Our Meet Your Merchant series goes behind the scenes of the Island businesses that keep our rock running. From our hard-working shopkeepers to our friendly tradesmen and service providers, we celebrate all the people our Island depends on.
Jude Villa, owner of MV Mosquito & Tick and Working Earth Organic Gardening and Landscaping Inc. is a very busy lady. She took some time to explain how borrowing her grandfather’s landscaping equipment evolved into two successful businesses that reflect her commitment to the Island and the safety of the land, people, and pets that call it home.
How long have you been on the Island?
I first started coming here in 1973. I once worked as a chambermaid, waitress, cook, baker … the list goes on. I moved to the Island year-round in 1980, and got a job at the Boys & Girls Club.
How did you get started in the landscaping business?
While I was working at the Boys & Girls Club, I started doing some landscape work on the side. My friend’s mother was a Realtor, and needed some help with her rental homes. It started with people taking me into their yards and asking me to help them do things. I had a small brown pickup truck, some tools, and a lawnmower I had borrowed from my grandfather.
How did that side business officially become Working Earth?
Initially I was just doing it part-time, but it was something I wanted to eventually do full-time. I came up with the name Working Earth and placed an ad for lawn and garden maintenance, and it just took off. I’ve always had a difficult time dealing with chemical fertilizers, and I started doing a lot of research. I wanted to provide organic and environmentally safe products to my customers. In 1990 I incorporated the business into Working Earth Organic Gardening & Landscaping. It’s now evolved into a full-on landscape construction, maintenance, and design business with 20 full-time employees. As for the landscape design component, I am personally more of a visionary, and that’s how I work; we do have a landscape designer on staff who can draw up plans, which most customers prefer.
How did you start getting into the bug business?
Brad Woodger of the Chappy golf course was providing mosquito and tick services there, and he reached out to me about selling his business to Working Earth. He knew I was someone environmentally conscious who would have the understanding of how to properly apply his product. It’s actually a synthetic natural insecticide that is made from chrysanthemums.
I thought about his offer and realized that it fit in with what we were already doing, and we were already working with a lot of the same customers. I decided to purchase his business five years ago, formerly Chappy Bug, and renamed it MV Mosquito & Tick. When we first started working with the product, we were very impressed, and homeowners were delighted with the results. The service is really about the freedom to reclaim your outdoor space naturally, without the worry or nuisance of summer deer ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, and even ants.
How has the bug business evolved since you began?
Now that there’s so many more insect-borne diseases, we hope to help eliminate some of that transmission through our services with MV Mosquito & Tick.The application really works, and there’s a significant difference when you spray. The product we use is plant-based, so it breaks down with the sun after seven to 14 days. Some of our customer use it to prepare for weddings and special events, and many of our customers we service weekly or biweekly during the season. The mosquito season is about 10 to 12 weeks, Memorial Day through Columbus Day. It’s much more effective if you spray each week, as it builds up a barrier.
What other services does MV Mosquito & Tick provide?
In addition to our mosquito and tick spray, we offer a garlic-based spray, which we use as an organic deer and rabbit repellant. We also offer organic and environmentally safe weed spray for driveways, and can develop fully integrated pest-management systems for lawn weeds, crabgrass, fungus, diseases, and grubs.
What makes the Island a unique place for your businesses?
There’s a real need for landscaping services. For so many years Working Earth has developed a reliable reputation. People tell me all the time that they see my [Working Earth] trucks everywhere — we have 12 trucks. Working in a small community like this, that really helps. People see our work and recommendations, and we get a lot of referrals by word of mouth.
This year in particular seems to be extremely busy. I’m not sure if it’s because the economy is better, but our average scope of work is increasing; customers want more done on their property. Plus the weather this spring created a lot of difficulties. It was a cold, wet spring, and a lot of the plants were struggling. Hydrangeas especially have been hard-hit the past couple of years, which created a lot of extra work in pruning and fertilizing.
What advancements would you like to see in the landscape and insecticide industries?
I would personally like to see more companies and homeowners using more organic products, and also the municipalities. There are a lot of products available now that are environmentally safer to use, so helping educate the homeowner is a good step.
Do you have any personal business goals for the year?
To continue to offer professional-quality work Island-wide. I am very happy with where my company is at. I am blessed and grateful to have a successful business. I believe my customers are really happy with our services, and that’s all that matters. Plus I have really great help, and employees make all the difference. The majority of my employees are year-round and have been with me for years. I respect them and appreciate their loyalty and hard work.
For additional information on services provided by Working Earth, call 508-627-7094 or workingearthmarthasvineyard.com. For additional information on MV Mosquito & Tick, call 508-627-7195 or visit mvmosquito.com.