Landon Gehrke: Giving Back More Than He Takes
Landon Gehrke: Giving Back More Than He Takes
Story by Cindy Reid | Photography by Emily Roscher
Twelve year old Landon Gehrke ‘s love for the outdoors has inspired him to create a small business that enables him to live his motto—Give Back More Than You Take. Not only is he learning valuable life skills, making money, and using his time productively, he is helping in a significant way to increase the Wood Duck population and contribute positively to conservation efforts through the south east.
And did you catch the fact that he is just 12 years old?
Ebenezer Creek Outdoors
What started as a project for his sixth grade Agriculture Class at South Effingham Middle School has become Ebenezer Creek Outdoors—Landon’s company that builds and sells wooden boxes for nesting wood ducks. The company is named after Ebenezer Creek, which runs by the family’s home.
Landon says he started building the wood duck boxes because “Fifty percent of all ducks harvested in Georgia are wood ducks but only forty percent of wood duck nests are successful every year. I loved ducks and wanted to help increase the population in my area.”
Nesting wood ducks prefer trees that hang over water or are close to a water source. Trees with cavities are their usual nesting spots but they are becoming harder to find due to declining availability of habitat.
Luckily, the wood ducks will use wooden nest boxes built by people, something that started back in the 1930s.
“It is the perfect thing for me,” says Landon. “I make them and sell them to people, and they put them out by lakes, ponds, and rivers.”
Nesting season is February through June, but the boxes can be installed anytime during the year. Proper placement is important to ensure the ducks are as protected as possible. Wetlands, swamps, and creeks are the preferred locations, as they need to be facing open water but above the water line to avoid flooding.
Landon says the duck boxes protect hens and their clutches from nest predators, especially raccoons and rat snakes. “A lot of things eat duck eggs so this way they are protected.”
And after the eggs hatch there is a curve cut in the box so the ducklings can climb out.
The ducklings are born with their feathers and leave the nest quickly as they are actually raised on the water. After the ducklings move out the boxes can be cleaned out and left in place to be reused the following season.
The Building Process
The first nesting boxes typically took about an hour to build, and Landon says, “It was a new thing to learn, but they weren’t too hard to make because I had a set of instructions.”
His dad Matt Gehrke (a teacher and coach at South Effingham High School) has been taking the opportunity to teach Landon woodworking and carpentry skills.
The boxes are made from either cedar or pine with a nontoxic sealer. Customers can order from an order form link on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ebenezercreekoutdoors. The boxes take a few days to build, and Landon says they typically ship out within seven to ten days.
He has shipped boxes throughout Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and as far north as West Virginia and as far south as Florida. Currently all boxes are made to order per each customer and are only available online.
Relatively new to the area, the Gehrke family moved from Mississippi to Georgia in June 2021 and Landon says he likes it here in Georgia due to all the outdoors opportunities and the proximity to the beach. In many ways Ebenezer Creek Outdoors is a family project, with his folks pitching in as needed.
“My parents are helping me and guiding me as I build the boxes and make business decisions,” says Landon.
His dad Matt helps with woodworking and his mother Ellen runs his Facebook page.
Matt says, “I knew Landon could do it and I anticipated it would take off, but this has exceeded my expectations. Landon is learning he can create his own career, that he doesn’t have to be limited and it teaches him he can be successful on his own.”
Matt says Landon’s success has inspired his little sister Olivia, 8, who is looking into starting a dog treat business of her own.
“We are proud of Landon, and I am personally pleased to be able to pass on woodworking skills to him,” Matt says.
Landon says he really enjoys having his own business, especially because “I like spending more time with my family. “
When he’s not busy with school and his duck box business, Landon enjoys playing football, hunting, and studying military history. He says he works out almost every morning and, in fact, Landon’s football travel team, the Renegades, became 12 U National Champions at the Thanksgiving Bowl in Gatlinburg TN in 2022. And as a Junior Hunter he recently bagged his first Bufflehead duck.
Although the project has moved past the classroom, Landon is still learning a lot of new skills. In addition to learning carpentry, he says he has been acquiring business skills such as customer service, budgeting, and everything else that comes with being a young entrepreneur—including being interviewed by a magazine!
Future expansion ideas include adding carpenter bee box traps, ECO apparel and being available in retail locations.
Most importantly, Landon’s business exemplifies what is most important to him—to Give Back More Than You Take.
“Conservation is a big part of what Ebenezer Creek Outdoors is,” Landon says. “I like conserving the duck population for future generations to hunt and to just enjoy being outdoors.”
For more information visit: www.facebook.com/ebenezercreekoutdoors
From Ducks Unlimited:
These wooden structures help boost local wood duck populations. Overharvesting, coupled with the destruction of bottomland habitats, drove these colorful birds to the brink of extinction by the early 20th century.
The recovery of the wood duck was also assisted by the advent of artificial nesting structures, or wood duck boxes. Wood duck boxes provide a man-made alternative, where hens can nest in relative safety from predators. The deployment of large numbers of nesting boxes can be used to help increase local or regional populations of wood ducks in areas where natural cavities are limited…wood duck boxes provide an excellent opportunity for anyone to become involved in wildlife management. (www.ducks.org)