Tom “Chopper” Taylor has had his hands in the dirt for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Tunica, Miss., as the son of a cotton, soybean, and rice farmer, he was always helping around the farm. As he grew older, he learned how to operate tractors, backhoes, and other farm equipment. Chopper went to a small school in the Delta and recalls thinking, “I can’t wait to get out of here.”
Upon graduating high school, Chopper attended Mississippi State University and obtained a degree in Industrial Technology. Carrying on with his background of working in the dirt, he continued to do “farm boy stuff,” such as leveling, terracing, and cleaning out ditches, when home on college breaks to pay for his expenses.
After college, while holding roles as both a plant manager and production manager, Chopper says, “I never really got away from the dirt moving aspect of my life.” He continued to do side jobs, like spreading gravel and putting in culverts, in addition to working a full-time job in the manufacturing industry.
After the economic collapse in 2008, Chopper landed in Memphis and became the General Manager of a burial vault company for ten years. Danny Phillip of Brantley Phillips Funeral Home in Hernando, Miss., needed a grave digger and Chopper took the job. He bought a mini excavator and trailer and, unknowingly at the time, was subtly starting up Taylor Planting Company.
Taylor Planting Company was built as Chopper continued to work on the side. This side work “very rapidly escalated.” Someone would call and ask for him to cut down trees; someone else might need a retaining wall installed. Pretty soon his phone was ringing all the time with requests for side jobs- while he was at work. As Chopper’s wheels began to turn, he realized it would be nice to work for himself and get away from the negative connotation of working as a gravedigger.
A self-described “outgoing person,” Chopper felt like he could be successful turning all these side jobs into a self-owned business. In early 2019, with the full support of his wife, Courtney, Chopper turned in his notice and officially began Taylor Planting Company.
Kim Clark of Eads, Tenn., founder of Memphis Eventing, needed a pond filled and retaining wall built, so she contacted Taylor Planting Company. Chopper considers Kim “the pivotal person in my career that introduced me to arenas.” Not only did she introduce him, she also helped advise him on what footing different disciplines desire. Many equestrians have varying opinions as to what they consider good footing. Chopper’s solution to this is to “match the customers’ needs and riding style with their opinion of what is good footing.”
After working with Kim, Chopper was called to revamp Amy Peeler’s arena, and, according to him, “From there it just snowballed.” He and his crew built three show-quality arenas and a full schooling cross country course at Panther Creek Stables in Nesbit, Miss., in 2021. In fact, Chopper’s wife, Courtney, affectionately refers to Kim, Amy, Mylissa Horrocks, and Kirby Floyd as his “horse ladies” who helped Chopper see the need to branch into yet another realm of business.
In keeping with the theme of working with dirt, TaylorMade Arenas was now in business. Chopper’s small crew consists of Dalton Rayman, his foreman who has been with him from day one, and Chase Long, equipment operator. Chopper insists they work so well and quickly together because they’ve known each other for so long. The TaylorMade Arena crew prides itself on “providing the customer with absolutely what they want and need.” They don’t cut corners. They’re efficient. They provide quality work “the old school way.” The crew doesn’t just build or improve arenas and walk away; they will be back for that first ride in it, or to help groom the arena. They always check back in.
Don’t feel like you have to be a commercial farm or barn owner to utilize TaylorMade Arena’s services. Ninety percenty of Chopper’s business comes from homeowners and hobby farmers who want an arena built or round pen improvement in a tight space. If you have any project on your property you think Chopper and his crew may be able to help you with, you can email him at email@example.com.
Chopper and his crew want the customer to experience how easy they can make things. He says, “When they call us, they won’t have to call anyone else. We take care of all groundwork, driveways, barn foundations, irrigation, fencing, etc.” One project always leads to another for the guys at TaylorMade Arenas. He is currently three to six months booked out, and has upcoming projects in Collierville, Eads, Somerville, Nashville, and Nesbit.
Chopper is thrilled his business has “grown exponentially from a chainsaw and mini excavator” to a household name just five years later. He and his crew have currently built 12-15 arenas in the mid-south. He says he feels blessed that he always has plenty of work to do and is thankful for the many customers he now calls friends that he has met along the way. In fact, he considers his work fun. Chopper admits, “I always enjoyed working with my hands in the dirt.”