During the last weekend of October every year the Texas Book Festival takes over the capitol building and surrounding areas in downtown Austin. Dozens of authors offer discussions of their works and hundreds of patrons peruse and buy some of the thousands of books available. One of the most popular sessions during the 2013 program was the appearance of the Beekman Boys in the Cooking Tent on Sunday.
The ‘Boys’, Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, were in town to promote their second cookbook “Beekman 1802 Heirloom Desserts”and create one of their recipes. Their previous foray into the world of cookbooks was the “Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook”. The latter organizes the recipes by season, thereby taking advantage of produce and other harvests that are available at specific times of the year. Both books are intended to provide simple recipes with readily available ingredients in the hopes that people will use the books on a regular basis and ultimately pass them on to future generations.
Later that afternoon, Josh and Brent hosted a ‘meet and eat’ event at Central Market Westgate where they greeted customers and offered samples of their food products that are available at the store. Central Market was the first large grocery chain to carry Beekman 1802 food items. These items include “Mortgage Lifter Heirloom Pasta Sauce”, bruschetta sauce, barbeque sauce and a variety of creamed honey spreads. All of these products are made with natural ingredients and 25% of the profits from the first three items go to assist small farm owners.
You may very well be asking “Who are the Beekman Boys and why are they so popular?”. Brent and Josh met in New York City in 2000 where Josh was an advertising executive (and a NY Times best selling author) and Brent, a former physician, was Vice President of Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia. They bought a farm in Sharon Springs NY with plans to use it as a weekend respite from life in the city. When both men lost their jobs in the 2008 recession, they quickly realized that to prevent foreclosure they had to find a way to make the farm profitable.
They planted Mortgage Lifter tomatoes in hopes that the crop would provide them with the same mortgage relief as the farmer who named the tomato variety. They also took in a farmer and his goat herd which led to learning how to produce goat cheeses and soap. This collaboration became a trademark of their farm. While they received guidance in farming from neighbors, Josh and Brent were able to return the favor by creating their website(www.beekman1802.com) that would sell products from local farmers and artisans. The entire area came together for a seasonal harvest festival which now draws visitors from around the world.
In an effort to raise more money for the farm, Josh and Brent participated in the reality TV show “The Amazing Race” and surprised everyone but themselves when they won the competition along with the million dollar prize. This windfall enabled them to pay off the mortgage on the farm and turn their attention to helping other struggling small farms. As mentioned above, they are offering 25% of the profits from the sales of the “Mortgage Lifter Collection” they are selling at Central Market to assist other farmers. Check out these items the next time you are in the store. You get delicious food and small farmers get a little extra help.
As Josh and Brent say, they are “two NYC guys who bought a farm and are sharing their experiment in living better lives, season by season, neighbor by neighbor.”