Like any community, tree planting camps are made up of a diverse group of people, tied together by some common trait. In this case that trait is that they’ve all chosen to give up their summer in pursuit of (hopefully) riches. Despite the varied nature of planting camps, and tree planters in general, there seem to be certain types of people who are disproportionately represented in the community. In this article, we’re going to look at the top 10 types of people you meet while tree planting.
1. The Lifer
No matter where you plant, it seems like every camp has at least one lifer. Someone who’s in their 10th+ season and still going strong. They may not look like much, but make no mistake about it, they can plant more trees than you. At this point, planting has become more than just a job to them, it has become a way of life, and is deeply ingrained in who they are. On the block they seem to be moving slowly, but through years of perfecting their technique they’ve mastered their efficiency and technique to a point where they could plant 3K with their eyes closed. They’re masters of navigating slash, and somehow come off the block every day as though they were never on it.
2. The Student
One of the most common categories of planters, especially in younger camps, the student dreads the thought of student debt and university tuition above all else. This aversion to debt has compelled them to head into the bush for the summer, hoping that by giving up the summers of their college years, they’ll be able to emerge on the other end not only with a degree, but also free of debt. No small task these days. For many, the dream falls flat during their rookie season, where the cruel realites of tree planting (injury, lack of motivation, spending too much on day off) all too often rear their ugly head. For those who make it through the first season however and come back, there is a good chance of achieving their goal and then some. Many are able not only to emerge free of debt, but also never have to balance work and school during the school year. Students often enter the planting world as young, immature upstarts, and there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a veteran planter as to see them humbled by the bush as they learn the ropes, and develop the requisite inner drive and work ethic to succeed in the planting world.
3. The Traveller
The Traveller is the envy of much of camp, especially The Student. Rather than finishing the season and heading back to school, the traveller finishes the season with an open calendar and a one way ticket to some exotic locale. Travellers are generally veterans who, although they may be the life of the party, have learned to buckle down and work during the season to avoid the necessity of working during the other 9 months of the year. Organized employment is anathema to the traveller and must be avoided at all cost. Planting occupies a grey area in between employment and life experience and is therefor one of few permissible options. At the end of the day the traveller realizes that their off season escapades require some sort of funding, and as tree planting allows them to condense their yearly work into a relatively painless 3 month timeframe, they put up with it. Besides there are enough parallels between the planting community and the traveller community that they feel right at home. They are generally extremely focussed but may often be found drifting off in thought, no doubt dreaming of somewhere far, far away that looks nothing like a planting camp.
4. The Entrepreneur
Like The Student and The Traveller, The Entrepreneur has done the math and is willing to sacrifice in the short term for the sake of a long term dream. They’ve got a number in mind and are willing to do whatever it takes to get to that number in the quickest fashion possible. A friend I met during my first season planting was trying to save up $100,000 to get started in the food trucking business. His dream was driving up and down the west coast serving delicious food and chasing the summer year round. While I know he hasn’t reached that goal yet, he has opened up a very successful northern lights tour company based out of Yellowknife. Typically the entrepreneurial-minded tree planter has a business in mind that allows freedom, mobility, and is based around something that they absolutely love. They’re more focussed on creating a lifestyle they love than making boatloads of money, not that they would turn that down.
5. The Migrant
One of the most common types of planters are those that I like to call The Migrants. These planters often follow seasonal work such as planting across the continent, or even across the globe. As tree planting has gained traction and become more organized in places like Australia, more and more North American planters are planting the summer season at home before hopping a flight down under for the winter planting season. Fruit picking is another extremely common seasonal job that migrant tree planters flock to, often cutting their planting season short to ensure they secure a job by the end of July. The most common destinations are the Okanagan in BC, and down the west coast of the States, although I know planters who have picked fruit in South America, as well as, again, Australia. Migrant planters are often a mix of other types, as this lifestyle can ensure they don’t have to work steadily throughout the year, and can often be combined with travel, or other pursuits.
6. The Dirtbag
There’s usually at least a couple in every camp. You’ll probably recognize the dirtbag by their camper van, or possibly even more likely, a non-camper vehicle that has been modified into a living space. Dirtbags are prone to spending the off season criss crossing the continent, living out of their vehicles while spending their days climbing, surfing, hiking, or a variety of other outdoor pursuits. They know all the hacks to live as frugally as possible, and all the loopholes that ensures they get the most out of everything life throws at them. Their vehicle is probably a marvel of organization, with cupboards and hidden storage compartments covering every square inch of it. Everything they own serves double duty, performing more than one task in order to save space. They’re generally laid back and unfazed by anything, and commonly double as Migrants. They probably have but a few vague plans when you ask them what they’re doing after the season, although you can be sure that when you meet up with them next season you’ll be jealous of whatever it was they ended up getting up to.
7. The Type A
These types of planters like to group together – and generally that group is at the top of camp production. They’re driven, focussed, and won’t take no for an answer. You’ll often find these planters to have big goals in their lives outside of planting as well, as the “Go” switch seemingly can’t be turned off. They might be pursuing advanced degrees, starting a business or NGO, or doing their best to change the world in some other way. Unfortunately, for all the trees they plant, their determined nature can often lead to injuries from going to hard even when their body is telling them to stop. It can be a cruel cycle watching some of the fastest planters struggle with an injury, be forced to take time off, and then go too hard when they return, re-aggravating the injury. Nevertheless, when healthy, these planters are beastly and it’s generally unwise to get between them and their trees.
8. The Foreman
The foreman’s life seems easy at first glance. They hardly have to plant, get to ride around on quads all day, and make money off of their planters work! Like any management role however, more goes into the makeup of a great foreman than the obvious outer level tasks. Their planters depend on them to keep the caches stocked with plenty of trees, a difficult task on some blocks, especially those requiring long ATV rides in to the pieces carrying only a few boxes of trees at a time. The foreman is responsible for dividing up the block into pieces that make sense to the planters, something that new foremen often struggle with. Most importantly the foreman is responsible for motivating their planters – no easy task over the course of the season – as well as finding the planting pairings and personalities that work best together for all parties. While the job is by no means as physically draining as that of a planter, the foremen are generally up earlier in the mornings, and stay up later in the evenings handling management duties which can be an incredible drain when sustained throughout the season. They often have planting related tasks that consume large portions of their days off as well, making the carefree life of the planter look like a dream.
9. The Supervisor
Oh no! The dreaded boss of camp! In reality, camp supervisors are generally pretty laid back and easy to get along with. I’ve always got along really well with my supervisors and have never felt like they were “the boss”, around whom you needed to watch what you said and remain on your best behaviour. That said, they’ve got a ton on their plate during the season and it can be hard to spot them around camp at times. They generally might only get one or two days off during the course of the season and are responsible for all the logistics of living in the bush, dealing with the foresters, the government, their foremen, and their planters. It’s an intense job that demands systematic thinking and an ability to communicate effectively with a wide variety of people.
10. The Hippy
You didn’t think I was going to leave the iconic image of a tree planter out of this list did you? Yes it’s true, many planters exhibit some tendencies that some might refer to as “hippy-ish”, but that’s not a bad thing! Laid back, easy going, maybe a little spaced out, what’s not to love? While generally having a reputation for being slackers, I’ve known hippy planters who fall at every point across the scale in terms of production. Some hippies have been among the best planters in camp, while others tended to fall into deep, esoteric conversations with their planting partners, which invariably lead to a slower pace of planting. Regardless of their planting production, most hippy planters are extremely approachable and easy to get along with, especially over a frisbee, slackline, or hacky sack session… Jeremy Enns is the Chief Executive Storyteller of Silent Era Photography. Based in Vancouver, BC, he has a passion for storytelling, photography, and travel as well assisting others in achieving their photographic goals. Check out his photography, photo stories from his travels, tutorials, and more at www.silenteraphotography.com!