SANDY HOOK, Connecticut – Kurt Lenahan didn’t plan to get into the mulch production business, but circumstances sort of forced him into it. Now, he’s glad he did.
Kurt started a business as a land clearing contractor in 1993. That was his focus when he began. He started selling some firewood, too.
However, as the volume of land clearing work increased, Kurt accumulated more wood debris at his wood yard. Government regulations eventually prohibited burying debris on sites. “I had so much material I needed to start making my own mulch to get rid of it,” he said. “It kind of came out of necessity.”
For the past 15 years, Barry Equipment has been an important business partner to Kurt, supplying him with equipment for Lenahan Land Clearing and Grinding Inc. He has consistently turned to Barry Equipment to purchase a series of Peterson horizontal grinders.
The company has a 13-acre green waste recycling yard, an office, and a maintenance garage. The business employs eight people full-time and a few more part-time during the busy part of the mulch season. Three employees normally work in the yard, making or coloring mulch and loading trucks. A couple drive trucks, and the other men are out on a land clearing job.
Lenahan Land Clearing and Grinding Inc. is a family enterprise. The business also employs Kurt’s wife, Laurie, and son, Owen.
Laurie and Kurt have been together for 27 years, and she has been very involved in the business the past 15 years. “We are very family oriented, which is very important in this day and time,” said Laurie. “We’re partners,” she said. “It’s a very dynamic thing we have together.”
“We work really well together,” she added.
Kurt comes to the yard every morning to make sure everyone is ready for work and makes sure things are running smoothly. Some days he and Laurie work in the yard together. He will go check on the current land clearing job and also scouts new jobs. He also helps maintain the company’s equipment.
Laurie generally works in the office with another woman and manages the office. She is in charge of financing, marketing, sales, scheduling, and human resources.
Owen, 18, is a licensed forester. He operates a feller buncher and essentially oversees the land-clearing crew.
“We put a lot into this together,” said Laurie. “These steps we made to grow, it’s a big family thing.” Buying additional land to increase the yard from 3 acres to 13 acres was a huge step, she noted.
Kurt’s father, John, now retired, owned an excavating business, and Kurt worked for him as a teenager and learned how to operate heavy equipment. He joined the military after high school, and when he came out he did some logging, sold some firewood, and also worked for his father until he started his own company.
Kurt got into mulch production in 2000. Although his focus was land clearing when he started, mulch production and sales have supplanted land clearing work and now accounts for about 60 percent of revenues compared to 40 percent for contracting. Kurt charges a tipping fee for tree service contractors and homeowners to unload wood material at his recycling yard. Plus, he gets wood material from his land clearing work.
In the recycling yard, stumps are sheared to a suitable size for the grinder, and wood material goes through a primary or first grind. The grindings are then mixed with chips collected from clearing land, and the mixture goes through a second grind.
The company is equipped with a Colorbiotics Sahara X3 system for coloring mulch and uses Colorbiotics colorants. Kurt makes mulch in red, black, brown, cherry brown, and hemlock colors. The best-selling color is brown. “We sell a lot of black, too,” as well as natural mulch. Cedar wood is separated and processed separately into mulch. The company also makes a special mulch for playground surfaces. Kurt also distributes Sweet Peet, a mixture of mulch and manure that he obtains from a company in New York.
For moving material in the yard, Kurt has a pair of Cat wheel loaders and a pair of Doosan wheel loaders.
Mulch is sold primarily wholesale. Kurt has more than 50 landscape contractors that he supplies with mulch. The company advertises mulch products on the radio and in some other ways.
Kurt began doing business with Barry Equipment in 2008 when he invested in his first Astec grinder, a Peterson 5410 horizontal track grinder. He later upgraded to a Peterson 2400 model, and in 2018 replaced that machine with a Peterson 2710 horizontal track grinder.
Kurt has had “good luck” with his Astec grinders. “The Peterson line is well-built,” he said.
“There are a lot of machines out there.”
The Peterson 2710D horizontal grinder is designed for operations requiring high production and frequent moves between jobs. It is powered by either a Cat Tier IV C15 580 hp or C18 755 hp engine. Heavy duty and mobile, the 2710D has outstanding production throughput for a machine of this size.
The Peterson 2710D has a large feed opening, 60¾ x 32 inches. When boosted by its high lift feed roll, the feed opening’s maximum lift of 44 inches is amongst the largest in its class.The Peterson 2710D uses a three-stage process to better break up material. Other features include the patented Impact Release System to guard against contaminants, unique to the Peterson line. In addition, urethane cushions and shear pins provide a second line of protection against contaminants and catastrophic damage.
(For more information about the Peterson line of grinders, visit www.astecindustries.com.)
Barry Equipment, based in Webster, Massachusetts, where it has two facilities, now operates another facility in Windsor, Connecticut. The family owned and operated heavy equipment dealership was established in 1985. Located in south-central Massachusetts near the Connecticut state line, the company can readily serve customers throughout New England and eastern New York.
Barry Equipment represents manufacturers of equipment for logging, biomass, recycling, and construction. Brands include Log Max, Rotobec, Fecon, Astec, Develon, and more. The company also offers equipment for road building and asphalt paving. Barry Equipment supplies both new and used equipment and maintains a rental fleet of excavators and loaders.
Barry Equipment offers full service on-site repair capabilities. It also employs service personnel with a fleet of field service trucks equipped with the most technically advanced diagnostic tools available. Service technicians undergo comprehensive training and complete all OEM required certification. The company maintains an extensive inventory of parts to make them available to customers and minimize delays and downtime.
(For more information about Barry Equipment, visit www.barryequipment.com.)
“As far as dealers go, for service and parts, Barry Equipment is pretty much number one for us,” said Kurt. “They have parts in stock. They’re very knowledgeable, and they have good phone assistance. Their service is second to none.”
Kurt is one of the first contractors in the area to provide comprehensive land clearing services – removing the trees and other vegetation, grubbing or pulling out the stumps, and disposing of the wood material – processing it into mulch back at his recycling yard. His company clears land for individual building lots as well as entire subdivisions and other building and development projects.
The land clearing operations are fully mechanized. A John Deere 753G feller buncher with a hot saw head is used for felling trees. The feller buncher may remove the tops and limbs, or the tree will be dragged by a John Deere 648L skidder to a landing area to be processed by a Doosan 225LL excavator with a Rotobec grapple saw. Limbs also may be removed by hand with a chainsaw. The Doosan can alternately be equipped with a Nye stump shear to pull stumps from the ground or shear them in place and extract them; the shear also is used to break up stumps that have been pulled.
The tops and limbs are fed into a Peterson 4310 track chipper, and the chips are hauled back to the recycling yard and added to other material in the process of making mulch.
Kurt merchandises all the logs from land clearing. Grade saw logs are supplied to B&B Forest products in Cairo, New York. Low-grade logs are taken back to the yard to be processed into firewood. Some logs are supplied to a pole mill.
Depending on the job, stumps and other unmerchantable wood will be processed on-site by the company’s Peterson grinder or hauled back to the recycling yard for grinding later.
Kurt does little to market his land clearing work. “After 30 years, it’s pretty much word of mouth,” he said. He has some customers – like building contractors – that he has worked with for 20 years. The current job is all hardwoods on rolling terrain. It is yielding saw logs and firewood logs.
The company does not have to travel far for land clearing jobs, staying within a radius of about 25 miles. A typical job is clearing a lot for a building; it may be as small as a ¾-1 acre lot for a new home. Kurt is in the process of finishing clearing the last eight lots in a subdivision that will contain 35 houses. The company also has cleared land for horse farms and pasture land.
In the recycling yard Kurt has a Bells 8000 firewood processor for producing cut, split firewood. It is equipped with a 60-inch circular saw for bucking the logs to firewood length. The machine has been operating for about five years. Kurt has owned several other firewood processors over the years.
Kurt lets the firewood logs season for two summers, then it is cut, split and delivered. Additional firewood can be stored in bins that hold about 50 cords. The company sells 500-600 cords of firewood annually, delivering it bulk in a 1-cord truck or a 2-cord truck.
Kurt also has a 1972 Cat dozer leftover from his father. “It comes in handy once in a while.” Rounding out his equipment is a (brand) forestry mower and a Bradco skid steer. The company has its own log trucks to deliver wood to mills.
Kurt doesn’t have a lot of free time, but he has an RV and enjoys taking his family on camping trips. They occasionally go to state parks in New England, NASCAR races, and elsewhere. He also is an avid snowmobiler and enjoys getting out in the snow in northern Vermont with Owen.
Kurt has no immediate plans for the future. “The last couple of years, we’ve done quite a bit of expansion,” he noted. Had added the mulch coloring equipment last year. He bought the new skidder just a few months ago. He also purchased an additional 10 acres next to his original 3-½-acre yard to have more room. “I’m not looking to do more now,” said Kurt.