ELIOT, Maine – Producing 100,000 cubic yards of wood grindings – for mulch, compost blends, biofuel and more – is not a small feat. Yet putting wood fiber to good use is only one part of the story at York Woods Tree & Products.
York Woods Tree & Products also offers decorative stone, gravel, wood chips safe for playground use, erosion control fiber, sand, and crushed seashells. The business is about serving customers.
“We are a one-stop landscape shop,” said Mike Lewis, owner and manager of the family business. And residential landscapers rely on the business for everything from loam to river stones.
York Woods Tree & Products occupies a 14-acre site in Eliot, which is the southernmost portion of Maine. In fact, the town fronts the Piscataqua River, which separates Maine from New Hampshire. A 2,800-square-foot metal building houses a shop, landscape supply showroom, and office.
Mike’s wife, Angie, runs the office and handles accounting; she started the retail division and fills in where needed. Their son, Michael, is the sales manager, and their daughter, Cassie, is the greenhouse manager. Their other daughter, Emily, handles the company’s social media and works in the store and also is a full-time college student.
“We’re building the business for future family generations,” said Mike.
The company is equipped with a Peterson 5710D horizontal track grinder for grinding wood material. Peterson Pacific Corp., based in Eugene, Orgon, is part of Aztec Industries Inc.
Mike purchased the Peterson 5710D new in 2019 through Barry Equipment in Webster, Mass. It is the second Peterson machine that Mike has owned. He bought his first in 2013.
Why did Mike choose Peterson initially and then stay with Peterson? “It fit the scope of the work we were doing,” he said. “And to speed up production.”
The Peterson machine is a good match for Mike’s company because of its versatility. It can easily meet different specifications for the range of ground wood products made by York Woods Tree & Products. An access door on the side wall of the Peterson 5710D simplifies the removal and installation of different grates to produce different size material.
The IQAN control panel on the Peterson 5710D displays system and engine parameters so the operator of the grinder can instantly verify function is at peak efficiency. Wireless remote control allows the grinder to be operated from the cab of a loader. That’s a nice consideration given Maine’s cold winters.
Mike’s team of 17 employees works year-around. When choosing equipment, he considers not only performance, but also design features that make it easy on employees. For example, he bought his first Doosan excavator from Barry Equipment in part because “the cab was very spacious and allotted good visibility” in all directions.
Mike owns three Doosan excavators, models DX180, DX225 and DX235, and may soon invest in a couple more. The Doosan DX180 and DX225 are fitted with a Robotec 3045 grapple with a bar saw. The Doosan DX235 is fitted with a Nye stump shear and generally is used to feed material to the Peterson grinder.
Mike has a variety of other equipment for his business, such as a Vermeer chipper and a Cat 525 grapple skidder. But it is the Peterson 5710D and the Doosan excavators that are at the core of the wood fiber reclamation and repurposing operations.
York Woods Tree & Products does “a large amount of house lot clearing,” said Mike. Generally, lots between one-half and one acre are cleared for individual homes while some larger lots are cleared for subdivisions. Most trees, about 70 percent, are felled – pushed over – by the Doosan DX180. The remaining trees are felled by workers using Husqvarna chainsaws.
Husqvarna has long been Mike’s chainsaw of choice. He began working for a tree service before he graduated from high school.
“From treetop to tree stump,” every bit of wood fiber is used, said Mike. “We sell our saw logs to Pleasant River Lumber, which has five facilities in Maine. Low-grade logs are bucked to length and the rounds split on an old CRD Metalworks firewood processor.
Most land-clearing projects are within a 60-mile radius of the town of Eliot. Typically, they are just 15 to 20 miles away.
York Woods Tree & Products also takes in wood debris via its green waste recycling program. The company takes in yard waste, brush and branches, logs and stumps, and sod and soil. The criterion for drop offs: It must be clean and organic. A fee of $100 is charged for material that is contaminated with metal or other non-fiber or non-organic material. The entire recycling system hinges on the full participation of tippers.
“We are changing the way landscapers and our surrounding communities recycle green waste and use green products,” said Mike.
The company’s website takes a humorous approach on the page about dumping rules. ‘Get dirty, angry & sweaty while you load up your vehicle with your green waste materials,’ it reads. And later, ‘Get dirty, angry and sweaty again while you unload your green waste.
All company mulch products, compost, loam, and other organic mixes are sold bulk. Bagging is something that Mike may add in the future.
Mike has adapted his business and moved into new market areas since he started his company, which originally was Lewis Landscaping, in 1996. “We are always changing and expanding to meet the needs of our customers,” he said. Mike changed the name to York Woods Tree & Products in 2001.
When he was growing up, Mike mowed lawns and did landscaping work for people. When he started his business in 1996, he had three years of experience working for a tree service business. He began to think about the possibilities of combining both types of work.
“I saw the opportunity for mulch production,” said Mike, citing one example. “As we grew, we started making other products.”
Ardent residential gardeners and landscape professionals know how quickly one need meets another. Mulch around plants leads to stone paths and walls. And being able to find all the products in one place is a plus. York Woods Tree & Products is such a place.
Mike also takes the Peterson machine to grind at customer locations about 20-25 times a year, but it normally stays in the company yard, where it works about 1,300-1,400 hours per year.
Peterson offers an optional tow dolly for customers who plan to transport the Peterson 5710D on highways. The machine’s weight differs with options chosen.
Mike appreciates the interest Peterson has taken in his company, including an on-site demonstration of the grinder at his facility before he purchased it.
“The ease in using it and the ease of maintaining it” are two huge plusses built into the Peterson 5710D, said Mike. The fact that he could purchase the machine from Barry Equipment, a dealer with which he has a long and strong relationship, is a third.
Peterson Pacific is a leading manufacturer of grinders, disc and drum chippers, flails, screens, stackers, and blower trucks. The company is focused on innovation and manufacturing to produce high quality equipment. Virtually all manufacturing is done in-house at the factory in Oregon. Peterson maintains a worldwide system of dealers and representatives to provide service and support.
The company offers a number of models of horizontal grinders, self-propelled machines on tracks and towable versions, electric and diesel powered. The 5710D owned by Mike’s company is designed for high-volume grinding and demanding end product specifications. It is powered by a Caterpillar 1,050 hp engine and can grind a wide range of material, including stumps.
(For more information on Peterson and Peterson grinders, call (800) 269-6520 or visit www.petersoncorp.com).
In addition to representing Peterson and Doosan in New England and the Northeast, Barry Equipment is a dealer for Yanmar, Rotobec, Log Max, asv, Brandon Manufacturing, Fecon, and Dynapac. It offers a wide range of equipment for operations in excavation and construction, logging, trucking, and more. The company also has a dedicated crew of service technicians to support customers in the field.
(For more information about Barry Equipment and its product lines, visit www.barryequipment.com or call (508) 949-0005.)
Mike did not grow up in a family connected to the wood products industry. “I’ve always been an outdoor person,” he said, explaining what drew him to his profession.
The can-do attitude Mike personifies encompasses his approach to projects. “I never say no,” he said. “I always get it done.” And that is getting it done to meet the highest expectations of the customer.
Managing the business is time consuming, but Mike still likes to run equipment when he can. Does he have a favorite machine? “I like to operate them all,” he said.
“I grew up with Tonka trucks,” he added. Operating equipment also is a nice change from management duties.
At age 46, Mike, a native of Maine, is very happy with York Woods Tree & Products, as well as the professional path he chose. “We’re here to service the seacoast of Maine and New Hampshire with landscape supply and land clearing,” he said. The company also sells materials for treating roads and driveways in the winter – treated salt, sand, and salt. Pond mix is also sold.
Besides clearing for standard house lots, Mike’s company takes on many unique projects. He has cleared land for a ball field, an eight-acre pipeline project, and he also grinds piles of stumps for other contractors. In southern Maine the company encounters pine and other assorted softwoods, hemlock, and mixed hardwoods.
The company’s mulch products include natural brown mulch, hemlock mulch, and black and brown colored mulch. Mike uses mulch colorants supplied by T.H. Glennon Company. It is added to the wood while it is in the Peterson grinder.
“Interacting with customers” is what Mike enjoys most about his work. Listening to customers, he and his team have responded with new products. For example, York Woods Tree & Products began selling annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs and even trees in 2016. The company also sells a few other products for landscaping and doing work around the yard, like gloves.
“Completing challenging jobs,” said Mike, is the most gratifying dimension of his work. That’s a sentiment that no doubt mirrors the customers who rely on his company for the products – from compost and horticultural additives to decorative colored mulches – so they can finish their own interesting projects.
When Mike gets time away from work, he enjoys deer hunting and vacationing with his family. He also likes to cook on his outdoor fire pit.