Mansion at Sharon Springs, which came with a small farm. At the time, Kilmer-Purcell was a writer and advertising executive; Ridge, a physician working as vice president for healthy living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia.

The couple, who have been together for 14 years and plan to marry this summer, then lived in New York City. They inadvertently acquired a Beekman tenant, caretaker and livestock operations partner when they allowed a farmer who had lost his farm --- now known as Farmer John --- to move to the Beekman with his herd of goats.

As the economy turned downward, both Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge lost their jobs and --- saddled with a half-million-dollar mortgage on the farm --- faced some tough decisions. Eventually, they decided that Brent would move full-time to the farm and work to turn it into a paying proposition; Josh would find another advertising job in New York and work there to pay down the mortage and provide health insurance and other benefits.

The Fabulous Beekman Boys television series dropped into their laps, sort of, during the first two years of this new arrangement as they developed their Beekman 1802 lifestyles brand, based in part upon turning goat milk into soap and cheese at Sharon Springs. That series was broadcast on Discovery Channel's Planet Green and captured among other things some of the tensions that developed because their work weeks were spent three and a half hours apart.

Now that Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell are back together full-time as a result of the Amazing Race win (the New York City apartment was vacated Feb. 1), plans are afoot for a third season of the television series along with other efforts to boost both the Beekman brand --- and the community of Sharon Springs, which the Beekman Boys have worked consistently to support and involve in their success.

I'm intrigued by what the "boys" have accomplished through cooperative and committed hard work, but also by the impact their home-grown enterprise has had on their rural hometown. There's not that much difference, after all, between upstate New York and downstate Iowa. Maybe what we need is a TV reality show, but who are going to be our Beekman Boys?

You can learn more about all things Beekman here.

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