Can a jar of pasta sauce help save small farms in America? When it’s an heirloom tomato sauce that returns 25 percent of its profits to farmers, it just might. Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge – best known as The Fabulous Beekman Boys from their television reality show – launched their “Beekman 1802 Mortgage Lifter Pasta Sauce” back in 2013. The sauce’s name was inspired by a Great Depression-era heirloom tomato variety named “Mortgage Lifter,” and the goat farming duo has been amazed by the sauce's incredible success in just two short years.
“Profits from the first year’s sauce sales allowed us to give away over $15,000 to four small farms in 2014,” adds his husband and business partner Brent Ridge, “and this month we’re set to give away over $18,000. We’re ecstatic!”
“When we won CBS’s The Amazing Race in 2012, we wanted to create a product that would pay forward our good fortune to other American small farms,” says Beekman 1802 co-founder and New York Times bestselling author, Josh Kilmer-Purcell. He explains that show’s prize money helped them pay off their Sharon Springs farm’s mortgage.
On May 1, one lucky small farm will net a $15,000 check, which the pair calls the “Grand Prize Lift.” Three other farms will also receive $1049 “mini-lifts.” Small farms can learn more and apply for the “lifts” on beekmanmortgagelifter.com. But the men are quick to point out that these give-backs should not be seen as charity.
“This money isn’t awarded based on need,” Ridge says. “There are many organizations better equipped than we are to handle charity.” Kilmer-Purcell adds: “Our expert panel of agricultural judges reward the farms based on their innovative approach to small agriculture, their overall BUSINESS plan, and their current growth pattern. These awards are designed to give vibrant small farms the ‘lift’ they need to take their business to the next level.”
The sauce is produced locally, in Schenectady, using tomatoes grown at Denison Farms in Schaghticoke, New York. Denison Farms is set to grow the next crop of Mortgage Lifter heirloom tomatoes this summer.
While Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell are excited about the second year’s increase in profits and prize money, they’re even more bullish about the future.
“In November of last year, Target put Mortgage Lifter Sauces in 250 of its SuperTarget stores,” reports Ridge. “And they were so excited by the enthusiastic customer response, that they rolled out the sauce to over 1,500 Target stores nationwide last month.”
“Who knows,” Kilmer-Purcell laughs, “maybe next year we’ll be able to give away millions!”
Beekman 1802 is a lifestyle brand founded by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, inspired by the couple’s historic farm in Sharon Springs, New York. Called “one of the fastest growing lifestyle brands in America” by Nasdaq, Beekman 1802 food, home, beauty and garden products are sold in major retailers nationwide. The couple also appears on their own reality show “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” currently airing on The Cooking Channel, and have written several bestselling cookbooks.