Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tree Planter Training, Learning How To Plant

This post is a follow-up to my pre-season overview post, which talked about the first half of my online tree planter training program.

In 2005, I put an initial series of tree planter training videos online.  Those video were getting thousands of views every year, but they were very low quality.  YouTube was still in its infancy, and digital video resolutions & frame-rates were very limited.  In 2012, I started the project over again from scratch, and by 2017 I was happy with the quality of the content.  From 2019 onward, I'll be updating those videos every year at a quality level that is suitable for sharing with our entire industry.

My training series consists of a total of twenty modules.  The first six videos are meant to be watched a couple months before the season starts, by people who are potentially interested in applying for a job as a planter.  Those videos are designed to let you know what you're getting yourself into if you decide to spend a summer in the bush.  You can find them in the link at the top of this post.

The focus of the last fourteen videos (the ones covered in this post) is more specifically related to the process of understanding the characteristics of trees, learning how to actually plant them, meeting quality & density expectations, what to expect from the natural environment, and all the other "hands-on" stuff that you'll be expected to know as soon as you strap your bags on.  Although this series was produced in British Columbia & Alberta, most of the information is also highly relevant to planting in other Canadian provinces (except maybe for the procedures for assessing quality & density).

The content in these videos is not targeted solely at inexperienced job applicants.  I'm 100% confident that all current experienced planters will find things in these videos that they didn't know.  You may wonder why I feel bold enough to make this claim?  Simple: because I learned hundreds of new things myself while putting all of this training material together.

These fourteen videos are about five hours in total length, so you'll need to set aside an entire afternoon or evening to watch them.  I'd suggest that you watch them with a pen and paper, so you can make notes about questions that you can ask recruiters or crew bosses at the companies that you apply to.  You should also bookmark this post, because you may want to come back and watch some of these videos more than once.  If you watch them well in advance of the season and this is your first year, you'll probably want to watch them as a refresher just a day or two before you hit the field.  Several companies are screening these as start-up training material when you first arrive to your new job.

There is a print version of this information, available on Amazon.  The book is called Step By Step, A Tree Planter's Handbook.  The book actually contains FAR more information than these videos do.  Ultimately, if you get a job as a tree planter, I'd highly recommend that you buy a copy of Step By Step.  More than a dozen major tree planting companies are using it as the basis for their training framework, and they'll probably tell you that you have to buy a copy anyway.  Get ahead of the curve, because there is an incredible amount of information in the book.  Here's more information:

Without further ado, here are the last fourteen videos in the training series.  I hope you find them to be useful.

Map Reading and GPS Systems
Contents:  GPS systems, other map features, understanding scales, geo-referenced digital maps, always know where you are.

Nature & the Environment
Contents:  Weather, determining direction from the sun, plants, animals, birds.

Basic Silviculture Knowledge
Contents:  Stocking standards, basic seedling physiology, tree structure, shade tolerance, environmental factors affecting growth, basic soils & planting media, seasons.

Stock Handling
Contents:  On-site seedling storage, handling seedling boxes, correct handling of seedlings and bundles.

Common BC Conifers
Contents:  Pine, spruce, fir, and other important species.

Planning Reforestation Activities
Contents:  The Pre-Work conference, the planting prescription, potential non-planting components, block boundaries, mixing species.

Planting Equipment
Contents:  Planting bags, your shovel, miscellaneous planting equipment, demonstration, non-planting gear.

Planting A Seedling
Contents:  Selecting the best microsite, microsite preparation, opening the hole & grabbing the seedling, planting the tree & closing the hole, planting demonstration.

Meeting Quality Requirements
Contents:  FS 704 system overview, throwing plots, specific faults, damage to seedlings, microsite selection, planting quality.

Spacing, Density, & Excess
Contents:  What's in a plot, plotted versus planted density, target spacing and minimum spacing, excess, missed spots (a quality fault), penalties.

Site Preparation
Contents:  Untreated (raw) ground, trenching, mounding, scrapes, windrows, drag scarification, chemical scarification, prescribed burning, selective harvesting, assessing a block.

Maximizing Productivity
Contents:  Staying organized, efficient planting techniques, efficient work strategies, staying focused.

Behaviours & Attitudes
Contents:  Maintaining the health of the ecosystem, responsible behaviour, safe behaviour, respectful behaviour, treatment of co-workers, stashing.

Contents:  Field practice, career options, final advice.

Here are some additional links and resources that might be of interest to potential planters:

Tendonitis Resources from Total Physio:  replant.ca/tendonitis
"Fit To Plant" from Selkirk College:  replant.ca/fittoplant

Getting a Job:  replant.ca/jobs
Photo Galleries:  replant.ca/photos
Planting Books:  replant.ca/books
Message Board:  replant.ca/phpBB3
Instagram:  instagram.com/replant.ca

Regardless of whether you're a first-time or experienced planter, if you're applying for work at a new company, use the following list of questions to help determine if that employer would be a good fit:

You may wonder why I'm offering all of these videos for free?  You may think, "what does he want in return?"  Well, that's a good question, because I actually DO want something in return:  I want you all to share this with as many other potential planters as you can.  Make sure they have the opportunity to get a full understanding of what they're getting themselves into, BEFORE they put their first tree in the ground.  If someone isn't suited for tree planting, it's much better that they "quit" before they start, instead of three or four days into the season.

Please share!

- Jonathan "Scooter" Clark 

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