Words by Jenny Sundel. Images by Sarah Pezdek.
At five o’clock each morning, Brent Ridge bounds out of bed and goes to work still in his pajamas. The former Manhattanite’s commute is enviable. His workday begins right outside his house, which is situated on Beekman 1802, a 60-acre farm in Sharon Springs, N.Y. that he purchased with partner Josh Kilmer-Purcell a decade ago as a weekend getaway. When they both lost their jobs during the recession, the reality television stars – who won the grand prize on “The Amazing Race” in 2012 and starred in The Cooking Channel’s “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” – moved to the farm full-time, turning their bucolic lifestyle into a thriving business that now includes ecommerce, a brick-and-mortar shop on the small town’s quaint Main Street and a series of cookbooks.
While Brent loves his job, he reveals the real reason behind his daily sunrise sprint from the master bedroom inside their beautifully restored Georgian-Federal home. “We have a rule: Whoever is the last person to get out of bed has to make it, so I get out of bed, even if it’s just a minute before Josh!”
The pair then divide and conquer the morning chores, including playing with their 127 goats, which Farmer John – who moved into an empty barn on the property years ago after losing his own neighboring farm – has already milked by the time they wake up. After picking up windfall apples to feed to their 22 chickens, they gather food for themselves. “We walk across the big yard and collect our breakfast in our pajamas,” says Brent. This time of year, that means picking in-season raspberries and apples from the garden to pair with homemade goat milk yogurt from the fridge, and retrieving freshly laid eggs from the henhouse for a truly farm-to-table meal.
And how do they take their coffee, which is their own special blend, inspired by the same type of full-bodied beans the original owner of the farm, William Beekman, would have sold in his mercantile in 1802? “With goat milk!” says Josh. “We’re somewhat lazy when it comes to shopping,” cracks Brent.
In fact, the couple raises or grows the majority of their food, living off the farm “almost 100%,” according to Josh’s calculations. In early fall, farm chores revolve around harvesting and preserving the last of their crops. High on the priority list: making plenty of hard apple cider to last them through the impending wintry nights. Then, it’s time to “put the farm to bed” so the pair can focus on product development and business planning until early spring. “Over the years we really perfected what we need to make it through the winter,” says Josh, a New York Times bestselling author and former advertising executive.
At nine o’clock, the duo drives a few miles to their store, Mercantile 1802, where goat milk-infused favorites include everything from cheese to soap. But first: a wardrobe change. They swap out their dirty farm clothes in favor of more indoor-appropriate jeans or work pants. “Our clothes really have to be functional and last, and that’s, probably even more so now, our farmer pragmatism,” says Josh, a flannel enthusiast, who confesses, “I’ve been known to garden half the day in pajama bottoms.” While attending “fancy functions” in New York City, they opt for denim and a blazer instead of a suit and tie. And for cozy nights in? They bundle up with “thousands of sweaters” to stay warm inside the drafty 220 year-old-house. “As the season progresses, we wear more and more layers,” says Josh.
Toting freshly cut blooms like sunflowers from their garden, the pair arrives at their flagship store, housed in an 1860s building on Main Street, which they bought and renovated with their “Amazing Race” grand prize money. “When we moved in, there were three businesses open on Main Street, and last time we counted, there were 11,” says Josh. “One of the good things about being on television is it really showed Sharon Springs to a ton of people. A lot of customers and Beekman neighbors make the pilgrimage here, and they keep coming back because they feel it’s their small town, too,” he adds of the “charming village” with a population of 547, formerly a spa town in the 1800s thanks to local mineral springs.
Sometimes, they leave to check on shipments at their nearby warehouse or drive to their corporate office in Schenectady, N.Y., rarely – if ever—splitting up during the day. Josh jokes, “We have a herd mentality, just like the goats. Wherever one goes, so does the other.” Brent chimes in, “We are literally together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We wake up together, go to work together, come home together, eat every meal together.”
One meal not on their shared calendar? “We often don’t eat lunch. We may have a piece of cheese or something, but that’s what farmers used to do. There was really no such thing as lunch back then,” says Josh.
After completing tasks like stocking shelves, working on displays, prepping for cooking demonstrations, responding to emails and maybe even baking a pie to gift to a neighbor, they return home around four o’clock to pick up farm chores until sundown. “We have that weird combination of trying to run a business and a farm at the same time,” says Josh, who tends to the vegetable and fruit gardens while Brent handles the landscaping. Josh points out that “the luxury of having space and room to breathe” makes it easy for them to spend so much time together, as they can spread out across acres on the farm, as opposed to their prior life in a cramped 900-square-foot space in Midtown Manhattan, where they joke that Bloomingdale’s was their backyard.
The two finish each night with a home-cooked meal using chicken or meat from one of the neighboring farms and ingredients from their garden. During winter, they dig into their preserved harvests from the freezer and cans. “We make something different for dinner almost every night based on what we have on hand,” says Josh, adding that their fourth cookbook, “A Seat at the Table,” is now available. “We don’t Netflix and chill a lot,” jokes Brent of their various projects, which includes the 2018 launch of a gardening line featuring outdoor décor and tools inspired by their farm life. “Our enjoyment is to finish and accomplish something, and share what we do,” he says.
By nine o’clock (even earlier in winter when the sun sets sooner), the two are tucked into bed after applying their goat milk night cream and sipping on – what else? — warm goat milk with honey. “That’s almost always how we end the night,” says Brent. Josh adds, “The old ‘drink warm milk to sleep’ [adage] — it’s actually really true!” Josh sums up: “It’s a nice life.”