Diary of a Transplant: Upstate Employment

  |  April 25, 2013
Photo from Flickr/gottgraphicsdesign/creative commons

Photo from Flickr/gottgraphicsdesign/creative commons

When you first move upstate, you’re all, wow we have so much money!  And, stuff’s so cheap! The economy up here is just so different than it is in the city.

Then you start to adjust, and start having to pay for all the extra things you need up here. Another car. Property taxes. Garbage pick up. 100 bales of hay. Full fuel tanks (for the car and the house). Hay. Firewood. A new horse. Animal feed. Another 100 bales of  hay. Lumber for your many building projects. The vet bill for the sick goat. You get the idea.

Sure, real estate is cheap compared to the city. But taxes and fuel aren’t (and neither is farming). These unavoidable expenses cast a pall on the economy up here. Add that to the fact that abundance of jobs that exist in the city just isn’t happening up here, and you start to understand why there is so much poverty upstate.

Now, when I go down to the city for work every week, I am amazed by the bustling economy that once seemed normal to me. Restaurants packed on Monday nights! Luxury foods stacked high in boutique grocery stores like Union Market. Boutique grocery stores! Groovy clothing stores with $300 purses. Park Slopers everywhere in new clothes and expensive shoes. After the jump, what former downstaters are doing for work up here.

Given the vast disparity between these two neighboring economies, I am always interested in seeing how other transplanters have managed to carve out a comfortable existence, either by finding a niche up here, commuting downstate (like I do), or bringing city money upstate (like we do with our rental cottage).

Our friend Will Pflaum is a perfect example. In Brooklyn, Will and his wife Aenne lived two blocks away from us in Park Slope, although we didn’t know each other then. Now they live in Stuyvesant Falls and are good friends of ours. Aenne is a psychologist who works for the state, making home visits to evaluate children for learning disabilities. Will runs Glencadia Dog Camp, something I wish I’d thought of first. Every Thursday he drives down to the city and picks up dogs who are need of a little country time (okay, or whose owners are going away). Dogs spend the weekend at the dog camp, and on Sunday night he drives them back home. Will’s house is one of my kids’ favorite homes to visit, because he has sheep, horses, chickens and goats. And we always like peeking into the dog camp and seeing the cute visiting dogs hanging out in the play area.

Our friends Ruth and Tom, both artists, are also from the city, and still live part-time in Long Island City. Tom works as a carpenter for an art-transport firm, and Ruth is the director of Art Omi, an artist-residency foundation in Ghent.

Erica was a graphic designer in the city for many years. Now she runs a goat farm, Squill Hill Farm, and makes cheese and soap.

Shelly teaches music to children and is the education coordinator at Olana; Eric is a writer.

Brian and Allison opened Tortillaville, a food truck in Hudson, which was a factor in us falling for Hudson. They spend the winters in the Keys, and churn out tacos in the summer. They have a book coming out, too.

David and Laura own applewood, one of Park Slope’s best restaurants, and now they run applewood farm, in Chatham.

Andrew is an artist and carpenter; Christina is a professor at SUNY Albany.

Another Erica we know runs Dogs of Hudson, a boutique dog store and training venue.

Other people I know: an acupuncturist who commutes every week to her clientele in Williamsburg; a Bushwick restauranteur who commutes down on weekends while his artist wife holds down the upstate fort (3 kids!) during the week; a health counselor in Albany; ice cream shop-owners; and an environmental lobbyist in Albany…

I sort of wish I could stop commuting, but first I’d have to come up with a solid occupation up here to take my job’s place. Pancake restaurant? Ramen shop? Batik-shirt company? Food truck?  Knitting shop? Brewery owner? Coffee roaster? The list is endless, but …daunting.

I just wish I’d thought of the dog camp before Will!


Read On, Reader...