Folks, say hello to Suko, a former downstater who set her sights on relocating to upstate New York and made it happen. But not without giving up a few comforts, rearranging some expectations and being incredibly creative in her employment. She’s now an artist, a farm educator and a Dutchess County gal. She’s going to share her upstate wisdom with us from time to time, weighing in on great events, terrific places to visit, the best CSAs and farms and, for a start, how to make a living north of NYC and the ‘burbs (well, at least how she’s doing it). That’s a question on many of our readers’ minds — how can I relocate and still pay my bills? Here’s Suko’s story. If you’re a transplant and want to share your own tales, insights and tips, please drop us a line!
I’m a transplant from Kings to Dutchess county. I still say ‘the city’ and only mean New York, and if asked where I’m from, I’m likely to say, ‘Brooklyn…. Well, I grew up in the suburbs.’
In 2006, I began working with a nascent artists’ residency in Pine Plains, where the primary duties were scheduling artists, dealing with the trash and recycling, and making sure no one burned down the houses.
That first summer, I was a long weekender, beholden to the office in midtown and a boyfriend reluctant to share my bucolic fantasy. Wanting to move upstate full-time, the few times I saw someone who looked roughly my demographic at the cafe, I would ask, “What do you do here for work?”
Often times it was someone who grew up in the area, left for college or life in a city or Northern California, and returned to be closer to family, or create a new business on the family farm. At this point I know just as many transplants who keep a foot (and paycheck) downstate, while figuring out how to make their life upstate, as ones working here. They work as farmers, and market managers, bar tenders, pick up construction jobs, make paintings of people’s fancy estates, etc. There aren’t many secure or creative corporate jobs, but there’s an resourcefulness, and sense of redefining community, success and quality of life.
Through the artists’ res. I found a job that I genuinely enjoy as farm educator at McEnroe Organic Farm, but I stay because I found experiences that really feel like living:
– the smell of lilacs in the spring
– growing food and flowers
– climbing trees
– swimming in Stissing Lake/the quarry/Bash Bish
– the hikes along paths that are only open in winter before major snow, and in early spring before the brush grows in
– watching ants crawl along peonies to open the buds
– waking up with peonies, tulips, zinnias, or whatever other cut flowers, herbs, or plants are on the kitchen or bedside table
– restless nights sleeping under the full moon, just to wake continually and observe it move across the sky
– the snow days when everything shuts down
– working the dirt in a greenhouse in the dead of winter
– finally understanding 10th grade bio and sexual reproduction in plants
– being awed by the same farmscape after almost 4 years
– trying to work through all those daylight hours in June
– days in the garden that leave me exhausted and sore with muddy water running down the shower drain
– lying on the old fallen birch, or the stargazer, and watching the stars and moon disappear and reappear from behind the milky clouds
– harvesting bunches of beets, rainbow chard and kale, and feeling so rich with the abundance
– opening a jar of tomato sauce and tasting summer in February
– the first strawberry, raspberry, watermelon of the season
– holding a few hours old, runt piglet to its mamma’s nipple until it starts suckling
– learning what taragon does for a pork roast, or lavender and thyme for a hippie-style maple syrup sweetened whole wheat pie crust
– one of my dearest friends from Brooklyn teaching yoga in Rhinebeck
– meeting at least one kindred spirit through the Wassaic and cha North artists’ residencies every summer. Connecting on a shared obsession with The Blithedale Romance, absurd rituals or the mutual respect of work and the investigation of being an Artist
– the orgAnarchists and other radical farmers who are re-defining agriculture in the Hudson Valley
– sharing it all with friends from downstate who then dream of moving upstate, but only if they’ll be within a 40 minute drive (my request).