These days the war for and against leaf blowers is being waged across the country, but in Sonoma, California, the battle has been raging for at least five years.
Recently the city council adopted a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers that was supposed to go into effect on July 1.
Commercial operators as well as private property owners were to be subject to fines if caught using gas-powered blowers, but a petition against the ordinance caused it to be suspended for the time being.
Whether the ban will be tossed out or take effect permanently depends on voters’ choice during the Nov. 8 election, when Sonoma will hold a referendum on overturning the city’s decision.
Meanwhile, branding strategist Sterling Stevens has started a landscaping company in response to all the brouhaha over the blowers. Stevens calls his company Get Reel Lawn Care.
Seeing the need for a quiet alternative to the typical tools of the trade, Stevens has opted to use human-powered reel mowers, grass shears, rakes and brooms, along with some battery-powered grass trimmers and hedgers.
“In this day and age, people think this is crazy – to do things retro – but it works just fine for me,” Stevens said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Stevens personally isn’t a fan of the disruptive nature of leaf blowers, but acknowledges that they are helpful for businesses trying to save time.
His business is off to a slow start, but he has already attracted one of the most vocal opponents of leaf blowers. Sonoma resident Mara Lee Ebert, who founded Sonoma Calm, a group of citizens pushing for the blowers to remain banned in the city limits, was one of his first customers.
“At long last I have peace and quiet in my home office,” Ebert told the Sonoma Index-Tribune. “I love hearing the songbirds even when my landscaper is hard at work. I look forward to the return of butterflies in my backyard.”
As of right now, Stevens is an army of one. While he doesn’t have a background in the landscaping field, he grew up working on a cattle ranch in Vermont and isn’t averse to hard manual labor.
“If and when the company grows, I’m happy to add employees and grow as needed,” he said. “I really wanted to be out there meeting the people and getting a feel for what they want. I want to be able to respond to what their needs are.”
Stevens charges $25 to $40 for weekly visits to houses on quarter-acre lots for his quiet brand of lawn care. Although he doesn’t promise to be the fastest landscaping company out there, Stevens feels that what his customers are getting instead is better.
“People forget what we’ve given up to keep up with innovation,” he said. “With Get Reel, you get quieter neighborhoods and less pollution.”