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HOADLEY GROWING TREE FARM IN OWASCO

Owasco landscaper digs deep to grow successful tree farm

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OWASCO | Robert Hoadley's office isn't a typical desk and chair affair.

He operates his 150-acre shade and ornamental tree farm and nursery, Lakeview Nursery, from the front seat of his burgundy Chevrolet Silverado.

The truck's broad dark dashboard is layered with light-colored paperwork and deposit slips clipped to other documents fill cubbies already stuffed with water bottles, pens and his phone. A delicate rose bush resides in the truck's bed jostling as he navigates his rows of large-caliber sycamores, oaks and Autumn-Blaze Maples.

Customers and employees with requests and questions approach Hoadley who contorts his torso out the driver's side door to dispense his knowledge and expertise.

Customers roam the property, a former turkey farm, freely to find plants that will work for their clients or in their own yards.

"Very few nurseries hold as many field-dug trees as I do," Rob said.

Hoadley and his office manager, Kimberly Rossi, estimate Lakeview Nursery is one of only two large-scale wholesale tree farms in the region. The other operation closest in size, they said, is in western Onondaga County.

At the age of 33, Hoadley employs 10 people each season on the farm he's owned since 2002, when he purchased it from Peter Hoadley, his father. Five years ago, he bought the retail center from his mother, Paula. His parents began the nursery's retail arm in 1977, selling perennials, annuals and offering landscaping services, raising Hoadley and his brother around the growing business. Literally.

"I was raised to work," Rob said. "I've got to make 99 percent of my money in seven months."

Yet, each new season he makes more money than the previous year, he said. Adding hundreds of species to his ample inventory, Hoadley grows unique plants he wholesales to landscapers while also supplying landscape design services himself to customers.

"I don't think anyone has the selection I have," he said.

Of his crew, 30 percent, including himself, can clock 80-hour weeks working dawn to dusk from mid-March to the end of December.

"I don't feel good if the sun is shining and I'm not working," Hoadley said, his long caramel-colored hair surrounding his angular face, his blue crinkling when he smiles. "March comes and I'm on the phone and watching the weather."

A serious car accident in December of 2001 could have sidelined the then 22-year-old SUNY-Cobleskill student, but it didn't.

At that time, Hoadley and a girlfriend were backseat passengers in a Dodge Neon when the car, driven by a friend, skidded on a patch of black ice on County Line Road. The ensuing crash was significant enough to warrant a weeks-long, induced coma from which he awakened a different man.

A tetraplegic, Hoadley can use his arms and shift his upper torso easily, but has limited use of his right hand. His truck, or his office, is equipped to handle his disability and he drives every inch of his property, past irrigation ponds, barns, greenhouses and outbuildings.

"To look at him, you would have no idea he'd been through a major accident in his younger years," Rossi said. "That would stop most people from moving forward, but he's had this amazing, successful career."

Rossi's observation is spot-on, Hoadley's magazine-worthy good looks and understated manner only accent his charm. Listening to him talk about the trees he grows is like hearing a parent talk about his children.

"Every plant is like a baby, it needs attention," Hoadley said.

But, he's a man in his early prime and during the three months when he's not working on his farm he travels. Last year, he spent time in Peru, Argentina and Costa Rica. He's traveled the Caribbean extensively and thinks he'll add Columbia to the itinerary this winter.

"Nothing gets this man down," Rossi said.

Staff writer Carrie Chantler can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or carrie.chantler@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenChantler.

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