FAE Stories - USA

A new career in land clearing

With an FAE UML/SSL and a John Deere skid steer, an American entrepreneur launches a new business.

Johnny Ledbetter never planned to get into land clearing. Three years ago, he was working as an electrician. He purchased a piece of overgrown land and decided to clear it on his own. He rented a skid steer and got to work.

Though it wasn’t intended, he began to draw attention. “I started removing the trees, put in a driveway, laid gravel, and there were people driving by.
They asked, ‘Oh, who's doing this work?’ and I said, ‘Well, I'm doing it, but I'm an electrician.’” He continued his work and was surprised to get a call from the same people a short time later. He ended up clearing some trees for them. “Well, that paid for my rental equipment, and I thought, ‘Ah ha!’ So, that's how I figured out that I wanted to do land clearing.”


At the time, Johnny was using a bucket. Realizing that he could improve his efficiency, he decided to invest in a dedicated mulching head. He contacted Bill Green at John Deere and got set up with a 333G skid steer loader and an FAE UML/SSL-150 mulching head.

He thought carefully when he was starting his company, Ledbetter Land Solutions, and he determined that FAE and John Deere together would give him the best results. “I really did my research when I started this company, and FAE is just the best. I couldn’t imagine running anything else because the hydraulic door strains the material, the dealer support, the availability of parts. Really, everything's great.”

Three years later, Johny’s still using that same setup. But there’s more to it. Johnny mainly does mulching jobs now, but he picks up other work here and there. “Let’s say it’s 80-85% forestry mulching. I’ll do culverts, I’ll do driveways, but it’s few and far between. It’s mainly mulching. I’ll grade either in a new driveway, or I’ll resurface a driveway. I’ll go in and cut out the ruts, and then I’ll have a company come in and lay down gravel, and I'll spread out new gravel over the newly graded driveway.”


“There are a lot of factors, but typically, if you start to get into pretty uniform material that is all the same size. I can get typically an acre per day. If it's super thick, you're looking at three quarters of an acre. If you're cutting into some brushy grass or a field that hasn't been cut in a long time, you can zip through three plus acres—even more if it's super thin.

And what I've experienced with the excavator, I fill it up all the way—30 gallons. And it runs all day. I've never run it through.

There were five lots that I cleared for Gordon County. I was contacted and the land was for sale, and they really wanted to improve the look of the property to make it a little bit more appealing. It was covered in a lot of Bradford pears at about 6 inches in diameter. They were clustered at the bottom, so some were up to 8 inches plus in diameter. I went through and just kind of ate everything and got it all worked down to a nice, fine material and moved to the next lot. They had me do a reoccurring quote to keep those maintained so they don't get back out of hand. With the skid steer, I was able to do large, vast areas, whereas with the excavator, there were several drainage ditches and sewer lines that were super overgrown. That's probably one of the largest jobs I've been on.”

Finally, I asked him what it takes to make it in this business.
“Blood, sweat, and tears,” he said, laughing. “You have to appreciate your final product. You have to go in and be able to see what you can turn a property into. You have to show up to a quote. I don’t believe that quotes can be given over the phone or from a Google search, typing in an address. I really believe in going, assessing the parameters of the job and really asking the client what their goal is and giving them a total price for what I think it would take to accomplish that goal.”

It’s that care, that appreciation, that pride in the work that he does for his customers that truly makes the difference.

For more information: UML/SSL/VT

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