Here at WestFor we are thankful for the many proud, passionate, hard-working men and women that contribute to the forest sector. We would like to take the next 12 months to highlight 12 families that are a part of the sustainable forestry practices that happen in our province.
We would like to start with Wade Turner and Gail (Turner) Mercer, owners of J. A. Turner & Sons (2012) Ltd. Wade and Gail took over their fathers mill in 2012 after working along side him for 15 years. The mill has been there for over 40 years.
It’s a beautiful fall morning at the Turner mill in Bridgewater, NS. At the desks inside are two friendly faces with big smiles that would make anyone feel welcomed.
With phones ringing and trucks on the scale the brother sister duo somehow find the time to chat with myself and anyone else walking through the door.
“How long have you been in the forest industry?” Directing the question at Wade first. He takes a second to pause before answering.
“About 30 years actually. I worked at MT&T for a while but didn’t enjoy living in the city so I came back to start at the mill about 30 years ago. I also sheared Christmas trees for about 3 summers as a student when I went to the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology.”
With knowing how labor intensive shearing can be I have to ask why.
“I liked it!” He answers more excitedly than I would have expected. “My co-worker and I had a great time blasting music and goofing around a bit while we worked. I also used a knife which made me feel more like a Ninja, that definitely helped.”
“I have been working in the industry for 26 years.” Gail answered with a smile. “I started working here with my Dad after my big sister got pregnant.”
I ask Gail when she realized she was first interested in forestry.
“I don’t know if there was ever a specific moment; it was always a family business. I graduated from high school and went to the Nova Scotia Community College for Accounting with the mindset of working here.”
Gail has been married to her husband Jason for 21 years and forestry has provided half of their income for the entirety of their marriage. It has allowed them to live across the street from the mill with their three cats Miller, Molly, and Mia.
Wade has been married to his wife Heidi for 24 years and forestry has also provided half of their income for the entirety of their marriage. Wade and Heidi have two kids, Leah and Luke and one cat named Callie.
“Would you like for your children to follow in your footsteps?” I ask Wade.
“Well, Luke actually worked half days here this summer sorting wood. He enjoyed it, but would I want him to work here after school? It is an unpredictable business and you want to know that your kids will have security.” Wade said before answering the phone.
I start chatting with Gail while we wait for Wade to take an order over the phone. It is not very often I get to talk with other women in the sector as we are few and far between. I admire her, especially as an owner of a mill. She starts to share some of the minor struggles that she has to deal with on a daily basis.
“Even answering the phone people will ask for Wade, or if one of the ‘boys’ are there. I have been in the business for 26 years and most of the time I actually know more than the people calling. They don’t like to admit that though.” She says laughing. “But I don’t mind, it creates more work for Wade and less work for me! Plus, if we have long term customers they know who to call.”
Wade hangs up the phone and continues to fill out an order form.
“What is your favorite part about working in forestry?” I ask to the room. Wade without missing a beat pipes up.
“The people. I went to school in New Germany and I know these kinds of people. Kind, hard-working citizen. Covid was hard because we had the ‘Drive-Thru’ window and I couldn’t chat as much and I am a people person.” Taking a second to process he also said “And I could not do a job where I was tied to my desk all day.”
“I like that it isn’t the same thing everyday. There are all kinds of different things to do and all kinds of different requests from customers. We always do our best to make it work, so that can create some interesting interactions.” Gail added.
I ask the question that any sibling would be thinking.
“How is it working with your brother/sister?”
“We’re okay with it.” They almost answer in complete unison.
After our interview we walk around the yard to get a few photos. Seeing them interact with each other, how they support each other all the while laughing together almost makes me think that I could work with my siblings.
Whether it’s for their work at their mill or getting involved in the community through running groups or coaching minor hockey, we are lucky to have them.
For more information about J. A. Turner & Sons (2012) Ltd. Please feel free to follow this link: https://www.jaturnerandsons.ca/about_us.html