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Help a growing Church?

Church Man

LawnSite Member
Hello all!

I've been perusing the forum archives for the past couple of days as a guest. The information has been both helpful and, at times, entertaining. I need some more specific answers, however.
I don't know if I really qualify to be a part of this particular forum. I am not in the professional lawn care business. Given how much help you could be to me, I've decided to risk the wrath of the listmaster (Administrator).
I am the facilities manager of a church in Colorado. I am in the process of deciding what equipment should be bought to replace current equipment.
The area that I presently care for is about two acres of rich, thick lawn. Over the next three to five years, additional construction will increase that to around seven acres. I also have, at present, about 12 acres of field mowing.
The lawn has both open (1/2 acre) and landscaped areas with trees, shrubs, etc., and I have plenty of man power available to keep the areas cut. Unlike you guys, my concern is not profit. I do want equipment that is cost effective, but other major concerns are speed, ease of use, durability, and maneuverability.
I have looked at residential, estate, and commercial equipment. I really am not sure what will best take care of my needs. I want something that will last the church long term (10 years or so), and it really does need to be some kind of riding setup, considering some of the volunteers that would do the work. I also have a 1000 foot berm to keep cut, so something that can handle slopes would be nice. Some of the attachments for the professional equipment are interesting. Do they work well?
I don't suppose you could give me an unbiased opinion as to a cost comparison between in-house versus lawn service over the long haul?
I would very much appreciate your help and, not to be a name dropper, but I'm sure God would look favorably upon any help you might proffer.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. Did I use up my entire question quota on my very first post?!


LawnSite Senior Member

I'd concider a 48" belt drive walk behind with a riding attachment that can be removed or folded out of the way when mowing slopes or otherwise treacherous areas.

Exmark is a good brand. Suggest a jungle wheels or a Velke stand-on riding attachment.

This set up is economical, durable, relatively easy to learn and somewhat safer on slopes. A 48" belt drive has productivity around 1.5 acres/hour. In three to five years, if you need to move up to a more productive unit, your machine will have decent resale due to it being a low hour unit for it's age.

Just a thought! Take Care.

Eric ELM

Husband, Father, Friend, Angel
Chicago, IL USA
Welcome aboard Church Man. That was one of the biggest first posts I've seen. :) If you want speed and ease of opperation, you would want a ZTR of some sort. I would say you should get at least a 60" cut, the wider the wheel base the better off your are for that 1000 ft. burm you mentioned. A 72" cut would even be better for getting all of that lawn done fast since it all adds up to almost 20 acres. If the ground is fairly smooth, you could mow it in about 5 hours with a 60" and even less with a 72". If the turf is uneven a 60" would be better.

It depends on what dealers you have in your area which brand to get. There are hundreds of posts on mowers in this forum which could help you decide too. Everyone on this forum knows which one I would get in your situation since you said it needs to last for years. You will be putting on about 150 hours a year on this machine once you start mowing all 19 acres and in 10 years as you mentioned, it would be 1500 which isn't that many hours for a commercial mower. My oldest Dixie Chopper has over 3,000 hours on it which would be enough for 20 years of mowing at your location. If you let us know which dealers are around you, it would help us to figure out which would be best for your situation.


LawnSite Bronze Member
Pittsburgh, Pa
If you are a non profit organazation, you have a slight advantage in buying equipment then everyone else on this site. I lost an account do to the fact that they saw what they could get a brand new ZTR for and do the same job. They got such a discount that they did not see the point on paying me thousands a year when they could buy a brand new one. So what I would recomend is to call a dealer tell them your situation, test drive a few different models and buy something brand new. It will pay for itself in a year or two.


LawnSite Member
I think your best bet would be to buy 2 large riding mowers about 42" or 48", buy a good name..john deere, toro,
snapper, just to name a few. you could buy both of these for the price of a so-so ZTR. and there upper quality models will last a while..
also maybe go with the 48" walk behind for the slopes.
shindawa makes great trimmers, and end with a redmax blower,this should give you all you will need for several years. cost=$9000.00 +-
hope I have been of some help


LawnSite Member
Gainesville fla
Eric said it all, get a ztr atleast a 60 and you will be fine. I mow a church and I have a john deere f60 and a great dane 60 and it still takes me 3 hours to mow.


Long live the great dane :p


LawnSite Senior Member
southern ohio
Face the music and don't buy junk. Do not buy any non-commercial riding mowers with underbelly decks. Do buy Exmark, Scag, Toro, Great Dane, John Deere or Kubota.
The last 2 make great out-front style machines, those are great. Any mid-mount ZTR from the listed manufacturers will be great as well. DO NOT BUY any thing less than a 60" deck. Why would you when mowing the kind of acreage you are describing? A 72" would be better. You are going to spend anywhere from 6,500-$13,000 to purchase the in the range I have described.
I don't see you getting much more of a deal than a lawn pro who buys 2-3 machines per year. The dealer has to eat and the mark-up is not what people think.
God's house has a lawn and it needs to be maintained by the good stewards so if it's not in the budget then be a good Baptist and PASS THE PLATE. If not a Baptist, pass it anyway.
Or, you could mow weekly up close to the church with smaller equipment and pay to have the rest bushhogged 2-3 times per year.


Equipment for use by occasional operators is what I think you need. That tends to leave out the commercial riders and walk behinds, just because they can be intimidating to novice users. My personal preference for something that could be learned quickly by your volunteer crew would be a tractor based machine. Steering and directional control like a car. John Deere, Cub Cadet or New Holland are a good palce to start. Stay away from the low end, residential machines. A good, heavy duty garden tractor with a mower deck will last many years in your service. As an example, we have a JD 318 (the model was discontinued in 1991) that currently has 2000 hours on it and is still going strong. Production is less than a dedicated mower, but almsot anyone can operate it. Mowing capacity is a bit over an acre an hour, more on wide open terrain, less if you are going around lots of obstacles. Additionally, you can use the tractor based chassis for more than just mowing.

John DiMartino

LawnSite Silver Member
I think a tractor based machine is the hot setup if you are having volenteers run them.Heres is why,I have a dixiechopper and there is no way that a novice can get on that thing and mow safely,the levers throw people off,even if they can operate it,they will tear that nice lawn up in no time,My best operator at the golf course has tried my DC and he darts all over the place and scuffs every turn,even after 5 hrs on it.I would never let an inexperienced person on any ZTR,especially since you have a side hill,a ZTR will not hold any serious hill safely with a an inexperienced operator.A tractor is simple,get a hydro,itll be even easier,with a mid or rear mount deck.Another option is a 2wd steiner or 3 wheeler,the steiner will hold that hill like a pro,is simple to run and will outperform any tractor,but its $$$at around 10-12K for a 60" with Gas motor,2wd.Scag and ferris make 3 wheelers still,they would run about as fast as a steiner but not give the quailty of cut or hold a hill as well,the are a lot cheaper though.No matter what stay away from a ZTR ,its an accident waiting to happen with new,inexperienced operators.

Eric ELM

Husband, Father, Friend, Angel
Chicago, IL USA
For the price of an equivalant to a 318, they could get a ZTR and mow it in half the time. I had a 332, which is like a 318, but a diesel. I still have a 430 with a 60" deck, but I wouldn't advise it for mowing. Anything with a steering wheel mowing that much grass would be a big head ache. The only thing I can think of that you can do with a 318 or 430 JD equivalant type machine is use 3 point hitch items and more than likely, a Church wouldn't need those items anyway. With a 60" ZTR, they could pull a sprayer, an aerator, dethatch, and even plow or blow snow. I think all they need this machine for is mowing. Just about anyone can get on a ZTR and learn to operate it in just a short time. Back in 1993 my 430 was in the shop and I had to mow 4 lawns with a 36" Dixon ZTR. It was 2 feet narrower, but I mowed the 4 lawns in the same time it took with the 60" JD tractor. I sold the 36" Dixon the next spring and bought my first 60" Dixie Chopper and I bought another one in the fall. Best decission I've made in this business.
Church Man, how much do you plan to spend on this new mower?