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.
The Ottawa Crack Team: