News & Updates

Business School Tree-planting Admission Essay: Quantifying Greener Goals


By Devon de Langely

I have been immersed in many physically grueling activities throughout my life, from years of high-level competitive sports to reaching the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. To date, tree-planting has been by far the most physically demanding activity I’ve experienced. Planting in Prince George, British Columbia gave me a true perspective on what it means to work hard. It opened my eyes to a world of sheer dedication, sacrifice, motivation, and toughness. I have since tried to apply the life-lessons that I took away from tree-planting last summer to my academic and athletic pursuits.

My goal to be the fastest rookie planter was a long shot, being 17 years old and the youngest at camp. But after only the first training day, Vinnie, the Camp Coordinator and Field Supervisor, took me under his wing, because he said he noticed my potential. For the rest of the season, I was fortunate enough to be put on a 6-person crew alongside my brother Brennan, a second year planter and current Ivey student, and my cousin Miriam. This was probably the best choice that Vinnie could have made. The family competition and drive to out-plant my brother day in and day out, allowed me to quickly develop the skills required to be great. Brennan, Miriam and I learned to work as a team and communicate to ensure the ‘planting block’ was completed the most efficiently and with top quality trees.

Motivation played a huge role in my success as a first year planter. Something about living in a tent out in northern British Columbia for 2½ months makes it really easy to just give up. After overhearing Vinnie, a legend in the tree planting industry, call me his protégé, family and intrinsic values were now not my only sources of motivation.  Every night, I would ensure all my gear was dry and ready for optimal usage to tackle the upcoming day.

Being the only rookie to hit 1000 trees on the first day was a memorable moment. Although I quickly realized my own potential, I truly believed I wouldn’t last the season. I overcame adversity, and ultimately I proved to myself that with the right attitude, I could be successful. I soon became the first rookie to hit 1500 and then 2000 trees planted in a day. My most humbling moment was when Erik Brinkman, the Project Manager and son of Joyce Murray, stood up in front of the entire camp and congratulated me on reaching 2000 trees. Erik proceeded to advise all the rookies to strive in their own way to find the motivation and success that I have found.

The truth about tree-planting is that you will become accustomed to pounding your shovel in the ground thousands of times a day, planting in ridiculous rain and heat, being attacked by hundreds of mosquitos and black flies, pulling thorns out of your own forearms, and taking off your gloves after work with your hands looking like shriveled prunes. But the reward to reach my goals and mentally and physically push myself with tree-planting last summer was more than worth the difficulties.

Post Script by Erik Brinkman

Devon submitted this essay in an admission application to Business School and put me down as the reference. All I had to do is sign in and press a button at the bottom of the essay that said either “agree or disagree.”  I pressed “agree,” and then asked him if we could put it in the Newsletter. He agreed.

Five Provinces One Season: The Tree-Running Adventures of the Migrating Smoky Tiger


Hey Brinkman tribe! I’m honoured to tell the tale of my 2014 season of tree running adventures, one for the record books, for your amazement and amusement. Long, varied, with many a sloping and soggy quad trail, fields of brackies as far as the eye can see, tree boxes, slash piles, and so many stubborn and beautiful planter folk. In the end I traversed five provinces in “Elfmist,” my faithful blue ’82 Volkswagon Westfalia. Looking back, it was truly a season that makes me proud to work with you guys. It made me realize how lucky I am just to be a part of this team.

Brinkman Head Office Roll Call: 45 Years of Restoring Ecosystems


By Erik Brinkman

Almost half a century ago Dirk and his BFF (“Best Friend Forever”) John Huizinga travelled to the wild Western frontier of BC as lumberjacks. It didn’t take long for the tree cutting and moose eating to push Dirk and friends to set up tree planting camps where vegetarianism reigned. In 1970, this group of romantics garnered one of the first tree planting contracts in Canada; in retrospect a pivotal moment in Canadian forestry that combined the back-to-the-land fringe movement of the 1960’s with the need to restore and improve what was then a butcherous logging industry. This forest-making movement attracted young vigorous idealists which grew into the Canadian reforestation industry, currently an exemplary model for sustainable forest management around the world. This year we celebrate 45 years of continuous improvement on the frontlines of ecosystem restoration and forestry innovation. How was this all accomplished? With a great community of field workers revolving like a solar system around the Brinkman head office in New Westminster. We recognize and honour all those who keep that office humming along. Here are a few of the highlights of the last year to sing.

Christine Usher, 25 years a tree counter.

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Christine joined Brinkman in the spring of 1990. After two and a half decades of lovingly counting beans (and trees) for the often chaotic contracts, acting as a savior to many frazzled supervisors in the field,  scrambling to find receipts and tally what they were owed, she has the thanks of everyone whose paycheque ever added up correctly. At last year’s Christmas party, management acknowledged Christine with  a special bonus, a trip to anywhere in the world as a token of thanks for 25 years of brilliant service to the Brinkman team.

Tree numbers counted:

Planting more than a million trees by hand is a special honour shared by only a few dozen Brinkman planters. Here we honour the new additions to Brinkman’s “Heroes of the Planet” Millionaire's club.

  • Brinkman total 2014 tree counter: 1,182,345,563
  • New millionaires, showcased on the Heroes of the Planet club

    • Mathew Brady 1,049,927

    • Shawn Driscoll 1,013,613

    • Lukas Mouka 1,071,000

    • Chris D Reid 1,331,488

    • Thom Tarte 1,113,189

    • Jonah Trinkwon 1,445,115

  • Most trees planted in one year

    • Brian Baudry 2011, 275,515

    • Previous record holder, Erik Brinkman 2004, 269,212

Christian Walli, 25 years a forest ambassador.

In 1989 we hired our first professional forester full time, when we decided to buy a couple of nurseries in Ontario. After a decade growing over 100 million trees under Christian’s direction, we sold the nurseries to PRT, but by then we had realized that Christian was the perfect ambassador for the trees. In 1989 we were also developing the idea of a national foundation to handle requests to plant trees for corporations wanting to improve their green bona fides. From this the idea of Tree Canada evolved, and for the last 25 years we have been proud to have Christian speak for the trees to numerous classes, volunteer groups, and corporations, from the most polluting to the most enlightened. Christian was also recently acknowledged with a trip to anywhere in the world of his choosing for 25 years of unfaltering optimism, enlightened wisdom and stately professionalism in service of the Brinkman Group. John Lawrence said it best “Christian was the first professional to work for Brinkman.”

Nenita Shannon, well-earned retirement.  

After almost 20 years with Brinkman, Nenita Shannon (Accounts Payable), has announced her retirement. With her characteristic giggle and smile, she added, “when I first came, I only meant to stay a year!” For most of us, she will have rushed a cheque through at some point during those 20 years. If that was you, you have likely experienced her endearing ability to laugh when she feels rushed, her subtle and kind way of getting you to wait in the lunchroom instead of hovering over her desk, and foremost her willingness to put a Brinkman employee first. Beyond her joyous playful demeanor here are a few statistics of her tenure with Brinkman to share: 

  • 104,260 pieces of mail opened

  • 34,845 cheques produced

  • 5,210 times she has monopolized the Province newspaper in the kitchen

  • 3,120 trips to the bank

  • 245 treats brought in to share with the office

  • 63 trees planted

  • 1 retirement announced

Office Upgrades!

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Update for the West Coast: Got Shorts and a Rain Coat?


Every year is different and every year remains the same. We all work, we all have friends and family, and we all have goals and dreams. A select few of us come together for a brief moment in time here in Western Canada, burning calories and candles at both ends, reveling and struggling with our resolve in each day’s effort. We marvel together at having expended enough energy to make a sprint of marathon sized dinners, and sprint each night through our meal to an empty plate and a hot shower.

Is Tree Planting a World's Toughest Job?: BBC Reality TV in a Brinkman Camp


By Dawn Brinkman

It had been over a year of back and forth with the TV producers and their proposal of a tree planting reality documentary before the three British rookies hit the Prince George tarmac in mid-May of 2014. The premise of the show is how the unemployed youth (18-25) of Britain hold up in the BBC series World’s Toughest Jobs. During this “courtship period” we made it clear how difficult the job is, and outlined the qualities we look for in a rookie planter. We weren’t paid to host the show at our camp, but candidates with work visas could potentially learn how to carry out honest hard work and become fast, money-making returning planters, that is, if they were cut out for the job.

Tour of the Eastern Head Quarters: Tree-planting is Hard Work - a Gross Understatement


By Judi Tetro

Ottawa, Ontario. Home of Steve Harper, the Governor General, and the Government of Canada, but most importantly, the home of the Eastern Operations Headquarters of Brinkman & Associates Reforestation Ltd.. This impressive centre houses many members of the crack team (not to be confused with Rob Ford’s team – that’s in Toronto! – but rather the sharp witted team of Brinkman logisticians) that run our operations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The depth of the team is remarkable; on any given day you might call and be speaking with our Controller (Koan), our Computer Expert (Taiga), our Outings Coordinator (Juno), and our PR Specialist (Johnnie Walker), but perhaps you would speak most frequently with the Helper Monkey (Judi). The breadth of qualifications and capabilities is staggering, as are the facilities and grounds.

Here, the real work of tree-planting is carried out. Sure, some may find the work in the field exhausting and back-breaking (bending over 2-5,000 times a day, carrying 20-60 lbs of trees in your bags, clambering over slash and through mud, coordinating the ever-changing events of the day, muscling quads through muskeg and over slash and shuffling over a tonne of boxes daily), but here, here is where I look at my computer and do the really hard work.

But seriously, it is my privilege to coordinate the logistics that go into all the hard work that is carried out in the field. The work that goes into each tree being planted is impressive to say the least. Every year Brinkman has between 700 to 1,000 people who plant 40 to 50 million trees, each one by hand – one at a time. Those planters walk, on average, 16km per day over challenging terrain carrying more than 20 lbs of trees in their bags. They throw their shovel into the ground at least 2,000 times a day (meaning their arm is lifting around 5,000 shovel pounds daily) and burn as many calories as running a marathon. When hiring people for planting, I always say to new planters: “if you think you can run 50 marathons in 3 months, rain or shine, while sleeping in a tent… you’re hired!.” Planters do this arduous work and complete the task to 95% quality. An outstanding and extraordinary triumph each day, and most planters do it for between 40 and 100 days per year!

Our crew bosses are all tree-planters too. They have been through the 50 marathon summers and keep coming back for more. Only now they do all that work while coaching and managing their team. Many crew bosses plant and check trees all day long, drive both ways to the block, do their nightly paperwork and load the trucks and help out around camp. Their efforts are astonishing. In 1987 SFU prof Thomas Smith’ first Kinesiology study of planting found planters utilize between 45% and 95% (avg. 75%) of their cardiovascular capacity. This helped focus our culture of managing athletes.

Tree runners are no less impressive: in a camp that plants 100,000 trees daily (which is around 280, 20-lb boxes), the tree runner will often move each box 3 times: first to load the box into the truck, second to take it out of the truck and put it on the quad, and third to take it off the quad and put it on the ground, and this assumes they never have to shuffle boxes to other caches! Three lifts X 280 boxes X 20 lbs = lifting of 16,800 lbs daily. Not many other jobs require that kind of exertion, and that is just part of the job.

And it is our project managers who keep this whole machine running. These people often work toward a smooth plant all year round: they communicate with their teams, communicate with their regional managers and clients, and think about how to improve on last year and how to play out the next year. They work on logistical plans for months (even if it’s just while they sleep). They work on equipment needs and modifications, they take courses and certifications to upgrade their skills, and that’s only a fraction of their off-season commitments. During the season, they never stop thinking, planning, improving, and working to make everyone’s days as productive, lucrative, and smooth as possible. They commit themselves fully and selflessly to their teams and their contracts.

Tree-planting is hard work – a gross understatement. Thanks to all of you who do the real work to achieve these unfathomable results.

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Cheakamus Community Forest Offset Project: Whistler's Improved Forest Management


By Joseph Pallant, Brinkman Climate Manager

In 2009, the 32,000 ha Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) was awarded to a partnership between the Municipality of Whistler, the Squamish First Nation and the Lil’Wat First Nation. Social enterprise non-profit Ecotrust Canada helped broker this new community forest. One of its first recommendations was that the principles of ecosystem-based management form the foundation for management of the licence, to meet a wide range of social and environmental goals, including maintaining long term carbon sequestration to address global warming. This is where Brinkman Earth Systems joined the project.

Scratching the Surface: Viewing in the Chilcotins


By Matt Robertson

In forestry we have the unique opportunity of traveling among some of our planet’s more exotic landscapes. Be it the Great Bear Rainforest of the central coast or the northern Boreal, each wilderness area has its own unique identity. These areas are part of the draw that brings 350 people back each year to work in our BC operations. Amongst these stunning landscapes are cultures whose histories range some 300 years ago from first contact with European and Asian settlers searching for resources and a new life, to the First Nations people who began to populate the Americas perhaps as much as 40,000 years ago.