Swart’s Landscaping Projects Beautify State’s Roadways

Mon May 08, 2006 - Southeast Edition

These landscapers won’t be found creating a front yard Eden.

Swart’s Landscaping Inc. specializes in sodding new highway construction projects. The purpose of its work is not just for aesthetics but also for erosion control that helps prevent flood damage.

Swart’s teamed up with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to perform shoulder rehabilitation throughout the state of Florida, commonly known as “E-jobs.”

The scope of work varies from reworking non-paved roadside shoulders, to lateral ditch excavation and high-fill embankment restoration.

Swart’s sod production begins in the fields with eight sod harvesters, capable of harvesting 4,000 sq. yds. (3,300 sq m) per day. Its four sod fields consist of 20,000 acres (8,000 ha) in central Florida. Watering systems provide service 365 days a year. The fleet of water trucks includes seven six-wheel drive trucks that are equipped with 5,000-gal. tanks and self-loading diesel pumps. It also owns remote-controlled water cannons that spray out to 160 ft. and six spray heads discharge water, ensuring that every piece of sod is watered.

Swart’s six sod crews are capable of laying 74,000 sq. yds. (62,000 sq m) of sod per day. They are experienced in performing sod installation in a timely and efficient manner. Director of Maintenance Steve Farkas maintained that the use of Case 585G forklifts helps keep his sod crews productive and efficient. The equipment operates eight to 10 hours day, six days a week with heavy shifting and lifting.

Briggs Construction Equipment in Tampa has sold Swart’s more than 15 Case forklifts over the past several years.

“Throughout the years, owner Ray Swart has relied heavily on the machines and has made suggestions to previous Case dealers about previous models,” Farkas said. “To his surprise, they actually took the recommendations and improved the new models.”

This kind of partnership with Case has kept Swart’s buying the machines over the years.

“I love having all 15 Case 585Gs because we can stock the filters and other common wear items for the machines and never have to worry about having a machine down waiting on parts. Downtime is minimal.”

The forklifts are typically operated for four years or 6,000 hours and then either traded in for new models or sold outright.

“The resale value on the machines has always been exceptional. We spend a little more upfront, but we get a lot more in return. We’d rather have the Lexus than the Yugo,” Farkas said. “We’ve rented other machines in the past when we were in a bind, but our operators don’t want to run anything but the Case.”

Swart’s Landscaping was established in Michigan more than 35 years ago by Ray Swart as a seed and mulch company. The operation moved to Florida shortly thereafter, where it began to focus on sodding and seeding. The company began as a small two-person operation and since that time, has grown to be one of the largest seeding and sodding companies in Florida with more than 150 employees.