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September 27, 2012

Sharon Springs duo part of Amazing Race

FLY CREEK — Viewers who tuned in to watch “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” last Thursday on the Cooking Channel heard Josh Kilmer-Purcell admit he was “a little bitter.” His partner, Brent Ridge, had just bought a fence to contain an escaping llama that wasn’t contributing to making their business profitable, and Farmer John had quit his day job so he could work full-time on the farm Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge own.   

To Kilmer-Purcell, it seemed like everyone back in Sharon Springs was getting what they wanted, except him.

“A couple years have gone by since then,” Kilmer-Purcell explained. “Sometimes I feel like Robin Hood, where I’m taking money from Manhattan and funneling it upstate. It makes it a little more worthwhile.”

Until the mercantile business and goat farm he and Ridge own becomes profitable, Kilmer-Purcell is working as a creative director at an advertising agency in Manhattan. He’s hoping that one day he will be able to quit his job in Manhattan and devote all his time to helping his business and the village of Sharon Springs grow. That “one day” may have just gotten a little bit closer.

Recently, Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge were chosen as one of the teams to compete in the “The Amazing Race” on CBS this season. The Amazing Race is a reality television show where teams composed of two people who have a pre-existing relationship, race through several countries trying to reach the finish line first. There are several challenges to overcome along the way and pit stops the teams have to reach in a timely manner or risk being disqualified.

“We can’t tell you where we went or anything,” Ridge pointed out. “It’s all top secret. You just have to watch the show and find out.”

To be eligible to participate in “The Amazing Race” CBS requires all team members to sign a confidentiality agreement.

“We can say, ‘It’s an amazing experience!’” Kilmer-Purcell added.

This year the prize money was doubled, which means winning the race could net Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge $2 million that they can put toward their dream — growing their business and the village of Sharon Springs.

The two became fascinated with Sharon Springs back in 2007 when they decided to go apple picking.

“We would always go to a different area every year,” Ridge said. “That was kind of a tradition. Literally we would open up a map of New York state and then kind of blindly put our finger down some place.”

In 2007 that finger landed on Sharon Springs and the two ended up going to Sharon Orchards.

“When we originally drove into town I was fascinated by the decay,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “It was nighttime, we were coming in from the north and that end of the village is nearly abandoned. I describe the village as a cross between ‘Petticoat Junction’ and ‘The Shining.’ I was just fascinated. I’m like, ‘This place has a huge history.’”

The two drove on and eventually saw the lights on in the American Hotel.

“It was the most beckoning sight I’d ever seen,” Kilmer-Purcell admitted. “In the midst of all this decay, there was this place with light and life and happiness. Here are these people who on the surface looked like they should be down on their luck, but they were having the time of their lives.”

“When we drove by the farm house we initially thought it was a museum. It just looked so perfect sitting there on the hill,” Ridge added. “And then when we drove on by it we noticed the For Sale sign in the yard, and it was literally like a siren. On our drive back to the city we were like, ‘We just have to have that house.’”

Soon after the two bought the Beekman 1802 farm to use as a weekend getaway, they met Farmer John.

“He had written a note and put it in our mailbox saying that he was losing the place he was farming and needed a place he could bring his goats,” Ridge said. “We thought this would be a great thing, so we allowed him to come on.”

“We didn’t know at the time he wanted to get the farm running as a dairy,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “And that we could help him with that by coming up with products and a way for selling them. We didn’t know at the time that we would need the products.”

Six months after buying the Beekman 1802 farm both men lost their jobs. They were very close to losing the farm when the New York Times sent a reporter out to it to do a story about it.

“The interest that (article) drove really helped us to get business and helped us to stay afloat,” Ridge explained.

In 2009 soon after Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge started their online business selling goat-based products, Sharon Springs began holding a Harvest Festival.

“We were part of the team that started it that first year,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “We didn’t have a store yet at the time, but we wanted to get people here to see Sharon Springs and help drum up some news about the village, and then our new business, which had just started that spring.”

The following year the two also started a garden party. The party is held Memorial Day weekend and people who come are encouraged to bring plants that they can trade for other plants.

The moral to this story — you’re only as good as your neighbors, Kilmer-Purcell says, and being neighborly and helping other people is what helps you get ahead.

“We’d love to have people come over,” Kilmer-Purcell stated. “We’re always fascinated when we go to Cooperstown, and have events in Cooperstown, by how many people say they’ve never been to Sharon

Springs or they haven’t been in ten years. Now is the time to come check it out. We had at least a half dozen businesses open in the last several years.”

For more about life on the Beekman 1802 farm watch “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” on the Cooking Channel Thursday nights at 10 p.m. The two can also be seen on the “The Amazing Race,” premiering this Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS.


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