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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Chris Hewitt

Learning from the land and raising happy teens

Growing up working in his father's print shop on Long Island, Chris Hewitt remembers the older pressman joking with him and asking when they were going to start printing money. "Then I grew up and found out that it's legal!" he says. "You just can't print U.S. Dollars."

It's been a long road that's taken Hewitt from his family's print shop in Long Island to now printing Livelihood Magazine and overseeing Hudson Valley Currents, a regional currency that local businesses and individual proprietors use to purchase goods and services from each other.

When Hewitt and his wife Nicole settled in the Hudson Valley after a cross country road trip looking for the ideal place to live, he found himself as the editor for a small local press. One day he asked for a small raise. It didn't go well.

"Not only did I not get the raise, but they told me not to come back in on Monday," he says. "So on Tuesday I was telling some friends about how I had just gotten fired, and one of them said, 'I'm digging a ditch tomorrow and I'll pay you $18 an hour to help.' It sounded like fun."

The wisdom of the land
Turns out, Hewitt was really good at digging ditches. So good that the owners of the estate that he was digging ditches on sent him to Cornell Cooperative Extension to become a certified Master Gardener. Soon Hewitt had a new thriving business taking care of estates, doing everything from landscaping to beekeeping to gardening.

But he wasn't done with printing.

"It occurred to me that this is what people want to read about," he says. "This is what we all have in common: the soil, plants, pruning, orchards, food and trees." He began writing a newsletter for his customers called Country Wisdom News, based on what he was learning about the local flora and fauna. It soon became a standalone newspaper which is now called Livelihood Magazine. In addition to still being about agricultural concerns, the paper focuses on Hewitt's other main passion of local economies.

Hewitt launched Hudson Valley Currents in 2014. So far, over 300 users have exchanged over 300,000 Currents. He's working with county and municipal leaders to encourage more widespread adoption. As Hewitt explains, Currents aren't meant to replace dollars. "It's not a savings mechanism," he says. "It's to keep our money circulating in our community. That's why we call them Currents. Like a river, they have to flow or they become stagnant."

What’s really important?
With a newspaper, a regional currency, and his estate caretaking business, how does Hewitt find time to raise two teenagers? "Fortunately we're both directors," says Hewitt, in regards to his wife Nicole who is the executive director of Poughkeepsie's The Art Effect, the merger of the Spark Media Project and The Mill Street Loft. "That gives us the flexibility to work from home sometimes. We support each other, but we also have a supportive community. My sister's three miles away." Hewitt admits that he often takes on the role of "Soccer Dad," carpooling 15-year-old Elias and 13-year-old Cora to various afterschool events. "Both of our careers are taking off, but we're balancing that to make sure the kids don't become total latchkey kids."

It's a logical progression from when the kids were first born and both Chris and Nicole worked part-time in order to spend as much time with their kids during their first five years as possible, even though it made things tough financially. "I always tell my friends who are younger parents not to worry too much about money," he says.

"Time with your children is what's most important."

Hewitt credits that time and care with helping Elias and Cora grow into level headed, intelligent kids whose work ethics mirror those of their parents', as well as their focus on what's really important in life.

Hewitt recalls a recent event in which he overheard someone telling Elias that money was the most important thing in life, and that you had to become rich before you could think about doing good things. Elias responded with "Isn't happiness the most important thing?"

"I think a tear came to my eye," says Hewitt. "And I thought 'Yes! We did it!"

Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer throughout the Hudson Valley.

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