I am a Hudson Valley Parent: David Hambleton

Raising crops and raising children

family farms of the hudson valley

David Hambleton grew up in Pine Bush, doing the kinds of things that he says “kids did in the 70s and 80s” – including running through the woods, damming up streams, and digging canals. When it came time for him to choose a career, he looked for something that would give him that same sense of joy and purpose that 7-year-old boys feel when they’re deep in the woods, building forts out of branches.

“I thought, ‘Well, I love building stuff and being outside, so maybe I should be an engineer,’” he says. “But then I found out that engineers don’t get to be outside, ever.”

Finding himself

Over the next several years, Hambleton experimented with several different vocations that were able to satisfy some of his interests: an environmental educator at Mohonk Mountain House, carpentry, cabinetmaking, and even a brief stint as a professional rower with dreams of Olympic glory. Nothing was fully satisfying – at least until he started farming near Syracuse.

“I realized that this was the whole enchilada, something that required all of my skills,” he says. “The physical work keeps my body healthy [and] the mental work keeps my brain engaged. I get to be outside, I get to be working with nature, I get to do something positive for the environment, and I get to do something positive for human health.”

Farming is what brought him and his wife, Margaret, back to the Hudson Valley when the Sisters of Charity of New York decided to turn part of a 141-acre piece of land in Stanfordville into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. Hambleton became the head farmer, developing the CSA from scratch to grow healthy food in an ecologically sound manner for people in need. He now lives right across the street from the farm with his wife and sons John Peregrine, 12, and Ben Forest, 9.

Family first

It was with his boys in mind that Hambleton took the job at Sisters Hill, to give them the kind of upbringing that he had. The kids have helped him build trails through the wooded parts of the farm and they’ve built a zip line in their front yard, even if during the summer he’s often too busy to use it.

“My wife is a teacher, so during the summer when I’m working the hardest, she’s off gallivanting around with them,” he says. “Then during the winter when she’s working the hardest, I get my little bit of R&R with them.”

That outside time is important to Hambleton, who says he wants his boys to have healthy lives by finding activities that let them sweat, use their bodies, get them out in the sunshine and are both physically and psychologically rewarding.

While growing up on a farm means it’s easy for his kids to get outside and be physical, he says he believes living in the Hudson Valley means that all of us have opportunities around us for outdoor adventures with our children – and that we should be taking advantage of those opportunities as often as possible.

“I would say, explore your local area and find where there are trails close to you – and the closer the better,” he says. “Like anything else in life, the hardest part is to get started. If you can just step outside the door – even if it’s just to spend 10 minutes a day outside – then that’s the way to do it.”


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


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