Exposure to the Woods: Bringing Newcomers to the Forest Industry


We all know how important recruiting new people into the forest industry is, but most of us just assume that’s someone else’s job. Last month, I had the opportunity to expose a young man to the possibilities across the industry, and I want to encourage you to think about doing the same. Garret, a recent high school graduate from Texas who will start college for natural resource management at Colorado State University in the fall, was visiting family friends here in Maine for a couple of weeks. Recognizing an opportunity when one drops before me, I took Garret to a sawmill, a logging job, and the FRA Forest Forum, a monthly dinner with networking and a speaker. I followed up with Garret after he left Maine to see what he thought – here’s the summary.

As a reminder, Garret’s from Texas – and not the part with trees. The forest industry isn’t something he’s familiar with, so this was all new. At the sawmill, he was impressed by the efficiency – our tour started in a crane watching logs get unloaded, and the importance of turn time – and how it could give the trucker an extra load per day – was discussed. Then, into the mill, where technology – scanning, automation, grading, sorting – was on full display. The level of technology used to turn round things into square things was a surprise, and Garret noticed how important efficiency was to the smooth operation of the mill.

Sawmill Crane

Then, to the logging job. We visited a 2-man crew running a processor and forwarder. After putting on our hardhats and hi-visibility vests, we went into the snowy woods to watch the crew in action (another non-Texas experience). Right away, he noticed the forwarder trail lined with tops and branches, and we discussed how that helped minimize soil damage from the equipment. Then we watched as the processor felled some trees and stripped them of branches before laying logs off to the side of the trail for the forwarder to collect. After speaking to the operator briefly, we left the crew to get back to work. Garret noted how peaceful this work was, how it was simultaneously independent and teamwork. He also quickly noted the mill’s reliance on the loggers, and the loggers on the mill – that the entire industry relies upon one another for things to work.


After these visits, Garret joined me a few days later at the FRA Forest Forum, where 55 professionals from across the industry came together for the evening. He noted that everyone there was so passionate about what they do for a living and that it was great to be in an environment full of professionals who devoted an evening to learning and connecting with colleagues. I asked what impressed him most. Garret noted, “The entire industry is like an ecosystem, with all sorts of people playing different parts, but everyone together accomplishing an enormous amount.” It is an astute observation and one we sometimes forget from inside the industry.

Before visiting Maine, Garret had never really considered the forest industry as a career. Why would he? He hadn’t really been exposed to it. Now, he views it as an industry “where everyone can find their place, stake your claim, and have a large impact.” Then came the best surprise yet – he told me he has been speaking to and is applying for a summer internship with someone he met at the FRA Forest Forum. Mission accomplished. I encourage each of you to find a young man or woman who might be interested in the industry and spend a day with them. It turns out that being exposed to opportunity can lead in great directions.