The Fabulous Beekman 1802

Monday, June 2, 2014

Take two men from Manhattan and put them on a farm in historic Sharon Springs, add a couple hundred goats, a few chickens, a diva Llama named Polka Spot and a farmhand named Farmer John and what do you get?  You get the Fabulous Beekman Boys....farmers, authors, entrepreneurs, TV stars and winners of the Amazing Race in 2012.  I don't watch the Amazing Race, so I wasn't familiar with the Beekman Boys until this past year when our local library, in conjunction with the towns of Halfmoon and Clifton Park and the Friends of the Library, chose the book, "The Bucolic Plague" (How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers) by Josh Kilmer-Purcell as its annual Two Towns-One Book read.   Throughout the year events were held celebrating the book.  One event featured a visit and talk from Josh and his husband Dr. Brent Ridge.  Unfortunately I missed that talk, but attended a few of the other events, including the highlight and culmination of the yearlong celebration which was a bus trip to Sharon Springs featuring a tour of the Beekman 1802 Farm.  This was a truly special event since the farm (Josh & Brent's private home) is not generally open to the public except for special events.  We were honored that Josh and Brent graciously opened their farm and breathtaking property to our little group - of 80!!!  Before I talk about the farm, let me begin with a little Beekman history.

Notice the goat......

"The Beekman Mansion was built over two years, 1802-1804, by the Honorable William Beekman. Though raised without any formal education, William Beekman rose to regional prominence as a fair businessman and successful farmer, eventually being appointed the first judge of Schoharie County and later, a state senator.  William and his wife, Joanna, had 10 children. Only three of them survived to adulthood, and none lived past 30. William, however, died at 78 years old. The bodies of William, Joanna and several children were originally entombed in the crypt onsite, though the location of their remains is now a mystery."  Borrowed from the Beekman 1802 website.

 Fast forward to 2007 when  Josh Kilmer-Purcell (advertising executive and NY Times Bestselling author of I Am Not Myself These Days & The Bucolic Plague) and his partner Brent Ridge (physician and former Vice President of Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia) purchased the historic Beekman 1802 Farm with the idea of having a weekend getaway from their fast paced NYC lives.  But when both men lost their jobs during the 2008 recession, they knew the only way to save their farm was to make it profitable.  One way they did that was to take in their neighbor, Farmer John and  his herd of dairy goats and began making cheese and goat milk soap. 

Soon the Beekman Boys started a website and a blog, and opened a mercantile in town.  Before long the press got wind of it all and a reality show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys was born on the Planet Green network.  Unfortunately Time Warner didn't carry it, but we just purchased Season One from Amazon and loved every episode.  If you have netflix or Amazon Prime....check it out.   Since this all began, they've released three cookbooks and sell everything from goat milk soap, to cooking supplies, to gardening supplies to muck boots and beyond.  Their mercantile in town is small and sophisticated and carries a wide variety of items but much more is available online.

 Unfortunately during our visit, Josh and Brent were out of town so when our two busloads of visitors arrived at the Beekman Farm, Megan Holken (the COO of the Beekman operation) greeted us warmly, and somewhat apprehensively .....we were a BIG group!!  Megan told us stories about the Beekman Mansion, the farm, the family crypt, the resident ghost(s) including a 4 yr old girl who stories  tell was scalped by Indians and now resides in the mansion.  Interesting to note that the mansion was abandoned twice over the years, survived attacks by Native American Indians and was believed to possibly have been a stop on the underground railroad.   I can't begin to tell you what a thrill it was to be allowed to wander around the grounds of this truly gorgeous farm and to meet Farmer John and the kids!

Just a little love-fest between Farmer John and one of his many admirers.

Farmer John welcomed us into his barn and told us all about raising "goats".   The entire time Farmer John addressed us, several goats cuddled up to him, nibbled his clothes, rubbed his face and nudged against his legs.  It was clear that Farmer John has a "way" with goats.  You would imagine that raising this many goats would be a business, but it is apparent that for Farmer John, it's more.  He is present for every birth (this year they welcomed around 200 new babies), and personally names each and every goat born on the farm and tends to the entire herd himself including milking the mama goats twice a day.   Each baby must be named with a name that begins with the first letter of its mother's name........so mama Emma Lou had triplets named Ethan, Emily and Evan, and so on.  Pretty amazing, huh?  I can see I probably needed to give Farmer John a blog post of his own, since he's a huge piece of the Beekman story (and empire) not to mention that he has a heart the size of Texas. 



" Ahhhh......that feels good." Farmer John providing a little head scratch.....



 The goats are divided into groups in the barn....mamas, babies, youngsters, etc... so everyone is 
happy and stress free which enables the mama goats to produce better & more milk.



 And in the village of Sharon Springs.....The Beekman 1802 mercantile.

This one taken this past winter when we drove through town.....ice sculptures.....B 1802


  And finally.....what you've been waiting for - the Beekman Mansion

 Take a minute to look closely at the detail in this architecture!



  The Beekman Family Crypt

 Yes....those are bones that have been found on the property.


 The crypt is surrounded by Solomon Seal, Bleeding Hearts and Roses.





 



 Notice the raised beds in the vegetable garden on the left of this photo (above).


  
Unfortunately we were running late for our next stop and I didn't get time to walk to the pond :(


The Bucolic Plague is a fascinating and humorous story of  how two real people made a decision to undergo a life change and how they not only survived the trials and tribulations that came their way, and there were many.  They built a brand, a life they dreamed of and helped change and grow the village of Sharon Springs, along with their good friends, Doug and Garth at the American Hotel.  You will love reading the book and will never want to leave their website, blogs and live webcam in the goat barn.    This place and the people who run it are special and endearing and role models for us all to let go of the humdrum rat race we might be in and embrace our dreams.  There's so much more of their story to tell, so please read their book and check out their website.  Trust me....you won't be able to get enough.  And while you're on the website, don't forget to check out the Live Webcam in the goat barn!  Thank you Josh & Brent for sharing your story, your wonderful recipes (I bought a cookbook while I was there) and your home.  Thank you also to Farmer John (who I suspect never expected to be famous) for the role you have played in the success of the Beekman story and for graciously sharing your kids with all of their fans.










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