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.