Did you say arborist? What is an arborist and how did you get into that?
These are the questions I have been frequently asked over the years. An arborist is a general title for anyone who works with trees, but there are many levels of education, certification and professionalism.
Ever since I was a child, I have always enjoyed nature and being out in it; whether it was shoveling snow and cutting lawns for my neighbors (to supplement my allowance) to any and all outside activities and sports, including climbing trees. During my first year of college studying Photography, Art and Psychology, I realized that this life direction was not my “calling,” and I wasn’t happy spending so much of my time indoors and sitting.
As I was exploring new directions in life, I read a job listing that advertised getting paid to climb trees, so I gave it a try. What’s that old saying? “Find a way to get paid for doing something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” That decision opened my eyes to the world of arboriculture and the “green industry.”
I subsequently returned to college, obtained a degree in horticulture, and my hunger for knowledge has lead me to become a Certified Arborist as well as being certified in numerous other aspects and skills relating to arboriculture. So many people love trees and nature, but don’t really understand them. It is very fulfilling for me to act as a conduit between people and nature, altering the environment and educating clients so that a harmonious coexistence can be reached, maintaining peoples’ happiness and preserving the health of the trees and plants.
After more than 25 years in this industry. I still love the challenge and fulfillment that so many aspects of arboriculture bring to my life. To be honest I am just a big kid. I get to play with a lot of cool toys and make a huge mess with friends, what could be better than that!?
On a more serious note, I love the challenge of pruning trees to improve their shape, structure or health. I also love educating clients about the needs trees have, and helping them have a better understanding of the ecosystem that is happening on their property so that they can better appreciate and enjoy it.
Many times, a tree has to be removed due to poor health, death, damage or development. In these cases, “rigging” down a very large tree into a small area while causing minimal or no impact to the understory and property can be a great challenge; one of the greatest compliments a client has given me is, “I never would have known a tree was there.”
I always enjoy the interaction with other arborists and tree workers when I travel. While I am teaching and educating others about different or new techniques, tools and equipment that they can use in order to be safer more efficient workers, as well as educated ambassadors of trees and nature, I myself get exposed to so many other cultures, techniques, types of people and trees… it’s priceless.
I am a proud arborist and cannot think of any other profession that would give me more fulfillment or a greater sense of accomplishment. Live well!
A sleek businessman once asked me why cities spend so much money building and maintaining parks. My response was simple: Humans need to be around trees and wildlife. It is part of our genetics; it brings us peace and it relieves stress.
Concrete and cubicles are not natural, and are the source of stress for so many people. If our government didn’t invest in parks and preserving natural areas, there would be no place for us to turn to escape the chaos of the concrete jungle.
I grew up in the Latino community of San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles, where I was raised to be a predator. When I was young, my mother sent me to Mexico during summer breaks to work on my grandmother’s farm to keep me out of trouble and away from gang activity.
If it weren’t for remembering my summers spent working out in the natural world, I may have followed a very different path. In fact, I started down that path, and when society wouldn’t give me a second chance, I participated in a trial program run by San Gabriel Valley. I did labor jobs around the city, and this is how I was first introduced to tree care. I could tell you that I chose this field as a career, but the reality is this field chose me.
Opportunities aren’t always set in front of you – you have to go out and find them. After participating in a two-year training program with my city’s landscape and tree maintenance division, I felt I had mastered the duties of a groundworker and set my sights on being a tree climber and trimmer. It was during my college education that I realized my calling to be a steward of our natural environment.
I keep showing up day after day, year after year, because this career serves a higher purpose. I contribute to the my community by preserving tree health, increasing the urban forest and keeping people safe by reducing, removing or mitigating any potential tree-related hazards. I am able to contribute to a new generation of arborists by mentoring and helping others build their careers. Plus, I get to be outdoors experiencing the mountains, valleys and ocean views!
What I truly appreciate about this industry is two-fold. Tree care is a place where people with little or no education can pursue a career path with lots of opportunity to grow. Also, this is an industry that provides second chances; I am a byproduct of it. I made a career here, and am an example of what this industry has to offer.
I am a mentor. I am an environmentalist. I am a tree whisperer. I am a professional arborist.
Its Friday night at the bowling alley or local watering hole, and you just finished another long week of tree work.
As you sit down with your friends they can clearly see you’ve have a hard week at work. They may ask why you work so hard in tree care when you could be in a nice climate-controlled office! That’s when, without even realizing it, a giant smile appears on your face and you just chuckle because they can’t even begin to understand why you love it so. You jump on the opportunity to share your desire and love for this sawdust filled career.
“Yes, the weeks can be long and the work is physically demanding at times, the headaches of pleasing customers that aren’t educated in the art is beyond infuriating, but I wouldn’t trade my silky for a suit and tie.”
You explain to them, that though you start out as a groundie, a rake jockey or limb dragger you are part of a cohesive team that is working towards a common goal to provide instant gratification. You are tasked daily with defying logic and reason in how to fight the ever present gravity and extreme weights involved with tree work. Whether you’re pruning out a historic oak to keep it thriving and from naturally dropping limbs on children and cars, or you are working with a massive 100 ton crane to lift and carry a failing pine tree over a house or two; the work is never the same and always interesting.
“Sitting in that office all day long will never give you the fresh air and oneness with nature that soothes the soul. Tree work ignites the personal fire in all of us to be one with trees that provide our oxygen and many more benefits. Since you were a little kid the trees have called to you to be climbed, leaned on and played in. Working with trees is like being a child all over again but instead of just using them for your enjoyment, you get to care for them and preserve them for generations to come.”
Maybe what you have said resonates with your friends and maybe it doesn’t – maybe they are more the “indoorsy type”. But we who live the #arblife answer the calling in the work we do and the joy it brings to be one with the mighty oaks, waving pines, smooth eucalyptus and towering redwoods. We know that after prolonged periods indoors we yearn to be out in the canopies overhead. We find our tranquility and sanctuary within the bar oil, saw dust, throw lines and rakes. We find our inner selves each day in the work we do. It’s a satisfaction that can only come from taking the role of preserver and caregiver of the towering giants who have been around long before we arrived and took our first breath. With our help these living monuments will be around long after we are returned to the earth from which they grow.”