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DAIRY FARMER GIVES UP THE COWS FOR VEGETABLES, FLOWERS AND PLANTS

Behind the neat white home on the west side of Route 240 at East Concord is a wide red barn. Just across the road is a new 42-foot-by-96-foot greenhouse.

The two structures represent a mid-course correction in the business lives of Gregory and Donna Waterman.

In 1989, they quit the dairy business and turned to vegetable growing and roadside stand sales. And this year, the Watermans and their two children, Ethan, 20, and Briste, 18, became part of New York agriculture's fastest expanding segment, growing flowers and potted plants.

The new greenhouse, with a temperature-activated roof raiser, is like a free billboard. Motorists traveling on Route 240 south of Genesee Road cannot miss it.

"I don't know of any flower growers around the Springville area," Waterman said.

Passers-by have plenty of time to become aware of the Watermans as growers of potted plants, hanging baskets and flowers.

"We will open around May 1," Waterman said.

An arc-shaped driveway already has been carved and when summer finally arrives, Waterman's vegetable stand will have been carted across Route 240 and parked beside the greenhouse.

"We will be open seven days a week with one or more of us there," Waterman said.

They are experienced vendors. Aside from the roadside stand, Waterman has been a regular at the Wednesday and Saturday East Aurora farmers' market since he made the switch.

"Sweet corn and strawberries have been my major crops," he said. He jumped into the U-Pick strawberry business just after several southern Erie County growers ended theirs.

His 18 other produce crops run from basil, broccoli and cabbage to yellow squash, watermelons and zucchini. The greenhouse wares include 22 varieties ranging from ageratum and alyssum to vinca vines, verbena and zinnias.

Waterman acquired the farm in 1971. For more than 18 years he had a going dairy farm with 42 milk cows and young stock. Why, then in 1989, when he was 48, did he change courses?

"I developed cancer in my hip," he said. "I couldn't milk anymore or work the silo," he said. But could a dairy farmer suddenly become a vegetable grower?

"I can grow anything," he said. "I have been doing it all my life."

Recognizing the current consumer splurge in flowers and perennials, Waterman seized the moment and put up his $50,000 greenhouse.

Can a living be made just from warm weather sales of flowers, potted plants and vegetables?

"You can if you're not loaded with debt," he said.

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