At just 19 years of age, Luke Kroeger talks like someone who has been in the lawn maintenance business his entire life. It’s likely because he pretty much has been—at least for half of it.
“I pushed my lawnmower all over the neighborhood when I was 10,” Luke recalls. “I mowed for anyone and everyone who was willing to hire me. There were some days when I pushed my mower as far as a mile away from our house.”
Make no mistake, Luke Kroeger put some serious mileage on those little 10-year-old legs. They got stronger and stronger, though. Perhaps that’s one reason why he turned into such a standout soccer player in high school. But then, after undergoing a routine sports physical his junior year, the energetic and physically fit Kroeger got the shock of a lifetime.
“The doctors told me they didn’t think something was quite right with my heart,” Luke tells. To be specific, his EF (ejection fracture rate) was around 13%. Normal is 60%. The cutoff for life support is 15%. “I was right on the edge of being too far gone,” Luke says.
At the age of 16, Luke Kroeger was in heart failure. The doctors initially thought he would need to undergo a heart transplant. First things first, Luke was put on a salt-free diet and regimen of medication. Slowly his condition started to improve. Today, three years later, he is doing extremely well and could soon be taken off his medication.
Along with a happy ending, this story also has a heaping helping of irony.
The same day Luke was first diagnosed with heart failure was the day he purchased his first Walker Mower. The timing almost gives you goosebumps.
“I was still push mowing all of my yards up until that point,” Luke says. “Obviously, with a heart condition like I’d found out I had, push mowing 20 yards a week was not going to happen anymore. So, I ended up working out a deal with my doctor. I told him that my mowing business was something I could look forward to and was a great reliever of stress during these hard times. I told him I now had a riding mower and wouldn’t have to walk much at all. My doctor agreed to let me mow from 8 to 10 a.m., and then 5 p.m. until sunset. That was because the heart medication I was on made me hypersensitive to sunlight.”
Luke was able to make his disjointed schedule work, giving a lot of the credit to his family, friends, and new Walker Mower. “I was able to keep up with the work and keep all of my customers happy,” Luke says. “From there my company, LR Scapes in Wichita, Kansas, slowly began growing into what I have today.”
FOCUS ON WHERE YOU CAN BE AT YOUR BEST
What Luke Kroeger has today is a client base of 55 to 60 customers. He focuses on the residential market because that is where quality matters most. Beautifully landscaped front yards and spacious back yards are well-fertilized and irrigated. All those lush fescue lawns require the right mowing contractor with the right mowing equipment to leave them looking clean and elegant.
“We like to change up the ways we mow,” Luke explains. “A lot of big landscape companies tend to mow the same direction every week. That ends up causing wear in the yard. We take pride in trying to make the designs cool with crosslapping or other patterns.”
Luke first developed a fascination with “mowing stripes” as a young boy mowing his grandparents’ farm. That’s also where he developed a preference for recycling clippings back into the lawn.
“Bagging grass can be backbreaking work,” Luke says, referencing the need to physically move it from trailer to compost pile at the end of each day. “Bagging can also be a logistical nightmare if you don’t have a convenient way to get rid of the grass.
“Customers often ask if we’re going to bag the clippings,” Luke continues. “Nowadays, I tell them we should look at some other options, too. More and more, we’re trying to bag less and less. We can only get away with it because of my new Walker with the new mulching deck. There are times when we have no choice but to bag, like when we get nine inches of rain in a week. But most of the time, we just mulch now. When I ask my customers for feedback, most can’t even tell the difference.”
Luke says there have been a few other secrets to his success. One is having the discipline to mow slow and steady, which is especially critical when mulching thick fescue grass. Secondly, Luke does not leave the garage in the morning without razor-sharp blades. Finally, he always uses organic-based cooking oil.
“I’ve started spraying the underside of our mower decks with an organic cooking oil I found,” Luke says. “It does an amazing job of keeping grass from building up on the deck. Since it’s organic, it is perfectly safe for the grass.” On the day Walker Talk visited, Luke Kroeger and his lone employee, Jacob Wolfe, were donning brand new T-shirts provided by their dealer, Andover Lawn Equipment in Andover, Kansas. Luke says his dealer has been another secret to his success.
“I bought Stihl handheld equipment from Andover Lawn Equipment long before I purchased my first Walker,” Luke recalls. “TJ at Andover Lawn kept telling me, ‘Luke, you have to get a Walker … it will help elevate your business to the next level.’ It definitely did that. But I never thought you could actually say that it helped save my life.”
He’s only 19, but Luke Kroeger has a long track record of success in lawn maintenance. He has also been through a lot.
“It has all helped make me into the person I am today,” Luke says. That person is now a chemical engineering student at the University of Kansas who still finds time to own and operate a successful lawn maintenance business. It’s remarkable, really, since the mowing season lasts from early March through well into November. Mowing has always been an important part of Luke’s life — and always will be. Luke states it very simply: “The Walker mower saved me.”