ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON
For Milford and Janelle Klaassen, mowing is more than a weekend chore. It provides a full-time occupation for the entire family.
The Klaassen?s began their mowing service, JAMM Mowing, eight years ago.
JAMM, which stands for Janelle, Angela, Milford and Michael, has become a family business since their children, Angela, 11, and Michael, 9, became old enough to help.
?They are both starting to help a little bit,? Milford said.
The Klaassen?s started with a tractor mowing cemeteries. In the early years they had around 20 clients.
?The first couple of years we thought we were terribly busy,? Milford said. ?Compared to now, that wasn?t much.?
This spring they have more than 50 jobs reaching as far south as Newton and as far north as a cemetery northwest of Durham. Most of the jobs, though, are in the Hillsboro area.
?We?re spreading out a little bit,? Milford said.
In addition to adding jobs, the Klaassen?s also have added equipment.
?We got into industrial machinery and it sure took away the time factor,? Janelle said. ?You can mow a lot faster.?
Other new equipment includes an edger and a blower, both of which save a lot of time, according to Janelle.
They continue to improve their equipment each year to keep up with the demands of their business.
?Our main problem is saying no,? Milford said.
They also do a number of jobs on a one-time basis when a person?s mower has broken down or the grass gets away from them. Once those clients find out how much easier it is to let the Klaassen?s mow their lawn, they become regular customers.
?It turned out better than we thought, I guess,? Milford said. ?Every year we seem to be increasing business a little bit.?
Now, JAMM has reached the point where it can?t take many more clients without having to hire additional help.
?We?re to the point where it?s like growing pains?do you push it and get big enough so you can hire another person or do you kind of stay where you?re at, where it?s comfortable,? Janelle said.
At least for the time being, they plan to keep the business at about its current size.
Milford hopes Michael will be able to help more as he grows older and can handle more of the equipment.
JAMM does not have a lot of competition in its line of work, the Klaassens say.
?A lot of kids think, ?We are going to get a summer mowing job,? only it?s not a summer job anymore,? Milford said. ?The season is really seven to eight months long.?
He said quite a few kids still mow lawns in town, but the number is decreasing.
Another reason Janelle said kids aren?t hired to mow is because they don?t have a way to haul off the clippings. The kids also don?t have the range of equipment like the Klaassens do.
?I knew there was a need for it here,? Milford said.
One of the biggest challenges the Klaassens face is finding time to mow.
During the school year, it means juggling their schedules because of their other jobs. Milford also drives a school bus and Janelle works in the kitchen at the elementary school.
?During the major mowing season, he goes and does his bus route, comes back, gets his trailer and goes out on mowing jobs and has to put that aside until he runs his evening route, and then we start back up again after school,? Janelle said.
Once school is out for the summer, the family is mowing full time.
?We?re pretty well booked solid six days a week,? Milford said.
If it rains for two or three days straight, the Klaassens can easily fall behind with their schedule, and it causes them to get behind, but Milford said most people understand.
Like every other business, the Klaassens keep careful records of their income and expenses.
?Our record keeping system has gotten so much better over the years,? Janelle said.
Every night they write down the jobs they have completed and keep track of the mileage, as well as prepare a list of jobs for the week ahead.
?It?s probably the hardest work I have ever done,? Milford said. ?It continues every day.?
Adds Janelle: ?But it?s a job you don?t really get bored with until the season gets into the middle of December. Then you think it?s time for a break. Every place is different and the conditions are different.?
As they mow, the Klaassens learn the patterns and what works best for each location.
Janelle said her favorite place to mow is the cemeteries because they are quiet and peaceful.
?It?s not a cheap business to get into if somebody wanted to start out,? Milford said. ?We just kind of gradually worked into it.?
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON