Featured Story

History and family bring a doctor and his family back to Orient

Dr. Ashton Stanton grew up in Merrick but at an early age was introduced to the charm and beauty of the North Fork. Little did he know he would one day practice medicine in Greenport and, with his wife, Erin, and their three children, move onto the historic Latham farm in Orient.

“I consider myself very lucky,” he said one cold January afternoon as he sat with his wife in the kitchen of the farmhouse, the family farm spread out behind them in all its North Fork beauty. “This is a wonderful place to be with our family.”

Last June, Dr. Stanton began work at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport in his specialty as an interventional physiatrist — yes, that’s how it’s spelled. The discipline is also known as physical medicine and rehabilitation, and it deals with the musculoskeletal system.

The couple’s journey that would bring them back to Orient began when they were married 2005, and both were working in Nassau County — she in the Great Neck school district and he at North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center. 

In Orient, the family farm was managed by Ms. Stanton’s grandfather, Ed Latham, who by the family’s calculation was the third generation of Lathams on that land. An even earlier Latham farm was to the east, on Orient Point, where a Jonathan Latham owned the historic Orient Point Inn. The inn, with its beginnings in the mid 1600s, was used to quarter British troops during the American Revolution.

Danny Latham, Erin’s father, took over the farming operation when his father, Ed, died in 2014. For Ms. Stanton, the farm and the hard work that goes into farming on historic family land was always on her mind. It was always a hope and a dream that one day, if everything fell into place, she could return there.

Dr. Stanton certainly saw his wife’s strong attachment to the farm and to family history. “When I first came out here, I thought this was an intriguing and beautiful place that didn’t seem like Long Island,” he said. “I first met Erin in 2003, so that is essentially when this all began.”

That year, Dr. Stanton’s parents had a sailboat they kept at a marina in Greenport where Erin Latham was working as a waitress. “I was helping his folks docking their boat and soon we were hanging out together,” she said.

While living in Nassau County after their marriage, Ms. Stanton would return on summer weekends to help with the farm’s flower business and at the busy, iconic yellow farm stand on Route 25. She helped on the farm through her high school years in Greenport, and later would return during breaks when she was enrolled in the University of New Hampshire.

“I never lost that connection,” she said. 

In 2010, when Dr. Stanton’s fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan ended, the couple thought seriously about making the move to the North Fork. But no position for his specialty was available and starting up a new practice was impractical. 

So the couple migrated to New Hampshire, where Dr. Stanton took a position at the hospital in Exeter. For the next 11 years, Exeter was their home. Their third child was born there, and they settled in.

“We were fine there, it’s a great place, but we started having discussions about coming back here,” Ms. Stanton said. 

The old farmhouse was all but empty by 2017, so for three summers in a row Dr. Stanton, his wife and three children — Cameron, Devin, and Ashton Latham Stanton — would spend July there and as many weekends as they could work out.

One summer day, while out on a boat in Hallocks Bay, “we said, ‘This is home, we want to be here,’ ” Ms. Stanton said.

2019 was a turning point for the family when Danny Latham was in a serious car accident. “We made the decision and our hearts were set and then everything fell into place,” she said.

The couple reached out to a friend who sat on the board of SBELIH, and he introduced Dr. Stanton to Paul Connor, the hospital’s CEO. The timing was perfect: The hospital was looking for a doctor in Dr. Stanton’s discipline. A contract was negotiated and Dr. Stanton joined the staff last June.

“It’s a great hospital,” he said, “with a huge sense of pride and a great culture. Now I can come home, take off the scrubs and pick Brussels sprouts.”

Back on the farm full-time, Ms. Stanton is doing what all farmers do — planning for the upcoming season and scouting out ways to bring in more revenue. Her father will do the tractor work and the planting — the farm grows everything from potatoes, to onions, to asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower and sells fresh eggs from the henhouse.

“I want to keep up everything my dad has done,” she said, adding that she is the fifth generation of Lathams on the farm. She knows the weight of family history is now on her and her family’s shoulders.

“I want to bring back the part of the farm that was underwater during [Superstorm] Sandy and was too salty,” she added. “We have a lot of new ideas. To be successful on a farm, you have to do a lot of things right. And things have to change.”