The miracle of the farmers’ market

Have spent the last week or so in Troy, NY, where I grew up.

To give you a sense for how Troy was when I lived here:

  • When NY de-institutionalized most of its mentally-ill population in the 1970s as a result of Geraldo Rivera’s investigations into the Willow Brook facility, a disproportionate share of the inmates ended up in Troy
  • An industrial powerhouse in the first half of the 1800s, Troy has been in decline ever since
  • You can still get a vacant building here by paying the city $1 and paying the back property taxes
  • In the 1950s or 1960s, some idiots severed the city from the Hudson River by running a freeway along the banks (this idiocy was repeated in a lot of cities, including LA)
  • Unemployment is high and education levels are low; the public schools have always been terrible
  • People like me who grew up here were known as “Troilets” as a result of our distinct lack of class

But check out this picture I snapped on Sunday:


It’s a bit tough to tell from my amateurish pic, but the city is absolutely jammed with people enjoying a high-end farmer’s market ($5 lemonade?!).

Here’s what happened, as far as I can tell:

  • Troy has always had an amazing stock of brownstone townhomes left over from around the turn of the 20th century
  • As creative types have been priced out of NY, many of them have migrated north looking for affordable, urban living
  • Meanwhile, the local university, RPI, has grown larger and more selective, attracting a lot of talented new faculty members and grad students
  • If you squint, you can see the beginnings of the kind of small design / tech firms that are attracted to cool environments with educated workforces

So, you’ve got a bunch of creative-class urbanites plus a huge stock of amazing, cheap brownstones buzzing around a downtrodden city with walkable downtown neighborhoods. That’s the kindling and fuel.

Then someone organized this amazing farmers’ market, which was the spark. Boom.