For “Mr. Grasshopper,” retirement is blissfully busy
Don Nelson of Hildreth, Neb., has been using Grasshopper mowers for more than 30 years. He bought his first Grasshopper when he realized that he needed a better mowing solution than the lawn tractors he was using for his home and surrounding farm acreage.
“The lawn tractors were hard to control, they weren’t comfortable, and neither my wife nor my kids would go near them,” Nelson recalls. “So I looked for an alternative.” He was drawn to Grasshopper because of the comfortable ride, zero-turn maneuverability and quality craftsmanship.
When Nelson bought his first Grasshopper, his kids gladly took care of the mowing, allowing him to devote his time and energy to working on his farm.
After years of waking at dawn and working past sundown, Nelson retired, but not in the traditional sense of the word; he started his own lawn mowing business: Nelson Lawn Service.
“I started when I was 65,” he says, “with one Model 620T mowing a couple of cemeteries and city yards. Being ‘retired,’ I only wanted to work half-days, so being small was great.”
But his business soon grew leaps and bounds, which he attributes directly to using Grasshopper.
“I now have two mowers (the second is a new Model 729T) and have 12 cemeteries, 50 city yards, and 11 country yards,” he says. “I’ve grown to where I require another person to help, and it’s all because of Grasshopper.”
He’s known around Hildreth as "Mr. Grasshopper", a title he is proud to claim. “They’re all I’ve known and all I’ll ever use. I’ve been around a lot of equipment, and these mowers are far superior – in comfort, construction and maneuvering – to anything else I’ve seen.”
He says that one of his previous Grasshoppers – a Model 1822 – was 22 years old when he replaced it. The deck was rusted out, but the spindles and bearings were still working like new.
“Regular maintenance can keep equipment going for a long time. Grasshoppers are low-maintenance to begin with – and the PowerFold deck makes them even easier to maintain. If you take the time to sharpen blades and perform regular maintenance like changing the oil and filters, you’ll make them last even longer.”
Nelson is also pleased with the maneuverability, which he says is especially helpful on his cemetery accounts. “Mowing around the grave stones is a breeze. We eliminate a lot of secondary trimming. And they do really well in the open areas, as well.”
“I had one superintendent tell me they had the best grass they’ve ever had after I aerated one year, and he specifically asked me to return the next year to do it again,” Nelson says. “And when you do a quality job with a quality product, the word travels.”
That word-of-mouth has traveled so far that Nelson requires little traditional advertising. “Most of my growth has been through word-of-mouth, and I never turn down work, especially in this down economy.”
Even though his business has grown beyond the half-day schedule, the speed and convenience of his Grasshopper mowers allow him the flexibility to adjust his schedule whenever and however he chooses, leaving him plenty of time to enjoy his “retirement.”