A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Current Member Spotlight: John Messerschmidt of Poison Ivy Patrol

When it comes to spending time in the woods, poison ivy, thorn bushes, and ticks are a few things that can stand in the way of fully enjoying all that nature has to offer. While the first step some may take when getting rid of invasives in their yard is to reach for the Round Up or call in an excavating crew, High Falls’ John Messerschmidt and his team at Poison Ivy Patrol are flipping the script to make this process healthier for both people and plants.

When did you open your business? Was there anything specific that prompted you to start your business at that moment?

After having just lost my construction career with the crash of the economy seven or eight years ago, I was pulling poison ivy in my own yard when I realized that nobody else offers an organic way to get rid of poison ivy: pulling it out at the roots rather than spraying it with chemicals. So I decided to put out an ad in the local paper, Blue Stone Press, and started my new career. Since people in our area are very conscious of their health and that of their kids and pets, they don’t want to use poisonous sprays, either.

What makes your business unique from competitors?

We’re unique in that we don’t use chemicals, but we also specialize in poison ivy, which no one else does. I don’t think there’s anyone else in the area that specifically clears out invasive plants, let alone in the methods that we do, to promote healthier woodland around the homes of our customers. We dig out invasive species, such as grapevine, bittersweet, barberry, and of course poison ivy, by hand and shovel. Since most places can’t be accessed by machinery without disturbing and damaging the other plants around it, we go in there with a team of people to selectively remove what we want and keep the rest.

Invasive plants kill trees, and because woodland birds and animals don’t eat them, they can overgrow and limit the amount of native stuff that’s available. If we take out the invasives, the hope and intention is that native plants will grow up in their place.

How would you like to see your business grow?

I started off here in High Falls and just did this local area, but we’re working to expand throughout the entire Hudson Valley and beyond. We have reached out to Dutchess, Putnam, Columbia and Orange counties, and now we’re working on going into Westchester and even as far north as the Albany area. It takes a lot of work and planning to expand like that because every person on the job needs to be properly trained on how to handle and remove these invasives.

How have you been using Currents in your business? And/or how do you plan to use them?

It’s somewhat limiting in only businesses can use them. I accept 100 percent payment in currents as of right now, but because homeowners can’t pay in Currents, I don’t have too many I can use to make purchases with.

What measures do you and your business take to support local economy?

I always support the local economy wherever possible.  My favorite places to shop are G and G Lawn and Power, High Falls Co-op, and I know what every place around here has to offer for lunch.  I also hire local people, and volunteer our services to the rail trail and local schools that don’t have the money to clear out their poison ivy and invasives.

What is your favorite part about what you do?

I love taking a tangled up mess of weeds, brambles, and thorns that you can’t even walk through and turning it into an area where you see nothing but healthy trees and native plants. We walk away feeling very proud of ourselves because the clients are so happy with how much more of their yard they can now use due to less overgrowth. I have a team of awesome people. They pull out poison ivy every day and they love doing it! There’s not many people out there who would. At the end of the day, we all feel that we’ve made an impact and it’s really rewarding.

For more information about Poison Ivy Patrol, call 845-687-9528 or visit poison-ivy-patrol.com.