Reader Profile: Austin Marchant

Sept. 20, 2019

When the family farming business wasn’t working out, Austin Marchant’s family turned from using compact equipment on the land to grow crops to doing land clearing and mulching, an endeavor that has proven successful to date. Marchant co-owns Southern Site Prep & Mulching in Tifton, GA, along with his father Johnny, who started the company in 2004. Marchant joined in 2007. The father-and-son team serves mostly private landowners, with the remaining time divided between commercial and agricultural clients. Services include mulching overgrown areas, mowing between planted pine trees, complete land clearing, clearing for fences and property lines, mowing pond dams, clearing roads and nature trails, removal of brush invasion of pastures and fields, shooting lanes for hunting, food plots for hunting, logging loading ramps, stump grinding and removal, and forest fuel reduction. Services are provided primarily in a 100-mile radius of Tifton, although the father-and-son team will travel throughout the Southeast to execute larger jobs. The men use low-pressure rubber-tracked machines to create minimal ground disturbance on the primarily wet areas or sandy soils with which they work. They have two skid-steers and a mulcher and run Denis Cimaf mulching heads on the equipment. Speaking of the importance of being in a family business in an industry of large companies of which land clearing might be one division, Marchant points out that it not only serves the customers better because they live in the community they serve, but it also helps with work-family balance. “I spend up to 14 hours a day at work,” he points out. “I’m fortunate in being able to spend a majority of that time with my family. It draws you a lot closer. You do have some headaches, but in the end, it is a lot better.”

What He Does Day to Day
As a two-man operation, Marchant and his father perform every task required of the business as owner-operators. The weather will dictate when the jobs are performed. Other time is spent doing daily maintenance on the equipment—including sharpening the teeth—and making contact with customers on potential jobs to estimate job tasks and costs.

What Led Him Into This Line of Work
Marchant used to work on the family farm with his older brother Justin as they raised a variety of crops and tended to hogs. After the market for the commodities weakened, Johnny Marchant took an interest in land clearing machines at an exposition, which became a driving factor in going into the land clearing business. Justin Marchant worked part-time in the business and Marchant started working part-time when he was 15. While his brother pursued another path six years ago, Marchant has continued to work in the land clearing business ever since. Marchant earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton in 2013. Marchant has leveraged his farming experience and college education to provide customers optimal service by “being able to gauge vegetation types and be able to tell by the vegetation how the soil is and then, in turn, try to help the customer after we’re finished to continue to manage their lands to the best of their needs,” he says. “I don’t necessarily use the logging end of my degree, but I do try to help the customer with the knowledge that I have.”

What He Likes Best About His Work
Marchant says he enjoys seeing happy customers after “going out to look at the job, quoting them a price, and being able to see how happy they are with their property when we’re finished.”

His Biggest Challenge
Maintaining a healthy client base is his biggest challenge, says Marchant. “We really don’t do a whole lot of advertising,” he says. “Our main advertisement is the customer’s word of mouth. Every job we leave, we make sure the customer is happy. I’ve tried to do a little bit of promotion on the Internet and social media. That seems to have helped. 70 to 80% of our client base comes from family, friends, and past customers. I’m getting a larger market by using social media. Facebook is the most successful platform.”