Third-Gen Owner Brings New Ideas to Family Business

Jon Butcher, CEO of third generation, family-owned Madison Tree and Landscape, with a Fecon 125VRT mulching tractor compact track loader.

Wed March 01, 2023

If a tree falls in a forest, it may or may not make a sound. But if a tree fell in southwest Ohio any time after 1946, there's a chance that Madison Tree and Landscape has been there to help clean up the mess. This family-owned business has been a staple in the greater Cincinnati area providing tree care and landscaping services. As the business enters its third generation, it's clear to CEO Jon Butcher that it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

Right Tools

In the 76 years that Madison Tree has operated, tree care has evolved; so has the equipment. While this makes the work significantly easier to accomplish, it also means businesses have to invest in the right equipment to handle whatever a job requires. That's why the Butcher family has chippers, cranes, backyard lifts, bucket trucks, gravel trucks, mini-skid loaders, skid steers and stump grinders at the ready.

But as time went on, the leadership team noticed something missing from the business's tool belt.

"We were doing some jobs where we could have saved some time if we had used a mulcher instead of cutting with chainsaws and pulling out debris with mini-loaders," Butcher said.

So, he added a 125VRT Fecon mulching tractor compact track loader (CTL) to his arsenal and saw not only time savings, but more business opportunities as well.

In multiple instances, Butcher wouldn't have committed to a job without his new mulching tractor to ensure he could get the job done. Not just because they didn't own a piece of equipment, but also because of the hurdles of the rental market.

"Rental costs are in excess of $1,000 a day but the real issue is that rentals have been unavailable when ground conditions are suitable," Butcher said.

Plus, rentals come with their own baggage and can be more prone to break down during the job. Eventually Madison Tree decided that it was done playing the rental roulette.

Tackling Tough Terrain

Madison Tree recently worked on an 8-acre land clearing project in Indian Hill, Ohio, a neighborhood in Cincinnati. The project involved removing invasive species, including honeysuckle and pear trees, along with the brush and understory. Doing so transformed densely covered woods into a park-like setting and preserved the remaining trees in the process. The tricky part, however, was that the land included a creek with a two-to-one slope on both sides. Butcher's team also had to deal with a pile of logs that were dropped on the slopes from a previous landscaping job years before.

To start, the Madison Tree team used a mulching tractor to shred the invasive species that ranged from 4 to 12-in. Vegetation of that size can be a tall order but the variable speed motor on Butcher's mulcher automatically adjusts to maximize rotor-speed and torque to changing material loads. This means that for heavier material, the mulching attachment delivers more rotor torque keeping the rotor turning when other mulching heads may stall.

Then, after tackling the vegetation on level ground, the team turned their sights on the creek.

"We had unpassable valleys where we had to pull out a bunch of undergrowth by hand," Butcher said.

The team had to get even more creative when it came to the old logs that were left behind.

"We had to use a second skid steer to pull logs out of the creek slope before mulching them."

The entire project lasted about a week with the mulching portion lasting two to three days. Without the new mulcher, Butcher knows the job would have been much more complicated to the point of Madison Tree being unable to take on the task.

"I probably wouldn't have taken the job on if we didn't have the 125VRT. Beforehand, on similar jobs we had guys with chainsaws and mini-loaders cutting stuff down and hauling it out. Then we'd still have the stumps to grind. The 125VRT did the work five guys could do in a day doing the same thing."

The 125's ability to effectively mulch starts and stops with the teeth doing the heavy lifting. In this case Butcher's CTL utilizes Fecon's Bull Hog VM6020 mulching attachment with a depth control rotor that creates consistent chip sizing and less horsepower draw from its carrier. This makes it ideal for dealing with stringy or fibrous material or whenever a finer finished product is required. The attachment also utilizes Viking Axe teeth which are double sided and can be easily flipped for a brand-new cutting edge and to effectively double the life of the teeth. The mulching attachment offers a 61-in. working width and 76-in. overall width and requires 30 to 50 gpm, 6,000 psi and 132 max hp from the carrier.

While the mulching capability of 125VRT is unquestionable to Butcher, the bigger benefit of the CTL is its versatility.

"We use it for hauling logs, landscaping grading tasks, snow removal…It's a Swiss army knife," Butcher said of the tasks he can do with his mulching tractor.

The additional capabilities even further helped to justify Madison Tree's purchase.

Madison Tree purchased its CTL from Vermeer Heartland, an authorized supplier of Vermeer equipment, covering Kentucky, West Virginia, eastern Tennessee and southern Ohio.

How It Works

Fecon's 125VRT mulching tractor is a powerful and nimble CTL. The vehicle's suspended track drive provides swift and durable system for work in demanding terrain, and its 125 hp 3.4L Cummins Tier IV Final engine delivers plenty of power. The CTL 50 gpm auxiliary attachment flow provides 119 hp to the Bull Hog mulcher or other attachments which can be easily swapped with the hydraulic quick attach system.

A full forestry spec cab features a ¾-in. polycarbonate front door, and ½-in. poly side windows for safety. An 8-in. color display offers users enhanced visibility in the spacious and comfortable operator station. The improved loader arm with no cross bars allows operators even more visibility to their attachment.

Hinged belly pans and tilting cooler and condenser guards allow for easy cleaning of the CTL while sealed fuse panels and improved wiring routing provide better durability and serviceability for the unit. A 52-gal. fuel tank allows for nearly double the run time between fill-ups while the steel hood ensures greater in-woods durability during operation.

In Butcher's opinion, Madison Tree is arguably the most reputable tree and landscaping company in Cincinnati. While his opinion might be a little biased, it's hard for anyone to argue with more than 75 years of results. The tools are certainly different than when Butcher's grandfather started Madison Tree, but the happy customers remain a constant.