Tag: hobby farm

The Beekman Boys Explain How Goats Transformed their Lives

“Life gives you goats you make goat milk soap,

goat milk cheese and goat milk,

whatever you can make.”

If you’ve been on my Facebook page, you may have noticed some of the fun challenges we’ve been doing with people like Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily, Justin and Amy of The Chubby Vegetarians, Georgia Pellegrini, and the Beekman Boys. It’s a way for us to all work together on projects which have been really fun.

Most recently, the Beekman Boys stopped by the farm. If you don’t know their story Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge were two Manhattanites who moved from the big city to a farm in upstate New York. While at the farm we did some filming, cooking, a little turkey wrangling, and then threw a summer bash out under the Big Sister oak. It was a blast!

Big Sister Oak at Moss Mountain Farm

After dinner we held a panel discussion about local food, heirloom vegetables and heritage livestock breeds. The evening ended with a Q&A session.

Here are a few of the questions Josh and Brent answered.

How long have you guys had your farm?

Josh: Well we bought our farm in 2007. And we call ourselves accidental farmers because we were Manhattanites, obnoxious Manhattanites, who would drive up to upstate New York and bother all the locals and buy their apples on the weekends. And we found this farm and we fell in love with it and purchased it thinking it would be a nice weekend place. And then we got a letter in our mailbox from a man named Farmer John who was losing his farm and he said, “I’ve got 80 goats and can I come put them on your farm?” And we thought, still obnoxious Manhattanites at that time, we thought “Oh great! We’ve got a petting zoo.” So he came in with his goats. So that was 2007. In 2008 us obnoxious Manhattanites lost our fancy-pants Manhattan jobs; both within 30 days of each other. And when life hands you lemons you make lemonade. Life gives you goats you make goat milk soap, goat milk cheese and goat milk whatever you can make. That’s how we became accidental farmers.

You guys are doing a great job getting the message out about local farming and buying local. What’s that like? Do you ever feel pressure about the message you have to deliver?

Josh: One of the things we realized in moving to a small community was everyone has their own unique gift to offer. They really do. And when we first moved there we were like, we’re going to have a goat farm and we’re going to make the soap, and then we’re going to make jam and we’re going to sell all this stuff and then we realized we weren’t really good farmers at heart. When the goats would shy away from us every time we’d try to go milk we’d be, “You know, that’s Farmer John’s strength.” And so we had this community of all these great people who were doing great things and it took us a long time to realize that the reason we were there was we had come from a marketing background. Brent worked for Martha Stewart. I worked in advertising. The thing that we could give to them was we knew how to take their talents and bring them out to the world. That was the only thing we could do.

Tell us about the new cookbook.

Josh:Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook So the cookbook that just came out is the Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook. We’ve done three cookbooks – the original Heirloom Cookbook, the Heirloom Dessert Cookbook and the Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook. And we’re like you with the heritage breeds… there is so much history in farming and gardening that’s been lost in the last 50 years. And to bring back not just the heirloom varieties of plants but heritage breeds. And it’s not just a quaint fad. It’s not just a trend. It’s something that’s really vital for us to continue our food supply. Having more than three commercial tomato varieties available is vital. Because just like human beings, animals and plants, they need to have genetic diversity.

Allen: That’s the whole reason that we have the heirloom vegetables that we are growing in our vegetable garden here. We save the seeds, the Heritage Poultry Conservancy is all about preserving genetics of these brave old breeds. They are out of work! And the way to put them back to work is to put them on your plate.

Josh: If you look at a garden catalogue from the turn of the century there used to be over 100 different varieties of garden peas that you could choose from. There are now only eight commercial varieties of peas. So if there was a disease that came along and wiped out those peas, we’d have no more peas on the planet. So in order to save these different old heirloom varieties, it’s just genetic diversity. It’s just nature.

Allen: And everyone can participate in this movement just by supporting local producers. I think it’s so important to connect the producer to the consumer and the more that we can do that the more this movement will grow.

I’d like to hear about your experience on The Amazing Race.

Brent: The Amazing Race experience. It is was the worst three weeks of our lives. Except for that very last moment when we won. That was the best. For those of you don’t know, in addition to our life on the farm, two years ago we were on this TV show called The Amazing Race. The premise of The Amazing Race is that teams of two people race around the world and the team that is last one standing wins a million dollars. And so we won. And we always talk about our life and opening yourself up to the universe and taking opportunities when they are in front of you. So many times there are opportunities in front of you and they are knocking but you aren’t answering the door. For us we always are opening the door. People often ask, “Why did you decide to run The Amazing Race?” We, that was not a life goal, we had certainly seen the show.

When our first cookbook came out we were in Santa Monica, at the Santa Monica library doing a book signing. And this little old lady came up. She was like 80 years old. She had her oxygen tank that she was carrying with her. We were signing her book and she was like, “Oh I just love your TV show The Fabulous Beekman Boys and every week my next door neighbor comes over and we watch your show together. And that’s our bonding time.” We were like “Well that’s so nice.” And she’s like, “And she’s the president of CBS reality TV.” And honestly I did not believe her. So really flippantly I asked, “If she’s such a big fan, why aren’t we on The Amazing Race?” And she’s like, “I’m going to tell her.” And honestly we didn’t think another thing of it. Two days later we were at home and the phone rang. I picked it up and someone said, “Hi, we’re calling from The Amazing Race. We heard you want to run. And that’s how we got on the show. And for those who have watched our story unfold on The Fabulous Beekman Boys; that show really chronicled our attempts to start the farm and start a business that was successful enough that Josh could be there full time. And you know, I’m sure there are entrepreneurs in this group, any time you’re starting your own business you are overly optimistic. You think I’ll be successful in a few months. So we said. Josh ended up getting another job in the city which was helping cover the mortgage and we said, “Oh it will just be a year of sacrifice. We’ll live apart for a year.” Well, that turned into five years of sacrifice because if you are trying to grow a business there are always things that you don’t anticipate that you are going to have to do. It wasn’t until we ran The Amazing Race and won it that we could pay off our mortgage on the farm and he could move to the farm full time. And so as of last February he’s been at the farm full time.

P. Allen Smith with Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge

You got us started on the Marshall Strawberry Project and it’s going very strongly on our farm in Fayetteville. I want you to tell everyone because it’s the most amazing thing ever. So would you explain?

Josh: Sure, actually Allen you should be doing this too. The Marshall Strawberry Project. There’s a strawberry called the Marshall strawberry that James Beard declared the best tasting strawberry in the world. This was probably in the 1950s when he would have said this. And it fell out of production completely. It was not a commercially viable strawberry. So you know those terrible strawberries you get at the supermarket today? When those took over the world the Marshall disappeared except for one plant that was at the University of Oregon as a saved specimen. This woman got the university to loan it to her so she could grow out a runner and start another Marshall and now she is sending Marshalls all over the country to have different farms grow them out. I tell you, we planted them last year. This was the first year we had fruit and they are the best strawberries I’ve ever had. So look it up If anybody loves to good strawberry, the Marshall Strawberry Project.

P. Allen Smith, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge

Tell us the story about how the three of you met.

Allen: I had been invited to participate in an event at Sotheby’s called the Art of Farming that Brent was very involved in and I guess you were too Josh. It was really exciting. It was a black tie event at Sotheby’s to raise awareness about local food and to benefit the schools in the inner city to teach children where food comes from. I only participated in that I provided some art and we sold some fowl. We actually shipped the birds to the winner bidders. And all I have to tell you is that I wish I could sell chickens every day for the price we sold them at Sotheby’s!

Brent: That project, it was the first time that Sotheby’s had ever auctioned off vegetables and probably live chickens. It was actually a really amazing evening and we ended up raising about half a million dollars. Allen gave one of his paintings. It was really amazing.

Brent Ridge, P. Allen Smith and Josh Kilmer-Purcell

I’m just wondering if there will be another Beekman television program.

Brent: Yes, so the question is whether we are going to do another show and we are always working on new ideas. So you never know. Maybe we’ll do a show with Allen? You never know. Maybe we’ll take over his farm and he’ll come up and take over our farm. You never know.

What an enchanting night with the Beekman Boys. It was a beautiful blissfully cool evening.

Our next farm to table dinner will be on October 15, 2014. That’s a Wednesday night. It will be with Regina Charboneau from Natchez Mississippi. She’ll be cooking up some recipes from her latest book Mississippi Current. And our special guest will be Rebecca Darwin from Garden and Gun magazine. So I hope you can join us. Find out more about the event and purchase tickets.

Ohio National Poultry Show

I first fell in love with poultry when I was a kid and my mom was my biggest supporter. Mom would load the station wagon down with birds and off we’d go to the poultry show with my little brother in tow. She was kind of like a pageant mom without the sequins and she facilitated a passion that has never faded. That’s why it’s important to me to do the same for other youngsters who have been bitten by the poultry bug.

Poultry shows are a fun way to encourage a child’s interest in poultry. It’s a great venue for learning solid breeding practices, discovering heritage breeds and finding a community of peers. Over 100 years, let’s them compare their birds and breeding practices with others. It’s like an art critique allowing breeders to get insights from more experienced breeders and learn how to improve their birds.

I recently returned from The Ohio National in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an event that is considered the Westminster of poultry shows where breeders show the best of the best. This year there were close to 6,000 entries including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and even pigeons.

Frizzle Cochin

White Crested Black Polish

White Leghorn

White Crested Black Polish

Tobunt Polish

Blue Ameraucana

Dark Brown Leghorn

Dark Brahma

I was at the Ohio National representing the Heritage Poultry Conservancy. The Conservancy gives prize money for winners in youth competitions.

Good to Know

The American Standard of Perfection is the poultry bible for poultry judges and entrants alike. It explains how each breed and variety should look from the angle of their tail feathers to the color of their beaks. It’s a great gift for young poultry enthusiasts. You can purchase the latest edition of the American Standard of Perfection from the American Poultry Association.

 

Barnheart

Congratulations to Ellie! Girl, you’ve got a pretty bad case of Barnheart!We’re sending you a copy of Jenna’s book.

Thanks to everyone for commenting. You’ve all painted wonderful pictures of rural life.

Do you have Barnheart? According to author and homesteader Jenna Woginrich Barnheart is a “dreamer’s disease” that attacks “those of us who wish to God we were outside with our flocks, feed bags, or harnesses instead of sitting in front of a computer screen.” Symptoms include studying chicken coop plans, daydreaming about heritage livestock breeds and calling in sick to work in the garden.

I am no stranger to the Barnheart syndrome so it was with relish that I read Jenna’s memoir Barnheart*. Her story of setting up her first homestead in Vermont is thoughtful and humorous and will definitely ease your longing for the farm life.

In between tales of caring for her expanding menagerie, and tending the garden she articulately describes that feeling of independence and satisfaction that comes from having homegrown food right outside the back door. It should be no surprise that my favorite chapter is about her turkey TD (Thanksgiving Dinner).

These days Jenna is living in New York. She is the author of three other books and a blog called Cold Antler Farm.

If you think Barnheart is just what the doctor ordered for your “dreamer’s disease” here’s your chance to win a copy. Tell me about your homesteading daydream in the comments section below.

I’ll select a winner on Friday February 10, 2012, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

*I received a review copy of Barnheart from my friends at Storey Publishing.

Up to Our Elbows in Lambs

There are lambs galore at the farm! The little cuties romp around so much we can hardly count them. I think there might be thirty or so. Adorable!

Spring lambs at the Moss Mountain Garden Home.

This little one’s mother died Saturday for no apparent reason. She’s only about a week old so we are bottle feeding her.

Bottle feeding an orphaned lamb.