Photos by Richard Lovrich. Featured photo of Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell on their farm.
Brent Ridge and his partner Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s struggle to turn a 19th century farmhouse and 60 acres of land in Sharon Springs into a fully functional farm and home goods brand has been well documented on their reality show The Fabulous Beekman Boys, their memoir The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers, and fairly steady presence in various other media. The pair’s business includes a lifestyle brand that has been sold in major retail stores across the country, an almanac, a reality show, a physical store in Sharon Springs and a cookbook. Nasdaq called Beekman 1802 one of the “fastest growing lifestyle brands in the country.”
As big as they’ve gotten, the Beekman Boys are still very invested in the area and, through a partnership with Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, are looking to spotlight the work of other local makers and creatives. Local artisans and craftspeople can sign up through Beekman to display and sell their goods at Ommegang’s Belgium Comes to Cooperstown event, which takes place Aug. 3 and 4.
Vendors will have their wares judged by the Beekman Boys and other attendees. There will be two awards given. One winner, with an already-established business, will be given a portion of the vendor fees. A newer artist will receive a portion of the vendor fees and will have their products featured at Beekman 1802 Mercantile in Sharon Springs.
A 10×10 booth costs $150. Vendors selected by the fair will be notified by July 14.
Belgium Comes to Cooperstown is an annual event held by Ommegang that features tastings of the most-celebrated Belgian beers. This year’s event is touted as featuring 100 Belgian and Belgian-style breweries. The event also features live music, gourmet food vendors, and camping.
Partnering with local tradespeople has been part of Beekman’s oeuvre from the start.
Ridge recalls working with a local blacksmith to forge a fruit spoon from an 18th-century mold found discarded in the back of an abandoned store. The spoon went on to be sold by the thousands in major catalogs and retail stores. “We couldn’t have imagined how popular it would be,” Ridge told The Alt.
Ridge acknowledges that not every local maker interested in Belgium Comes to Cooperstown will be ready to take their business national. For some, he believes sharing their works will be a learning experience, as they will receive feedback from experienced artisans and a sense of what it takes to reach the next level.
Ridge is excited by the collaboration with Ommegang, which has already yielded two beers–a goat milk stout and a pale ale. Attendees of Belgium Comes to Cooperstown will be able to sample the brews and vote for their favorite. The winner will be canned and distributed by Ommegang in the Northeastern U.S.
Allison Capozza, publicity manager for Ommegang, said that while the beer and festival are the only currently planned events she “wouldn’t be surprised” if another collaboration came together. “They are the best neighbors and a lot of fun to work with.”
Ridge feels that the vendor showcase at Belgium Comes to Cooperstown might be the perfect representation of the partnership. “The word Ommegang actually translates to a walkabout or pageant where artisans would display their creations,” said Ridge. “The attendees of our festival will actually go on a walkabout and inspect the wears of all these vendors.”