Like most communities across the country, local restaurants in Beekman 1802 co-founders Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell's hometown of Sharon Springs, New York, were struggling to keep the lights on due to the coronavirus pandemic. "Smaller restaurants in our area didn't have a way to serve food," explains Ridge. "We wanted to use the resource of our farm to help, and so we decided each weekend a different restaurant could have use of it for outdoor dining."
The weekend dining experiences were held throughout the summer, with each of the four restaurants in town providing a three-course, prix-fixe menu that was served at tables spread across the historic farm's 60 acres. "Guests could completely socially distance with thousands of feet between tables," Ridge explains. "People chose their selections from the menu beforehand and meals were served in tiffins—lunch pails with insulated tiers. The tiffins were delivered to benches set six feet away from tables. Then, diners retrieved the pails from the benches so that way the experience was completely socially distant."
The dinners quickly sold out. "People are eager to not only support local businesses, but are also looking for an experience after being cooped up at home," says Ridge, who hopes others will be inspired by their town's success. "If small communities have restaurants without outdoor space, we're hoping farms in their area might partner with them in the same way. And if you have a local farm that's growing its own produce, the restaurant use that produce so the meal really benefits everybody."