WestFor Management Inc. is hiring for the position of Forestry Field Planner based in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.
Applications will be accepted until March 31st, 2024.

About WestFor

WestFor Management Inc. is a privately owned forest management company operating throughout Western Nova Scotia across a half million hectares of licensed crown land forest. WestFor’s office is located in the heart of the South Shore in Blockhouse, Nova Scotia, just outside beautiful Mahone Bay. WestFor was created in 2016 when 12 Nova Scotia mills came together to create a partnership to effectively manage crown lands in western Nova Scotia. This partnership has enabled WestFor to become a leader in the implementation of cutting edge, ecologically based forestry practices and hold itself to the highest of environmental and safety standards. Through this process our 12 local mills, many of them family owned, have been able to invest in their businesses providing local employment and give back to their local communities where trees are grown and harvested.

Job Description

Forestry Field Planner is an important role at WestFor. Main responsibilities for this role are to collect field data to build ecological forestry silviculture plans that balance environmental, social and economic values. The Forestry Field Planner is a field-based position working in the forest through all seasons and weather conditions exploring Nova Scotia’s vast array unique forest types. Duties may include but not limited to the following:

* Harvest Block and Road Layout
* Pre-Treatment Assessment
* Old Growth Forest Survey
* Site Plan Data Collection
* Timber recce, mapping and reporting
* Silviculture surveys

Successful candidates will be expected to reside in Southwestern Nova Scotia which boasts beautiful landscapes, oceanside living, world renowned tourism and recreational opportunities, and friendly community groups.

Qualifications & Education
* Registered or eligible for registration with the Nova Scotia Forest Technicians Association (NSFTA) or Registered Professional Foresters Association of Nova Scotia (RPFANS)
* Valid Class 5 NS Driver’s license and legally allowed to work in Canada
* Vehicle suited for off road and highway use (Preferred 4 wheel drive)
* Ability to work well in a team environment as well as individually
* Nova Scotia Forest Ecosystem Classification (FEC) and Pre-Treatment Assessment (PTA) certification will be considered an asset


WestFor offers competitive wages, vehicle mileage reimbursement, health, dental and RRSP Savings plan and the healthy atmosphere of a career in the forest. Apply today by sending resume and cover letter to jobs@westfor.org

It is an absolutely beautiful day as I drive towards the all too familiar woodlot. I have spent a few camping trips and tree donations at this place. Welcome to the Walden Woodlot Christmas Tree lot!


As I pull in I am met by three smiling children chasing a little puppy.


I spend a few minutes catching up with my old boss and his family. Thom, who has helped with a few outdoor classrooms, Marcus’ brother, pulls in with the bailer. I assume now that he has arrived we will get into it, but working under Marcus for almost two years, I should have known better.


20 minutes later, after hauling trees, we start.


We go and sit down at the benches set up by the stream at their woodlot. I ask Thom when they purchased the woodlot.


“We inherited the woodlot and all the equipment from our grandfather and father.”


“We inherited it when I was about 23 years old and we also have 50% of our uncles land” Marcus explains.


I ask how long they have been working at the woodlot.


“Since we were probably 10” Thom answers. “We would drag trees and help bail.”


“He sold about 30,000 and we helped drag and bail them all in 6 weeks” Marcus adds. “It’s about from Halloween to December 15th.”


I can’t imagine how much physical labor this would take, I only drug two trees today and I am exhausted. I ask how many trees they are doing now.


“We did about 1200 trees this year that were sold in the US retail market.” Marcus says.


As someone who doesn’t know much about anything to do with Christmas trees except for decorating them, I ask what the process is.


“Well, we sheer in April, fertilize in May, sheer again in July, tag in November, and harvest and bail in December” Marcus says.


This seems like a lot of work especially just for two people so I ask if they get any help.


“Kate helps us and we had our Mum for three days as well” Marcus answers.


I turn to the boys to ask my favorite question; how do you guys like working together?


“Good.” Thom answers straight up. I chuckle.


“He’s the brains of the operations.” He adds laughing with a smirk that is fitting to Zwicker.


We take a break to laugh as the three kids run across the stream to have stick battles on the other side.

I yell across the stream to ask Marcus and Kate’s three kids their favorite part of being at the woodlot.


“FREEDOM!” Mason yells back.


“We get to play” answers Lucy.


Harrison, their three year old, answers “Playing.”


I turn to the parents and ask their favorite part of the woodlot.


“I like learning and connecting with nature” Kate says “ Annnnd the kids are always really tired when we get home. It’s baths and bed with no complaints.”


“I like that I get to spend time with family” Marcus replies. “Thom’s has four kids and they all get to play and spend time together unencumbered. Also I like to be outside.”


I turn to Thom.


“I like being up here in the peace and quite and the when I have the kids they get good healthy play” He replies smiling. “And I really like the winey roasts.”


I ask Mason if he would like to work on the woodlot when he gets older.


“Yes! It could be my full time job” He answers a little too much like his father.


Today was a beautiful day of catching up with old friends. Thank you to the Zwicker’s for always welcoming me, lending a hand when needed, and for bringing me a beer!


For more information on the Walden Woodlot please check this out!


It has been a great year of forestry families. We have met so many different individuals and families all from different backgrounds. It seemed fitting to me to add a thirteenth forestry family with the man who came up with the idea in the first place. Thank you to Marcus for giving me the opportunity to meet some of the hardest working, passionate, and caring people that our province has to offer. I hope you take this time to read all of the past families and really get to understand the kind hearted people who are behind the harvests. It is not just a job to many, it is a lifestyle.


Thank you for a great year, here’s to an even better one. Happy New Year!

Every forestry family has to start somewhere. While we know a lot of forestry families in our province that are generations old, every legacy has to start somewhere. The beginning of this legacy is known as Kyle Ogilvie.


I won’t lie and say it was a beautiful drive today as it was a typical Nova Scotia November day. Cold slush falling from the sky in the morning and just straight cold rain in the afternoon.


I have a longer walk back through the cut to the harvester than I normally do during these interviews and I have to say I am quite happy about it. As I walk back I get to see the wonderful job that Skyline and Valliside are doing in this block.


When I reach Kyle he is all smiles. I want to say it is because of me but I know the large coffee in my hand may have something to do with it. I hand the coffee to him and we get to it!


How did you get into forestry?


“In an indirect way, it was through Steve Saunders.” Kyle says. Steve Saunders is the owner of Valliside and Kyle has been working with him for four and a half years. “He was working on a block just up the road from my house when I was 18. I ran the buncher for free just to get seat time and to gain experience. When he left that block I started working with a fella in New Ross running a feller buncher for 11 or 12 years.”


Unlike most of these interviews, I had no idea what his family did. So, I ask.


“My old man had a dump truck and back hoes.” He responds. “We grew up on a farm.”


As someone who doesn’t come from a forestry background I ask how forestry has impacted his family.


“It has been nothing but positive.” He says with a smile. “It is something that I started doing right out of high school and it has allowed me to buy a truck, a home, and to start and support my family.”


Forestry, especially operating, is not your average first job. It requires dedication as it has a huge learning curve. I ask Kyle what he felt he has gotten out of working that type of job at an early age.


“I learned quickly that to be in this sector you have to be mature, accountable, responsible and know how to persevere.” He responds matter-of-factly. “It really shapes you into who you are.”


I am visiting Kyle on a site today that is a trial being conducted by the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables. They are trialing an Irregular Shelterwood treatment for the new Ecological Matrix leg of the Lahey Report. Looking at this site and knowing Kyle has been in the industry for 16 years, I ask how the types of treatments he does has changed over time.


“When I started out they were mainly clearcuts. There were a select few people doing thinnings back then. Clearcutting now is a thing of the past. Upwards of 80% of where I am working are thinnings.”


I ask how he has found the transition of this harvesting shift in our province.


“It really wasn’t that hard” he says. “I am pretty opened minded and my business isn’t just cutting wood. My job is to make the land owner happy. If the land owner is seeing what they want done and they are happy with it, then you’re doing a good job.”


As a follow up, I ask what his favorite treatment is.


“A Uniform Shelterwood actually. I like the satisfaction of doing a good job.”


Kyle has a wife, Deidre, and a son Myles. His eyes light up talking about how supported he has felt by his wife in his business. Because of her support of working long days and most weekends he has been able to purchase his own piece of equipment and start his own business, Skyline Forestry.


Kyle being a first generation woods worker, I ask if he would want Myles to follow in his footsteps.


“I would hope he would be at least interested.” His son is four now and can’t put in the long hours in a machine yet. “I just hope if he does that he sees the bigger picture. I want him to be looking at every tree, seeing things at the stand level and for more than just timber. I wouldn’t want him out here thinking it’s just pushing buttons.”


I can honestly say that anyone that would be trained under Kyle would not think that the job was “just pushing buttons.” He is an extremely caring operator that thinks about the stand as a whole, not just by the tree that is right in front of him.


It has been such an enriching visit with Kyle. Seeing someone who is so genuinely proud of the work they do while being so humble is hard to come by. Although he doesn’t take enough credit for himself, he does give credit where credit is due. He is so thankful, not only for his wife and son but also to Steven, Janet, and Corey. A little piece of advice I took from this visit was something Kyle repeated multiple times; In order to do good in life, you need to surround yourself with good people.


We could all use to take a note from Kyle!


I am feeling exceptionally happy for the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having as I take the long haul down to Weymouth, NS.


As I approach the mill, it looks a little different than the last time I had visited. The forestry sector has had a rough few years and our mills are no exception to that. As you might have heard, this summer in July, Lewis Moulding’s sawmill had a fire. Although this would be seen as extremely challenging, especially for a business in a sector that has seen little to no support as of late, the Lewis’s have not cracked. They have approximately 40 employees back to work and are beyond optimistic of where their future may go.


I walk into the familiar building and I am met by multiple friendly faces. Jamie, the General Manager of Lewis Moulding’s and his father, Stewart, take me for a little tour of the “new” set-up. I am amazed by what they have been able to accomplish in the short amount of time between the fire and my visit.


After my tour, I step into Jamie’s office and ask Stewart how he got into forestry.


“Well, my Dad had a firewood business when I was four years old, so since then” Stewart says. “In 1950 he was approached by Bowater after hurricane Edna to use blown down materials. They estimated 700 million board feet of timber on the ground so my father got a debarker and chipper and grew the business.”


I turn to Jamie and ask him the same question.


“Well, he was born on July 3rd” Stewart chimes in. “So, nine months before that.”


Jamie adds, laughing “That is very true. I was the youngest and the only boy so I spent a lot of time with Dad at the mill. I was always mesmerized by it. I was my Dad’s shadow for the better part of 20 years.”


“It’s just always been in our family” Stewart says smiling. “For example, my father never let me have a bicycle because it was too dangerous but he would let me play at the mill.”


I ask Stewart if he always wanted to be in the sawmilling business.


“Yes, I did but I did explore other avenues” he responds. “I graduated in 1964 and stayed at the mill for a year but then went to Acadia for sciences for a year. After that I went to Maritime Christian College and joined the ministry. But in 1972 my Dad wanted to get out of the lumber business so myself, my brother-in-law and a friend of mine started Lewis Lumber Company.”


I ask how long Stewart was in Nova Scotia for.


“I was very hands on in the business for 7 years” he says. “Something that has always been very important to me and will continue to be is added value. It has always been more than just milling to me; so we actually got into the casket making business as well. In 1979 I moved back to PEI and became the President of the Maritime Christian College. I did that for 17 years while maintaining a relationship with the lumber business here in Nova Scotia.”


I ask them when they got into the moulding business.


“We got into the moulding business in 1994” Stewart answers.


Why did you decide moulding?


“Like I said before adding value to the raw materials in our province has always been very important to me but I decided on “Lewis Mouldings” with the hope of my kids taking it over.”


Speaking of kids, I turn to Jamie and ask when he decided to get into the business.


“I moved to Nova Scotia from PEI in 2000” he responds. “I worked on the floor for a couple of years and then took on a Junior Management position until 2006 when I became the General Manager. Then in 2008 or 2009 Mark and Laurie came on and have been here ever since. Tammy, another sibling, joined us a few years later so 3 out of 4 of Dad’s kids work in the business.”


Knowing that this business has always been a part of his life, I ask him what Lewis Mouldings is to him.


“You know, it’s not that we all wake up in the morning with the burning passion to make mouldings” he says with a chuckle. “It has always been about family. There are 20+ of us to think about. We enjoy working together, we enjoy being in the industry despite all of its challenges. Our next steps to rebuilding is to rebuild in a way that is the best thing for our family.”


Taking the great opportunity for this segue, I ask Jamie if he hopes that he kids will someday take over the business.


“I would love it” he says hesitantly. “That is why it is so important to me that we effect change in our industry so that they can take over. People need to know that there are opportunities for improvement and growth just like every other industry but that we have already taken many actions that have bettered our sector. It is all about balancing the needs of demands and doing it sustainably. Our industry is optimal when it is balancing.”


I turn to both of them ready to ask my favorite question; how do you like working together.


“It has never been an issue” Stewart says immediately. “We have our disagreements for sure but we’ve never had an issue. I do have to bite my tongue sometimes and let Jamie and Laurie make the decisions because they are the best informed.”


“We truly are the best of friends” Jamie says as I choke back an “AWWWWH.”


“We have the same philosophies one hundred per cent and that has gotten us this far. I have received no better experience than the 20-30 years working with my Dad.”


Lastly, I ask what the favorite part of their job is.


“You answer first” Jamie says smiling looking at Stewart.


“Working with family” Stewart says without hesitation.


“That as well obviously” Jamie responds. “But I also really like the variety of it. I get to wear all the different hats of moulding, trucking, logging, problem solving equipment, and a business professional.”


Once again I am humbled by the wonderful people that are in our sector in this province. Nova Scotia is filled with so many passionate families that take caring for our forests to a whole new level.


Thank you to Jamie and Stewart for taking the time out of their busy schedule to meet with me and I look forward to seeing what your next new chapter will be!


For more information on Lewis Mouldings please follow these links:


Nova Scotia is so beautiful in the fall and today is no exception. There are hundreds of colors in the leaves as I pull into the South Canoe Wind Farm in western Nova Scotia.

When writing these articles I am supposed to be unbiased, all families equal, but I have made a friend today who has taken the cake on my favorite contractor. I would like to introduce you to our September Forestry Family, Josh, his wife Emily, and their daughter Sadie. Meet the Millett’s.

As I walk up to the family I am greeted by three smiling faces and a sleeping doll. I ask Josh why he decided to get into forestry.

“I grew up with it” he says. “I have been in the woods for as long as I can remember. I am actually the sixth generation forestry worker in my family” he responds with a smile. “I was asking my grandfather about it the other day and he said that as far back as he could remember, so it could be even more but sixth generation for sure.”

I ask Josh what he would be doing in the woods when he was younger.

“Well, after school or on the weekends I would be in the log truck or hoping on my bike and riding up to the sawmill” he responds. “My Dad had a really great crew who were very patient with me and taught me all kinds.”

I ask Josh where he grew up.

“I grew up in Chester Grant, so I went to school in New Ross and high school at Forest Heights.”

I turn to Emily and ask her the same question.

“Same, we actually met in high school. We have been together since 2006 and I think that is when I got into forestry.”

I ask Emily what she does.

“I actually work at Maibec and I keep the books for our business” she say smiling.

I have to comment about how commendable it is that Emily basically works two full-time jobs.

“Three actually if you include taking care of that handful” Josh adds pointing to four-year-old Sadie who is playing with her baby doll on the parts trailer.

Knowing that Josh started out working with his Dad, Kyle Millett, I ask when he went out on his own and started his own business.

“Well I bought my first truck and trailer in 2015. I then got my first harvester and forwarder in 2019 and just got the newest harvester this year.”

“You also got the float in 2020” Emily adds.

I ask how many people he has on his crew.

“We have four people at Forest Hill Logging” Josh responds.

Here it comes, my favorite question! I ask Josh and Emily how they like working together.

“Oh, its great” Josh says without hesitation.

“We actually make a really good team” Emily adds.

I have to agree with Emily. Watching them interact, for the short period of time that I was there for, it was easy to see that their partnership through marriage, parenthood, and business is wonderful. They have a beautiful respect for each other.

Now that I am feeling all warm and fuzzy, I ask them what their favorite part of the job is?

“I don’t know” Josh says straight faced. I panic for a quick second.

“What’s not to like” he answers with a big smile. “I get to work outside every. single. day. It doesn’t get any better than that. I still work in the machines daily, that really helps melt away all stress as well.”

“Honestly” Emily begins “I love watching him go out the door excited to go to work. It’s like what they say “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” That is this job for Josh. The thing that really makes it so great is the crew. We truly have the best crew. Your business can’t be successful without good guys and we are so grateful for ours.”

I turn to Sadie and ask her what her favorite part of going to the woods with her parents is.

“The machines” she says giggling.

What is your favorite machine?

“The harvester” she says once again giggling. (I have to say her laughter is quite contagious).

I ask (now also giggling) what she wants to be when she grows up.

“A WITCH!” she answers without a single second of hesitation.

“That’s for Halloween” Emily answers, also now laughing.

I ask the Millett’s if they hope for Sadie to someday follow in their footsteps.

“We would love to build something to pass down to Sadie someday” answers Emily.

“Obviously we would support her with whatever she chose but I have to say, I think this is in her blood” Josh says with adoring eyes looking at the four year old powerhouse swinging from his hand.

“She already drives in the machines and gases them up” Emily adds. “She has been in the truck since she was in a car seat. We used to joke that it’d put her to sleep.”

Now, like I said before, I am not supposed to have a favorite contractor but if Sadie isn’t yours after reading this story, then I haven’t done my job.

I am so proud to be able to work in a sector with truly magnificent people like the Millett’s. The passion that they have for their business, each other, and their daughter is unmatched. Sadie will become a strong, unstoppable woman because of the love and opportunity that is given to her. Great people raising even better ones; Thank you Josh and Emily for making our industry, and our province, a little better!

It is another beautiful (yet muggy) day in Nova Scotia as I approach a true South Shore treasure.

If you are from the South Shore, it would be quite rare to not know owner/operator of Back Country Farm & Forestry, Jeremy Simpson. Jeremy, his wife Mandie, and their three kids can be found spreading smiles all over Western Nova Scotia. Today we will be introducing you to, not only Jeremy, but his 15 year old son/employee Spencer.

After a few minutes of catching up I ask Jeremy why he got into forestry.

“My Grandfather was in forestry. He had a tractor and a loader and I would work with him in the summers, evenings, and weekends” he responds. “I think I was 12 my first full summer of running the power saw.”

I turned to Spencer and ask him the same thing.

“I was also 12 when I started on the power saw” he says. “Dad has always taken me to the woods and I’ve had an interest in machines for a long time.”

I look to Jeremy and ask if he always knew he wanted to be in forestry.

“I went to school at Kings Tech and took the Machinist course. Then I went to work for Eisnor’s Logging for 14 years before starting my own business.”

I ask him about his business growth.

“I started with one harvester in 2016 and now I have five guys (including Spencer) and four pieces of equipment.”

Having done a few interviews now, I am starting to see a trend of families having started operating earlier than most. I ask Spencer when he started running his own piece of equipment.

“I started at 10 or 11 with the harvester” Spencer replies. “So, around four or five years ago.”
“Is the harvester your favorite piece to run?” I ask Spencer.

“No, mine would be the forwarder” he says.

I ask Jeremy the same question.

“I like to run the harvester” he says smiling. “You get to lead the pack when your running the harvester.”
“Can’t cut fast enough to keep me busy” Spencer says poking fun at his dad.

Jeremy smiles. You can tell how much they enjoy being around each other.

I ask Spencer if he sees himself continuing in the forestry sector.

“I probably wil-”

“Not before he gets a secondary education” Jeremy says before he can even finish.

“Yeah, I will continue working here part-time through school and stuff but it is Mom & Dad’s rule that I have to get secondary education” Spencer replies.

“It’s just a really important thing to have this day in age” Jeremy, big papa bear, says.

After agreeing with Jeremy, I ask what is your favorite part of your job?

“I like being outside” Spencer replies. “I really enjoy working on stuff, fixing problems.”

“I also love working outside” Jeremy responds. “AND you can look back and see the nice work that you are doing. You really get the opportunity to take pride in your work.”

I finally get to ask my favorite question! I look to Spencer and ask him how he likes working with his dad.
“I don’t work around him” he responds laughing.

I ask the same question to Jeremy.

“So, far I’ve been impressed” he says, gleamy like the proudest Dad. “He is just like any other worker on my crew and my guys haven’t said anything bad about him either. He’s doing a great job!”

As someone who is fortunate enough to get to work closely with Jeremy, I cannot express the joy I feel seeing that he is passing on his passion and knowledge to his son. The Simpson’s are truly a family that will continue to better themselves and their practices for all Nova Scotians for generations to come.

To learn more about Back Country Farm & Forestry click here!

This months forestry family is one that is quite under represented in our sector.

Paige Handspiker is a 27 year old power house. Born and raised in Bear River, NS this young women has started working with one of this province’s finest road builders, Dean Orde.

As we pull one of our four legged staffers off of the end of her braid I ask why she decided to get into operating?

“My Dad was an operator of a CAT dozer” she replies. “I went out West to follow in his footsteps.”

As someone who has made the transition from West Coast to East Coast forestry I ask how the culture was around female operators in Alberta.

“There were tons of female operators in Rocky Mountain House” she says, as my jaw audibly hit the road she had just freshly graded. She is the first female operator I have met before so hearing this made me giddy!

“It all depended on the crew” she adds. “But for the most part the women were treated the same as the men. Sometimes they would make up half of the crew.”

As she is working on road building with a grader now, I ask if she has always operated a grader?

“No actually” she says with a little laugh. “I have been on the grader for about three weeks now. I used to drive rock truck in Rocky Mountain House. I spent three years building leases.”

Do you prefer the grader?

“Yeah, I love it. It’s the dream really” she responds.

Knowing she moved back to the East Coast I ask if she always had the job lined up?

“No actually. I moved back in 2019 and worked at the Superstore and as a bar manager at the Legion in Bear River.”

Did you find it hard to find an operating job when you moved back.

“It can be hard for people to take a chance on any young operators in Nova Scotia, I would say especially on a woman but Dean did” she says smiling. “I am so grateful for him for taking a chance on me and giving me this opportunity as well as mentoring me.”

Forestry is one of the first jobs that starts in the morning so I ask her how she finds the hours?

“Well, its early but I don’t mind” she replies. “However, I am still working two jobs. I am still a bar manager at the Legion so I didn’t get home till eleven last night and I left at ten to five this morning.”

As if you weren’t impressed already by the talent and drive this woman has, she is also a single mom.

Paige has a four year old daughter Madelyn, also know as Maddy, as well as a five year old pupper named Rex. Maddy is lucky to have a mother like Paige who breaks the gender mold.

Paige is an inspiration. Young women or girls who have ever been told “that’s for boys” need more opportunities to meet people like Paige. If you have a daughter, grand-daughter, sister, niece, or friend remind them of the stories like Paige’s.

Today was a good day. Despite the weather reaching temperatures of over 35 degrees and deer flies big enough to carry me away, I got to go to the woods with two people who love it even more than I do.

It is not very often that I get to spend a day with a Dad and Daughter in our sector. While forestry has many more women working in it today, it is still a male dominated field so duos like these are harder to come by.

If you are from the South Shore you most likely know who these two are but if not, we would like to introduce you to Shawn and Gracie Baker!

As we drive around Rossignol looking at the old logging camps I ask Shawn why he decided to get into forestry.

“Well I have always wanted to do it” he says. “Since I was at least five years old it’s all I ever wanted to do. My Dad was in Natural Resources so I was exposed from a really early age.”

I turn to Gracie and ask her the same question.

“I love being in the woods” she responds “but like Dad I was always exposed to it. My Grandfather’s on each side both worked in forestry so I would go visit my Grandfather or my Dad in the woods while I was still in a stroller.”

Gracie is in her first year at the Maritime College of Forest Technology that her Dad, Shawn, would have went to when it was still the Ranger School. Her Grandfather also went so she will be the third generation graduated forest worker.

As a younger individual I asked her how people reacted to her when she made the decision to join the sector.

“I was told that because Northern Pulp closed that it was pointless to get into forestry especially in Nova Scotia.” She says in a way that makes me believe she hears this often. “But obviously I know that isn’t true. There is work and a future in forestry.”

“It was the same after Bowater closed” Shawn adds. He ran his own business for 20 years and had many contracts with Bowater. “But I am still here and working.”

With the uncertainty that can come with major changes like that, I ask Shawn if he ever thought he would change careers.

“Nope” he says without a second thought. “I wouldn’t change it, there is nothing else I would want to do.”

Shawn has been working at Harry Freeman & Sons for almost six years now and Gracie is doing her summer work term with them this year. Because of this I, of course, ask my favorite question; how do you like working together.

Shawn’s eyes dart to the review mirror before answering “I am probably harder on her than I need to be.” (He may be, but spending a whole day with him he exudes nothing but pride for his daughter and it is extremely evident).

“Not everyday looks like this that’s for sure” Gracie says with a chuckle. “But because I am working in the Haskcap fields any day I am out with him seeing operations is a learning opportunity!”

As I have mentioned before I do not often get to interview women who work in forestry so I turn to Gracie and ask if she has felt any challenges because of her gender.

“Kind of” she says thinking about it. “You just don’t always feel like you are being taken seriously.”

Making decisions about the rest of your life is already challenging enough without joining a sector that can make you feel as though your age and gender are extra hurdles you need to overcome. I envy Gracie for her drive and passion not letting these fears hold her back.

I want to give a huge shout out to Shawn and Gracie for allowing me to join them for the day and an extra thank you to Shawn who took us around and told/showed us forestry history in South Western Nova Scotia.

I left this interview feeling as though I know more about the ground that I work on as well as beyond hopeful for the future of our sector. We are so fortunate to have people like Shawn who are passionate, educated, and caring towards Nova Scotian forests pass on their experience and knowledge to someone like Gracie who will take that information and grow it and elevate it to an even higher standard of healthy forest management.

It is the first time we have seen sun all week as I pull up the Hartlen’s driveway. I am thrilled to be spending our first day of looser restrictions grabbing a chair in the garage with these two smiling faces.

As I bring out my pen and paper I can’t help but think how interesting it is that I would consider one of these men a good friend of mine and yet have little to know idea of what their background is. We can often spend time with friends and not know how or why they are where they are in life. So, today I would like to take the time to introduce not only you but myself to Mervin and Craig Hartlen.

After a few pleasantries and chats about the weather I ask both men how they got into forestry?

“When I was 14 I needed a summer job.” Merv replied. “My Dad had worked at Bowater Mersey for 37 years so I went there for two summers when I was a student doing chainman and survey work.”

I look to Craig for his response.

“What can I say?” Craig says laughing. “My grandfather, Foggy, always had the best stories of the woods. Him and Dad used to take me on Saturday’s to go hunting or fishing. I guess I just always grew up around it. You worked six days a week and Sunday’s were for peeling hemlock logs, it was a lifestyle for him.”

Did you always want to be in forestry?

“I knew from grade 11 that I wanted to go to survey school when I graduated.” Merv said without missing a beat. “So I did. Back then it was called the Land Survey Institute, today it is known as COGS. I  worked in the woods surveying land but I also got to work on really cool projects like surveying for concrete building construction and photo control. I got to work all over the province and even had a stint up in Cape Breton over my career.”

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.” Craig admits. “At that time you didn’t necessarily go to school because you wanted too, you went to get a better education so you could get a job.”

(I can’t help but laugh at this as I know that feeling all too well.)

“So, I went to Acadia University and eventually got my Bachelor of Science in Biology. I worked with Dad surveying in the summers and after school but for some reason I had my heart on tree planting.” Craig adds. “I went tree planting out west in Northern BC and Alberta. Then I wanted to work with small private woodlot owners so I took the Forestry program at Algonquin which was a full year long forestry program.”

Knowing his current place of work at Freeman’s I ask if he went there right after graduation.

“No, I came home and worked with Dad for two weeks while I applied for jobs.” Craig says. “After two weeks I took a job with Irving down in Weymouth for five years until a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to sit down with the Freemans. Sixteen years later, I’m still here!”

Now knowing that they used to spend a lot of time in the woods together I ask if they still do.

“We have a sawmill, a Christmas tree lot, and some land in Wilkins Lake which keeps us connected to the woods.” Craig says.

“We’ve actually already done two entries on the Wilkins Lake property with Eisnor’s forestry.” Merv adds.

I am chomping at the bit waiting to ask my favorite question; how did you guys like working together?

“We worked well together” Craig says with a big smile.

I turn to Merv.

“It was always good time” He adds smiling as well. “Let’s say I never gave him anything too technical.”

I am known for always giving Craig a hard time so it takes me a minute to stop laughing after that one before I can ask what each of them enjoyed/enjoy most about their jobs.

“The people” Merv answers before the question is even out of my mouth. “I love meeting new people and playing a role in people coming together. I also like the satisfaction of knowing that I did something right.”

“I’d say similarly to Dad, it’s the public” Craig says. “I like working with a landowner and making their vision come true and seeing them be happy.”

I cannot express how fortunate the community is to have a family like this in it. After our interview I stayed an extra two hours with Merv and his wife Bernadette and learned the true meaning of “our door is always open.” These two individuals leave lasting impacts on communities such as theirs where Merv has provided employment opportunities within the community as well as sat on the municipal council for 23 years while Bernadette was a Grandmother to many more children within the community than her own as well she helped create the gardening club in town.

If you live in Queens County and have not taken the time to meet Merv, Bernadette, or Craig please plan for a visit as you cannot leave that driveway without feeling like you are a Hartlen yourself.

Elmsdale Lumber Company (ELCO) is located in Elmsdale, NS. Growing up ELCO was basically in my backyard. I have to say I am embarrassed for not knowing much about the mill as I hadn’t come from a forestry family. I had known of them due to their countless hours of volunteering and support within the community but never knew the family behind the gate. That all changed today when I met with father and son duo, Robin and Mark Wilber.

I am greeted by a swath of smiling faces and 8 large paws as I walk into the office. I can’t help but notice the many photos on Robin’s office walls showing years of stories and history.

As we sit down I ask Robin when he got into forestry.

“I was probably five years old” Robin says. “My Grandfather started the mill in 1917 and my father grew up in it as well. We lived in Halifax where my father ran his own business as a lumber broker. On Saturday’s we would come back to the steam mill in Elmsdale and on Sunday’s we would timber cruise. Dad had me following old boundary lines so I could learn how to keep my bearings.”
I turn to Mark and ask the same question.

“The mill was definitely my favorite place to come ever since I could sit up on my own” Mark says smiling. “I used to get a little cash for helping out and I thought I was an employee, when of course it was coming out of Dad’s pocket. I was on payroll when I was legal age and I would work here through the summers and school.”

Looking at father and son I ask how forestry has impacted their family.

“Well, we are a fourth generation forestry family” says Robin.

“It’s a way of life” Mark adds. “For ours and many other sawmilling families it is a way to support our friends, families, and our communities.”

“It’s rural communities” Robin chimes in. “It’s not in cities. We know rural communities don’t have the same support as the city and that they rely on forestry and farming. It’s all the links in the chain that allow these communities to thrive.”

As a fourth generation saw milling family, I have to ask how they think the changes in the sector over the years have affected them and their business.

“Well, we went from a steam mill to an electric mill. That’s a big change” Robin says laughing. “The big difference is we went from the bi-products being slabs with bark on them being sold for stove wood to being able to debark those same slabs to make paper products.”

“Technology” Mark states. “I can dream up anything and programmers can make it happen.”

“My dad always used to say ‘If we could only saw the log from the inside out’ and now we can.” Robin adds excitedly.

“It’s a natural progression associated with succession” Mark continues. “The younger generations are grabbing this modern technology with the knowledge of generations of forest workers before them.”

“Another thing is when my dad ran the mill he was kind of a one man show” says Robin. “Now we don’t make any decisions without discussing it with the team. We will fine tune ideas with lots of input now. The end result is always better if we include the whole team.”

I finally get to ask my favorite question. What is it like working together?

“I can’t imagine not working with my dad or my family” Mark states very matter-of-factly.

“It comes down to mentoring” Robin says. “I have done a lot of it but it is a little different when its your son because you don’t have to be as cautious as you do with others. Sometimes that made it easier, sometimes that made it harder. But we are different individuals with different talents. We always rely on others to do things as a team and Mark and I are in the same boat. For example, he is techy and I am not.”

“We joke because Dad writes and email with two fingers” Mark laughs. “But we all know that email is worth something. When Dad talks his words are calculated and he has but a lot of thought and heart into them” Mark says tearing up a little. “It’s worth listening too.”

So, besides working with each other, they must have a favorite part of the job.

“Oh, watching young people develop and grow in our business” Robin says without skipping a beat. “Looking back at people that have been here for 30 years and seeing them work together, develop themselves and their skills, and embrace new technologies just fills me with pride.”
I turn to Mark who stays silent for a while.

“I’m struggling with this answer because I truly love everything” He finally says. “So I’ll answer it this way. Right now, my favorite part of the job is planning for the future. We have opportunities to adopt new modern technology to be better. We have been big players in carbon sequestration, sustainability, and renewability for three generations and we can use these things moving forward to be the answer to climate change.”

I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to learn more about the sawmill that has been supporting the community I grew up in for over a century. If you haven’t taken the time to visit your local sawmill or meet the family behind it, you should reach out and set up a tour! We are fortunate to have strong local businesses supporting our rural communities in this province.

For more information about ELCO please visit their website or watch their introduction video!