LEBANON, OHIO — Building a company with a global reach starts by reaching out to your neighbors first. Fecon, an industry leader in the manufacturing of land clearing equipment, knows firsthand the power of service to their community. Based in Lebanon, Ohio, they’re no strangers to using pro bono work as research and development opportunities to test new equipment. It’s a win-win situation: Fecon gets to tackle a variety of land clearing challenges and local nonprofits get a boost to provide more programming for the community.
Before a product can be put to market, it has to live up to the Fecon standard. Fecon equipment is built to outlast even the toughest job site. Daniel Montgomery, R&D Engineer, is the lead field tester for Fecon’s land clearing equipment. The larger forestry mulching equipment requires extensive job sites where Montgomery can perform dozens of hours of testing.
Recently, Fecon released the Samurai™ knife tool system as an attachment to the rotor of their forestry mulching machines, and Montgomery wanted to do some long term testing to see how different metal compositions affected knife longevity.
“We had been playing around with knives a lot, getting feedback from certain people, looking at ways to make them better. We needed a big reliability test on the knives, to put them out there in the field, load up some hours and maybe try some different materials,” Montgomery said.
Fortunately, a neighbor came knocking. Ben Steiger runs a ministry called Heart of the Outdoors, which works to bring community members onto their 154 acre farm in Morrow, Ohio to enjoy some quality time outside. The farm had been in disuse for five years before Steiger bought it, and was significantly overgrown with invasive honeysuckle brush. He heard that Fecon might be willing to help clear some land and open up some spaces on the farm for various programs.
“They came out for a visit and learned about our organization. They saw a need and sent some help,” Steiger said.
That help came in the form of a Fecon FTX128 with a Depth Control Rotor (DCR) with Samurai™ knife attachments.
Into the Heart of the Outdoors
The worksite was just what Montgomery needed to test the new Samurai™ knife attachments. With softwoods and brush with few rocks, the knife attachment is particularly popular in Ohio and throughout the Midwest. Customers are particularly inclined to mixing carbide and knife attachments to speed up the mulching process.
“Here in Ohio I like running carbides with knives in the center. I can run through big trees, drop them pretty quick and then after 100 hours, flip the knives over and get another 100 hours out of them. They are relatively cheap compared to carbide,” Montgomery said.
Before Montgomery and his team could even get to the job site, they had to widen the driveway, a mile long stretch of switchbacks covered with invasive honeysuckle. Fecon’s FTX 128 L Tracked Forestry Mulcher made short work of the brush, with enough mobility to access the overgrown roadway. With the driveway cleared, Montgomery could tow his machinery up to the more difficult to reach job sites, where Heart of the Outdoors’ programs take place.
One of the larger programs Heart of the Outdoors runs is called HisPins Archery, which is designed to teach children safe techniques to enjoy archery. Rather than giving away the proverbial fish, however, Heart of the Outdoors works with churches and schools to teach and equip staff to start their own archery clubs. Steiger and his staff explain fundamental archery instruction, providing churches and schools a way of connecting with their communities and children. Heart of the Outdoors was able to expand the scope of their programming thanks to the newly cleared land.
From rails to trails
They cleared overgrown fields, roadways, and trail systems, creating paintball areas, camping clearings and hiking paths so that all visitors to Heart of the Outdoors headquarters can enjoy the beautiful forests of Ohio.
One particularly difficult area of terrain was an overgrown railroad bed that had been completely overgrown with honeysuckle: a 0.8 mile long, narrow stretch of land. Despite working in a gully with slopes on each side, Fecon quickly cleared the brush and mulched it into a neat, flat clearing.
Honeysuckle growing between mature trees was particularly a nuisance, since Stieger wanted to keep the trees but mulch the brush. Honeysuckle also prevents young saplings, from getting necessary nutrients, so when big older trees die, there is nothing to replace them. By eliminating the invasive Honeysuckle, Fecon ensured tree growth for the future generations of Heart of the Outdoors ministries.
That stretch of land is now part of their annual Run for the Hill 5k race to help raise funds for the ministry. What was once an overgrown railroad bed is now usable land that is providing the tools to continue connecting churches to their communities. To signify his gratitude to Fecon, Steiger named that stretch “Fecon Way.”
“We saved them a lot of time walking down those trails with chain saws and clippers and then burning the debris. What 20 guys would do in a week, I probably did in two days,” Montgomery estimated.
“Fecon was a huge blessing to us, we’re very thankful for their assistance,” Steiger said.
Just like Heart of the Outdoors gives churches and schools the tools to engage their community on their own terms, Montgomery was able to give the Heart of the Outdoors team the tools necessary to clear the land themselves. Fecon equipment is designed to be user friendly and easy to learn. While they were clearing, Montgomery showed Steiger and his team how to operate some of the equipment, so Heart of the Outdoors could perform further land clearing in the future.
Soon after Montgomery and his team left, Steiger did just that. Steiger cleared one large four acre plot as well as two half acre and two one-fourth acre plots by himself. He wanted to use the newly cleared land for food plots — for bait foods to attract deer and turkey for their Adopt a Hunter program. Designed to introduce people to the sport of hunting, Adopt a Hunter is another great tool for them to build partnerships. By training Steiger on the usage of the equipment, Fecon empowered Steiger to continue expanding programs, and gave him the tools to do so.
Reaching up by reaching out
Fecon’s land clearing gave Heart of the Outdoors the tools to thrive well into the future: enough clear trail for an entire 5k loop for fundraising runs, open areas for ministry events and hunting food plots. With more room for programming than ever before, Fecon opened the door for Steiger and his staff at Heart of the Outdoors to expand their ministry efforts.
Heart of the Outdoors is only 10 miles away from Fecon’s manufacturing shop, so Montgomery was able to bring his teams of engineers to see the knives in action while he was working. They could make adjustments and come back the next day to try something new, as opposed to working in front of a potential customer a thousand miles away.
The land clearing project brought together two very different companies with two very different missions, but each with a need for the other: Fecon needed land to clear to test their new tool system, Heart of the Outdoors needed land cleared for their programs. A phone call, a visit, and both parties come out ahead, just one example of how Fecon does well by doing good.