As an NFL player in the early 1990s, Woody Myers knew how to "tear up the field." Today, as owner of a tree service company working on residential real estate, it is an action he wants to avoid.
Myers operates Woodland Services, Inc., Kingstree, S.C., which removes and thins foliage and underbrush from residential plots of land for sale. Unlike traditional tree service companies, Woodland Services does not trim trees for utility or telephone companies, Myers explains. "We keep our feet on the ground," he says.
Eighty percent of his business is with a large real estate development company that sells land across the Southeast United States. The company often showcases its properties to potential customers during sales events. "They put a lot of money into preparing for big bang weekends and they want the land to look perfect," Myers says. "They also want the clients to be able to see the lot, the property corners and the flag markers."
Myers and his crews go on the newly platted lots and surrounding land to remove and chip brush and other vegetation 4 inches or less in diameter at chest height. If it is a wooded area, the crews also trim limbs lower than 8 feet off large trees to "make it look like a state park," Myers says.
This isn't always easy on the East Coast plains or waterfront properties where his crews often work on soggy, wet ground. It is just as challenging on the uneven terrain in the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky. So when Myers was looking to add a brush chipper to his company's equipment fleet, the Vermeer® BC1400TX self-propelled brush chipper on tracks was his first round pick.
"The number one feature I like about the BC1400TX is its track undercarriage and its mobility," says Myers. An operator can maneuver the self-propelled unit with a wireless remote control that has an operating range of 300 feet, and the CAT 304 undercarriage with tracks is engineered to use the machine's own weight for traction. He says that the operator can stand on level ground away from the unit, and then remotely reposition the machine on a steep grade. For added performance safety, the operator can select low range on the track drive for more power on difficult terrain.
"You can move it and get to places you can't go with a traditional chipper towed behind a vehicle," Myers says. "So, that means my guys don't have to pull the debris as far and they can work more efficiently, which, in turn, saves money." Myers says he also likes the ability to remotely adjust the discharge chute to direct chips to a chosen location.
In addition, Myers says the tracks provide low ground pressure, which allows the unit to operate and maneuver on soft ground without significantly disturbing the soil. He also notes that the tracks have a suspension system, instead of being rigid mounted to the frame.
Myers says he not only likes where he can field the unit, but that it can take a beating. "When I have a 10-hour workday, that unit is cutting at least nine hours," says Myers.
Depending on the amount of debris and terrain, Myers says his crew can chip two acres to three acres a day. Crews blow the chips back onto the ground as mulch, which they spread evenly for a more appealing ground cover.
Because the chipper logs so much working time, Myers says he flips the steel cutting knives in the drum every 25 cutting hours. He replaces them after 50 cutting hours. "A normal line crew could run months without changing those blades," Myers says. He adds that he uses a full set of blades every week just due to the volume of material his crews are chipping.
Myers' local Vermeer dealership is a valuable player in helping to maintain his company's productivity. "The Vermeer Service Center in the Southeast has provided exemplary service," he notes.
Myers doesn't save his BC1400TX for tough conditions, but uses it at a variety of locations along with the company's other brush chipping machines. The Woodland fleet includes two BC1400XL rubber-tire units, the BC1400TX unit, two tractors, and three compact utility loaders. He says his two rubber-tire BC1400XL units allow his crews to tow the machines to a new site when needed.
Like his machines, Myers and his crews work hard. "Just recently, I drove 806 miles in one day and worked a 10-hour day the next day starting at 6 a.m.," he says. "We are on a deadline and we are going to work long and hard to get the job done." His company has 28 permanent employees, but often has as many as 40 depending on workload.
Myers has been running hard since he was recruited out of college by the Denver Broncos. "I was not a marquee player by any stretch of the imagination," says Myers, who also played for the Philadelphia Eagles and then for the NFL World League. "But I was always in the gym, running and doing the work other people weren't willing to do. I carried that over into my business."
His hard work helped build on a business his father created in the late 1970s. After battling injuries, Myers decided to stop playing football. "I realized the younger, bigger, stronger kids were coming in. At age 27, I was an old man," Myers says. "Instead of getting myself beat up and having lifelong injuries, I decided not to try out again."
When he joined his father in the mid-1990s, Woodland Services primarily offered seasonal forestry services. Myers and his father decided to add the land clearing service to keep crews working during late spring and early summer. "Over the past few years it has taken more and more of our time, until now it is all I do," Myers explains. In addition to his main client, he has worked for other real estate companies and some golf courses.
Even as real estate sales appear to be slowing nationally, Myers says waterfront properties still seem to be popular, and he anticipates his overall business remaining strong.
His positive outlook may come from his strong work ethic and competitive nature. "Football is a competitive sport like any other industry," says Myers, comparing his early years in the NFL with his work today. "You have to be willing to work harder, put in longer hours and be the best."