His eloquent blog on Beekman1802.com suggests that Ridge has found his calling among the goats, chickens, pigs and vegetables.
The farm produces 80 percent of what is consumed there, Ridge said. He built the organic garden, which has 110 varieties of heirloom vegetables in 52, 4-by-6-foot raised beds surrounded by a hand-stacked stone wall crafted by a local stonemason. The vegetables include purple carrots, snowball tomatoes and pale yellow cucumbers.
New York City, with its restaurants, celebrity chefs and upscale groceries, provides an avid marketplace for the farm’s products. Ridge loads two big picnic coolers with goat cheese and takes it by Amtrak to Manhattan, then rolls it down the city sidewalks to customers that include Fairway, Whole Foods and Zabar’s.
Ridge said 22 people in the community derive income from the farm business.
John Hall, aka Farmer John, owns the herd of 127 goats in the Beekman barn, where there were 100 kids on a recent weekend and more on the way.
“The philosophy of the company has always been, We will only be successful if we can make as many people in the community successful as well. We’re really committed to that,” Ridge said. “That’s why we’ve worked to start these festivals in the village.”
Town of Sharon Supervisor Sandra Manko said the farmers and their TV show have given a boost to local shops, galleries, restaurants and lodgings and have attracted new businesses and residents. “What’s amazed me is that even through the poor economy, these businesses have done well.”
“The two real estate businesses in town have been extremely busy,” Manko said. “People see the TV show and are inspired to do the same thing. They’re looking for small farms to buy.”
About 500 people showed up for the village’s annual harvest festival three years ago. Last year, more than 5,000 came after seeing the previous festival on the TV show, Manko said.
“People say Sharon Springs is so lucky we came here, we changed the town,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “But we came here because there were already people working to refurbish the old hotels and get businesses going. That’s what attracted us here.”
There are economically depressed small towns all across the countryside where people are mired in the sense that nothing’s ever going to change, Ridge said. “What we brought, if anything, was just someone to point out, ‘Wow, look what you’ve got here. It’s beautiful. What can we make of it?’”
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