Plowing the ground for the future

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 | 12:13 p.m. CDT; updated 9:06 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 7, 2012

FULTON — Chance Foster, 30, started a landscaping businesses because he loved the satisfaction of working in the field — loved it ever since he was a kid, even studied landscape design at MU. When he and his business partner, Nathan Real, started Truescape with two pickup trucks and some lawn equipment, he thought it would be a way to earn a living by working outdoors.

But he spends most of his time in the office, which he doesn't like, and which is where we sat down for a few minutes together because that’s where the work is.

Foster ticks off a lot of good things in his life. He's got a wife and daughter he thinks are beautiful, and his business has grown every year — those two pickup trucks are now a full array of landscaping, fertilizer and irrigation services.

But it's taken a toll. He puts in 80 hours a week pretty routinely, and he's not doing as much of the work he loves. That's why when he pictures the life he wants to have by 35, "less stress" is at the top of his list. That gives him five years to get everything in place. Less work, home that’s easily paid for, time to go to baseball games with family and friends.

But for now, he's making up for a lack of seasonal employees with more of those 80-hour weeks.

"It's hard to go from not working all winter to working your ass off," Foster said. "It's hard to get guys motivated and to find guys that want to work that many hours."

So he works the hours himself. Foster and Real started and grew a small business in a small town in the middle of the recession’s worst times. So it can be done. But, for Foster, that's meant grueling hours and deferred dreams.

Is that what it takes in this tough economy? And is that what it always took? Or did 40 hours a week used to get you where 80 gets you now?

This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.

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