Why not be an Arborist?
Would you like to
do outdoor work that engages both body and mind?
gain skills that will keep you in high demand everywhere?
face novel challenges with ingenuity and team work?
protect and improve local ecosystems and resources?
engage with people throughout the community?
daily perform feats that draw the admiration of clients?
be vital to your community when disasters strike?
work with others who enjoy what they do?
be in great physical shape without ever going to a gym?
Many arborists will tell you they regret not discovering arboriculture sooner. We feel this way at the Treeist. Many of us came to tree work from other professions and fields of study. I spotted a tree climber working alone and aloft in a tulip poplar and it left me wondering what it must be like to spend the day in the tall trees. I was struggling to grow backyard tomatoes and began to puzzle over the challenge of how one could safely remove a large oak branch over a tight area that was creating too much shade. Enjoying the weekend exercise of splitting cordwood with a maul and some friends, I found myself wishing for a career that would take me outdoors, that would give me a reason to buy a better chainsaw, and maybe even give me a job that I could do with my kids. I started to daydream of the office view those climbers must have.
Looking downward from the canopy, many a pro arborist also has questions: why aren't more people are doing this work? Why aren't kids growing up wanting to be tree climbers? Why aren't colleges and trade schools offering degrees and training in this skilled profession? The answer, I think, is that tree work is largely unregulated in the United States. To get work as an electrician or a cosmetologist you need an occupational license. And if there is a license requirement, then some trade school or degree program will arise to satisfy the prerequisite. And if there is a trade school or degree program, then there will be advertising for it and the career path will appear as an option in the career counselor's handbook. It is not so with arboriculture. While one can find degree programs in forestry, horticulture, and landscape design, there aren't many formal paths into residential arboriculture.
So as it stands a lot of guys get into tree work because they have an uncle or a brother with a tree service, or they have run out other options but are willing to do grueling and dangerous manual labor for a local tree guy that mainly just needs someone to drag brush. Those who can stick with it may eventually get taught a few traditional tree climbing and cutting methods. The most determined of these will buy their own truck and chipper and hire some other rough fellows to drag brush and lift logs. It's no wonder that kids don't often want to grow up to be arborists.
When I first looked into tree climbing, all job openings required at least three years of prior climbing experience in the industry. Lacking that I bought some simple climbing gear and taught myself the basics while finishing graduate studies in an irrelevant field. I figured out how to climb that oak, to shorten that limb shading my tomatoes, and to do small jobs for neighbors and friends. After a severe ice storm I joined a rough and tumble tree cutting crew with a labor shortage. After three weeks I was promoted when the only other climber and half of the crew were thrown in jail for after-work misdeeds. It was a dangerous year of climbing and cutting, but I gained experience I couldn't otherwise get.
Our goal at the Treeist is to provide a better path for entering the profession. We believe many others should be doing this work that we love to do. We want to show you that climbing and caring for trees can be a viable, safe, and rewarding career that will engage and challenge both your mind and your body. We will mentor you and teach you skills and know-how that are in short supply wherever there are trees. If you live in our area just look around: this is an arboricultural paradise and there is a great demand for individuals who can learn about trees and how to care for them.
I encourage you to check out our Instagram feed for photos and videos of our daily work. Read this recent NY Times article about the need for arborists (the need is at least as great here in the Southeast). Fill out this online job application. Finally, come join us for a Saturday morning outdoor climbing workshop. We currently hold workshops every Saturday morning in Chapel Hill, they are taught by an ISA Certified Arborist, and they are free to anyone willing to arrive at 7:30am. It is a great way for us to meet you, and for you to meet local climbers and other folks who are pursing this work. Contact us if you would like more information.
While covid-19 has shut down a lot of indoor work and gyms we are busier and more active than ever. We are hiring and training and would love for you to join us.