Jahriffe Mackenzie is owner of Lawn and Beyond Organic Landscaping. PHOTO: COURTESY JAHRIFFE MACKENZIE
Jahriffe Mackenzie never planned to start Lawn and Beyond Organic Landscaping. But after more than 20 years in the business, Mackenzie says owning and running a landscaping business is just one of his many true callings.
Work at another landscaping company and courses in outdoor grooming at Northeastern University introduced Mackenzie to the landscaping profession. The courses provided Mackenzie with background knowledge about landscaping, while fieldwork, such as mowing lawns and pruning trees, helped Mackenzie identify his passion for landscaping.
As Mackenzie’s confidence in his landscaping abilities increased, he realized that he could use his talents to run a landscaping business of his own.
With only his grandmother’s lawnmower, an iron rake, a spade and a shovel, Mackenzie and a business partner, who left after the company’s start, founded Lawn and Beyond Organic Landscaping, a company working primarily in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan, in the mid-1990s.
Though money partially motivated Mackenzie to create his own company, the landscaper says that a desire to provide job opportunities and to promote the preservation of the earth were his main reasons for founding the company.
“My objective when I started landscaping was, first, to provide jobs for people, to give them another way and to transform the community,” Mackenzie says. “That’s my motto through everything in life. How can I make something better on the earth?”
Mackenzie’s earth-centric approach to landscaping distinguishes his company from competitors in the landscaping business. When possible, Lawn and Beyond uses organic matter to either enhance the curb appeal of properties or to treat problems in the landscape. But Mackenzie says that the authenticity and integrity of his company allow for it to remain competitive with other businesses.
Although Mackenzie often has fewer than six people on fieldwork, he still describes the struggles he faces as the sole manager of Lawn and Beyond. He characterizes himself as an aggressive, but open-minded and compassionate manager. The landscaper discussed the importance of caring in the landscaping business and the challenges he has faced when trying to manage his employees.
“It’s been hard for me to manage different people,” Mackenzie says about his position as the company owner. “I am aggressive, and sometimes people take it the wrong way when I am telling them to do something. They might take it wrong, but I really am a loving person.”
To run a successful landscaping business, Mackenzie, who also co-runs Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor and performs as a musician, maintains that a landscaper must possess three abilities. First, an individual must pay attention to the details to ensure the best final landscaping outcome. Second, because a landscaper’s work on a single yard impacts the health of not only the surrounding properties but also the earth, a landscaper must see the picture larger than themselves. Most importantly, Mackenzie says that a person, no matter what career they pursue, must understand their personality and purpose on earth to produce valuable outcomes.
“What makes a good anything, is someone being aware of themselves,” says Mackenzie about finding purpose in life. “When they are aware of themselves, they become conscious and considerate to what’s around them and then they are able to bubble up some stuff. But if they can’t become aware of themselves, they are going to be lost.”
Mackenzie goes on to describe his obligation to use his talents for the betterment of others.
“It’s about finding that niche with you,” he says. “What has motivated me is the question of how can I better something for others. It’s not about me. It’s more about: how can I create something that I can benefit from, and someone else can benefit from.”
To find purpose in life, Mackenzie suggests that people constantly question their surroundings and personal beliefs.
Mackenzie explains that people are obligated to answer their questions truthfully.
“When you bring [the truth] to life, it eases the conscience and it opens up the way for you to now start doing things differently,” Mackenzie says. “That’s why you have to trust yourself when finding yourself, so you can connect. If you don’t start admitting certain things that you may have kept in your own darkness, you are not going to be able to grow.”
In the future, Mackenzie hopes to land a large property that he can use as a training ground for the next generation of community landscapers. Though the program would teach gardening techniques and outdoor management skills, Mackenzie wants the program to help trainees further understand the world around them and themselves.
“Let’s find how we interdependently exist,” Mackenzie says with enthusiasm. “That will bring people to the consciousness of, ‘No, don’t take that paper and throw it on the ground.’ I’d like to hire people and give them more understanding of themselves.”