Mowing for $: FFA Agribusiness Star builds lawn care empire


When Austin Nordyke’s parents told him he either needed to get involved with school and sports or have a job in eighth grade, the young lad chose the latter and hit the ground running … or should we say hit the grass mowing.

The young entrepreneur soon went from mowing a few yards around the neighborhood to providing turf grass management service for 65 yards around Hugoton, Kansas his senior year … thus earning him the National FFA 2017 American Star in Agribusiness for his outstanding SAE.

“In today’s time, it seems that there are not very many of my peers that are interested in doing any kind of labor-intensive tasks, or anything requiring effort in some cases,” Nordyke said. “Back in my hometown of Hugoton, Kansas, the community members all love to see the youth of the community out and about, working or helping out. I believe that me actually working and running my business helped draw some of my customers.”

And Nordyke was definitely out working. Before he started Austin Nordyke’s Lawn Care Service, he was helping his sister mow about seven yards as well as the family’s.

“As I was helping my sister mow, I quickly realized how much money I could potentially make,” Nordyke said. “I really didn’t have to work a lot of hours and would still be able to make money for myself.”

That decision proved to be fruitful for Nordyke. In his first year of mowing, he purchased a zero-turn riding lawn mower, which greatly helped him increase his efficiency. One yard would only take 20 minutes rather than an hour with a push mower. 

Courtesy of Austin Nordyke

In order to grow his business, Nordyke tried out a few different advertising strategies. One of the more successful marketing efforts that paid off for him? Putting up yard signs in his customers’ lawns after a fresh cut.

As far as setting prices, Nordyke said he would always go and personally look at a lawn to determine what the charge should be. That assessment would include the size of the yard and how many obstacles such as trees, flower beds, and sidewalks he would have to mow and trim around. After taking all of that into account, Nordyke would set his price. His average charge was about $40, however the lawns ranged in price anywhere from $10 to $125.

Currently studying engineering technology management at Wichita State University, the young businessman has had to retire his mower. Only home for three months a year, the business was simply more than his family members could keep up with during the other months of the year.

Courtesy of Austin Nordyke

But as Nordyke points out if he were ever to return to Hugoton and was in need of a job, he already has established a solid reputation for being a hard worker and go-getter.

“Having a job and running my own business has also provided myself with a lot of skills that I would not have normally learned from sports,” Nordyke said. “I have fantastic customer service experience and can communicate with all different kinds of people. That has been greatly beneficially theses past two years in college.”

Nordyke recommends other FFA members consider an SAE in turf grass management, because unlike other livestock SAEs, turf grass management does not have high continuous expenses such as feed and vet bills.

“Sure, lawn mowers can be expensive up front, but if they are properly taken care of, they can last for many years,” Nordyke said. “Eat that point, almost all money that is made is pure profit. Add a little expense for gas and you are good to go.”

And Nordyke said the best thing about turf grass management is that anyone can do it.

“Does your dad have a mower that he would let you borrow?” Nordkye said. “If so, great! Now go ask some of your neighbors if you can mow their lawn for them, and next thing you know you are mowing 10 lawns and making $400 a month.”

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