He’s probably been on greens more often that Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer combined, and Cascade resident Mike Gehl expects to continue his life’s work of lawn care for as long as he can.
Gehl owns Gehl Lawn Service in Cascade and provides a complete line of lawn care services to clients in town, as well as to residents and businesses in just about every neighboring community in the area. And it’s all come without a lick of formal training.
“When I graduated high school I got called to help build a golf course,” Gehl said, referring to the construction of Fillmore Fairways. “I went down there and for eight hours a day I cut grass, and then we started building the course.”
It wads during seeding of the grains one day that Gehl returned home to find out he had been drafted into the service “I remember going by the golf course on the bus (to basis training).
This was 1967-68. On the day after Christmas I began a 21-day boat ride to Vietnam. I did what I was supposed to do over there.”
Gehl remains active in the American Legion today.
After dealing with the unforgiving elephant grass of Vietnam, Gehl said he went straight back to the golf course, where he worked as its superintendent. “I took over by talking to other course superintendents and learning everything I could and went to conferences. I never went to school for it. I was there for 42 years.”
He began the lawn service on the side and began helping other golf courses. Gehl also has the opportunity to work with his son, Brent, full time, and a grandson, Brady Gehl. His explanation for his expansive list of clients is simple. “I treat everybody the same. No customer is more important than another one. I give the people just what they need with the number of applications, nothing more.”
In addition to maintaining the Legion ballpark in Cascade, Gehl is proud of the work he’s done at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, a field he helped build originally. “When you go to the Field of Dreams and see the people enjoying the place, it almost makes you break down. They can’t believe how nice the grass is and that they’re getting to see something on their bucket list.”
Although he’s been heavily involved in lawn care all his adult life and has the green thumbs to prove it, Gehl insists he’s no expert. “I talk to superintendents every day about something. I learned everything by talking to other people. When they know you’re a superintendent they think you know everything. If I don’t know it, I’ll find out. Every day I learn something new.”
His shop is full of the latest in lawn care equipment, and Gehl credits the help provided by American-Iowa Manufacturing for making sure he has what he needs.
The business continues to grow, so don’t expect to hear about Gehl retiring anytime soon. “I might like to slow down a bit, but when can I? It’s getting almost out of hand. We’re going to have to start telling people ‘no.’”
And that is not something Gehl looks forward to doing. “My goal is helping other people,” he said. “With the rain, we’ve had right now we have a lot of spraying and fall fertilizing to do. We also have to fertilize before the leaves fall.”
It goes back to the whole cycle of growth, and you can be sure come next spring, Gehl will be out again helping the area stay green.