the greatest job in the world!
Why did a city girl from Queens in New York City become a devoted outdoorswoman and a professional forester?
Joan Nichols explains why Forestry is the greatest job in the world! Reach out to her at [email protected] all started with long family car trips, says Joan Nichols a Certified Forester consulting forester in Franklin, Connecticut. “Basically, my dad absolutely loved car trips to see different parts of the USA. He was a structural design engineer for Con Edison Utility in New York City with 5 weeks of vacation time every year. He’d put us in the car, take out a map, and drive.” His favorite places were the Adirondacks and western Maine.
Joan remembers being a 10-year-old wowed by the beauty of nature after a cross-country trip where she visited many National Parks. At 16 or 17, she recalled, she thought of going into horticulture. But an encounter with a forest ranger in Maine shifted her interest to forestry, which she studied at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse.
The studies were an eye opener. “I was a child of the 70’s anti-clearcutting environmental movement,” she said. “I had preconceived notions about the forest products industry.” But after working in the field, she concluded, “we’re going to cut trees, so do it right!”
A summer internship deepened her understanding. A faculty adviser recommended her for a summer position at the Lolo National Forest in Montana where she did everything – camp site and boat launch management, firefighting and tree planting. After graduating in 1981, she was the only woman on a six-person crew handling large volume timber sales. “My crewmates were great!” she recalls. Together, they marked 11 million board feet of lodgepole and ponderosa pine in one season.
Back East with a hardwood mill in eastern Connecticut, she managed 5 logging crews and 3 trucks until 1990 when she opened Nichols Forestry and Logging LLC.
Joan has recently taken her passion for advocacy, combined with her 39 years of forestry work, and has started a new career as the Executive Director and Director of Member of Relations with Connecticut Farm Bureau. Joan continues to practice forestry, still her first love.
“Here is what tell I Vo-Ag students,” she says. “This is a phenomenal profession. It’s the best job you can ever have. When you’re looking for work, try everything. Be willing to go where the jobs are. It can be very rewarding - no two projects are the same.”
She sees a future where job opportunities in forest-related fields could grow. “Whatever you can make with fossil fuel, you can make from wood. Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see, you see something new.”
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