I had a strange experience, driving north about fifty miles along Route 22 in eastern upstate New York, from Canaan to Cambridge, a very rural stretch that roughly parallels the Massachusetts and Vermont lines. Aside from a few convenience stores serving up gasoline, slim-jims, and pepsi, there was no visible economic activity in any of the towns along the way. The little town of Berlin, NY, was especially striking. A "for sale" sign stood forlornly in the parking lot of the lumber yard, the inventory sheds plainly empty of stock. The Seagroatt wholesale flower company - where, years ago, I picked up roses as the delivery guy for a Saratoga retailer - was shut down, with rows of empty greenhouses standing vacantly in the late day spring sunshine. The little downtown on a street one hundred feet off the highway was not only empty of businesses, but the old wooden buildings themselves had gone lopsided from a lack of regular caretaking, while the paint was all but gone. A number of old houses were still occupied - cars in the driveways - but they looked battered and worn, one bad winter from roof failure, and often with front yards strewn with plastic detritus.
One thing you didn't see a lot of along Route 22 was farming. Columbia, Rensselaer, and Washington Counties used to be all about farming. For much of the 20th century, it was dairy farming after electric milking machines and bulk refrigeration came in, and you could run larger herds. That's done now...
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