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For the love of the woods

I, Kirsten Campbell, was very fortunate to grow up in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia with 2 fabulous siblings on a couple hundred acres with beef cows, a strawberry patch, veggie garden and 2 hard working parents that also had jobs outside the home. If you were in the house, mom had you cleaning when she was home…this is probably where my love for the woods started! We’d spend hours in the woods, climbing trees, building things, catching frogs, bugs, fish, helping with hay or firewood, etc. Even at friends houses we would be in the woods keeping ourselves busy. My dad worked in forestry in Cape Breton which certainly played a part in my career path. I can remember driving one woods road with him, around 10 years old and the road being so rough it gave me a pain in my side, most likely from laughing at that age.

My love for the woods was also a love for animals so I figured something with animals would be a good start after high school. I attended college, graduated with an animal science diploma but it had more of an agricultural context. I worked on a couple of dairy farms which I loved but didn’t quite feel it was a fit for me. Never really experiencing the city life, I decided to live in Halifax - again it was wonderful but didn’t feel like a fit. Never being on a plane before I decided to head to Florida to nanny, once again that was amazing but not quite for me. Then back to Cape Breton again to truly realize how amazing home really was, so I decided to take a natural resources diploma. I graduated but didn’t quite feel confident in my abilities so I headed to a forestry school where I felt like this just might be a fit. I graduated with 2 diplomas in 2 years as a Forest Technologist and got a job with a pulp mill at home almost right out of school.

I was very nervous my first day at the mill…not because I was the youngest at the time or first gal operations supervisor but like any new job, I really had no idea what anyone was talking about. Not having much confidence in my abilities yet, I was reluctant to ask questions so, paying attention to context helped build enough confidence to eventually ask a million questions! Support from my coworkers, harvesting contractors/operators and truck drivers was a huge help in building my confidence and undeniably set the stage for where I am today. The more I got to know them, the more they supported me in work and life. I had 2 kids during my time at the pulp mill and was fortunate to be able to trudge through the woods up until a week before having both babies. My co-workers, the contractors, operators, and truck divers soon became more like dads and big brothers with their genuine concern for my well being, how lucky was I?! I keep in touch with a lot of them to this day. As I got to know more people in the forestry sector, I did find some sisters and moms, again so lucky to have such an awesome support system! I am now gaining some younger forestry siblings…not that I’m getting older, right!?

After my time at the mill, I took an opportunity to work in the non-profit, private land management world. It was quite a change to go from industrial forestry to working with private landowners who had very diverse objectives. It was neat to hear stories and the history folks knew about their land as well as their dreams and goals for their little slice of heaven. I was fortunate to meet some great landowners from here, there and everywhere that I could visit any time. I was pregnant with my 3rd when I started that job and again everyone was very supportive. I walked a lot with a landowner who couldn’t keep up when I was about 7 months pregnant. He sent an email a couple months back saying he still talks about the little pregnant lady that kicked his butt! Hah In his defense, he did have chainsaw boots on…those things would slow anyone down!

Just recently I took a forestry research role which I am super excited about. I haven’t had much opportunity to dabble in forestry research yet, so I am keen to learn. This position has great work-life balance, which seems to be more and more important these days, especially with 3 wee ones. I truly love the woods and the folks that work in it which is something I hope to pass onto my kids. The 3 of them have been in a harvester already (present ages; 7,5,2), never miss a wood truck on the road, are curious of berries and flowers and love being outside. I want them to know where things come from and how hard people work for them. I want them to know their flora and fauna as well as the adventure the woods provides. I want them to appreciate the little things like an amazing blackberry patch at the end of a hot field day, a babbling brook to eat your lunch by, a nosey gray jay…there are so many!

My love of the woods has helped me stay grounded, live where I love, work with people I hold dear, and appreciate the little things. Its also showed me how truly amazing and resilient mother nature is…just sit quietly in the woods; you’ll see it, hear it, smell it…or feel it!

Kirsten Campbell - From a "somewhat" opinionated, stubborn strong willed, 5'6' (with dunlops) gal, here are a few things I've learned while on this path in forestry and life...size doesn't matter, it's a relative term. There's nothing to prove. Be passionate about what you do. Ignore doubters and trust you're gut. Keep supporters close. Evolution is key, mother nature shows us this everyday and of course appreciate the little, simple, basic things...sometimes they're the most important.


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