Mind Your Manors
By Aaron Hicklin
For the two men, who have been together 13 years and plan to marry this summer, it was a grueling period, but also a baptism of fire. Faced with no alternative, they had to make the farm work. When TV production company World of Wonder approached them to pitch a reality show charting their experience, the couple agreed, with one caveat. “We said, ‘You can make Brent and I look bad, but you can’t make fun of the town,’ ” recalls Kilmer-Purcell. “And that turned out to be a perfect recipe because what the viewers loved was seeing a small town working together, getting over differences, and saving itself. And I don’t think that’s what the network planned -- what the network planned was two gay guys falling over in manure.”
For Ridge, the show was also a way to connect their experience to the broader community. “What made our story so compelling and timely,” he says, “was that so many people were finding themselves in the same situation, having to re-evaluate and reinvent themselves, and so people tapped into what we were going through because they were living it themselves.” The message of their show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, which aired on Planet Green and later the Cooking Channel, was that salvation could be found in hard work and creativity. (The duo received much wider exposure after competing in -- and ultimately winning -- CBS’s The Amazing Race last December, another example of perseverance under fire.) The apprentice farmers realized they’d made a breakthrough when they began to receive mail from other farmers asking for advice. “It was like the circle was complete,” says Kilmer-Purcell. “We researched so many websites to learn how to raise pigs and chickens, so to have real farmers come to us and say, ‘I need to save my farm. What do I do?’ was when we knew we had cracked it.”
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