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.

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