The Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) is an exciting, high-level training opportunity educating professionals in the leadership and managerial aspects of urban forestry. This week-long intensive educational program delivers a challenging opportunity to grow a more successful community tree program. It’s a place to learn and master leadership and management tools for program administration, coalition building, strategic thinking, program planning, and public relations. Invest a week in your professional and personal development! MFI 2018 will be held February 18-23 at Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center in Litchfield, CT.
Council Board Member Mike DeMarco attended the 2017 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) on scholarship from the Council and NYSDEC. MFI is an immersive, weeklong leadership training for urban forestry professionals. Here, we learn about DeMarco’s takeaways from MFI, his current position, and his work and educational background.
DeMarco says, “I would like to give a big shout out and thank you to the New York State Urban Forestry Council and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Without the support and positive push from members of these organizations, I would not have been able to take part in MFI 2017.”
Mike DeMarco: Prior to any thought of a career in urban forestry, I spent most of my early and mid-20’s following an obsession with creating music and working as a master control operator at WWNY- TV7, a local news station in my hometown of Watertown, NY. After a few years of work in TV, I felt that something was missing in my life—that is, until 2008 when I found Tree Watertown (Watertown’s Street Tree Advisory Board). I began attending meetings and quickly discovered my love for the urban forest.
Before I knew it, I was being mentored by two individuals that have since played a huge part in my journey. They encouraged me to pursue higher education and in the fall of 2012, I graduated from SUNY-ESF with a BS in Natural Resource Management and a minor in Urban Forestry.
Environmental consultant Karen Emmerich serves on the NYSUFC Board, on the Region 3 ReLeaf Committee, and as Tree Commission Chair for the Town of Warwick. Last February, the Council provided a partial scholarship for Karen to attend the Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), a weeklong leadership training for urban forestry professionals and their affiliates.
“Without hesitation, I would encourage anybody who is in the urban forestry field to attend MFI,” she says. “Do whatever you have to do to get there! I found it so incredibly valuable.” She says the leadership skill building and the networking were the most meaningful to her. She especially urges young people to go, to get the benefits of MFI early in their career. More about Karen’s MFI experience later.
Like so many of our members, Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank is living a big, passionate life. This includes riding for the third year in a row in the STIHL Tour des Trees to benefit the TREE fund. Lori will join riders headed to Florida to ride 500 miles during the week of October 25-31.
Full-tour cyclists commit to raising at least $3,500 for the TREE Fund. The money raised supports the discovery of better methods for propagation, planting and care of urban trees.
The Tour also funds education programs aimed at connecting young people with the environment and with career opportunities in the green industries. You can support Lori’s TEAM NY here, and you can read about Lori’s Tour des Trees experiences—and many other things going on in Lori’s life—on her blog, The Gypsy Arborist, and on a TAKING ROOT blog post from last year.
Can you tell us about childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in arboriculture and urban forestry?
Lori Brockelbank: I grew up in an area surrounded by a swamp and forest that I would explore with my dogs in tow, and on Sunday mornings my dad and I would ride our horses on the nearby trails. We also had a wood burning stove, so my summers were spent in part logging with my dad—not my favorite thing to do. I had a book that I would use for pressing leaves during the summers and I remember decorating the walls in my bedroom with colorful fall leaves. In fifth grade, I attended conservation field days where I was introduced to the environmental field. It stuck with me and I do believe that is what ultimately led me to my career.
Here we learn about Brian’s background, his work in NYC, and his experience at MFI, for which he received partial support from the NYSUFC and NYSDEC.
Can you tell us about your job background and education?
Brian Widener: Before I was a forester, I worked at a couple of interesting hotels, including the Giant Forest Lodge in Sequoia National Park (no longer in existence) and the hotels on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, then I worked a few years in dark, sometimes windowless corporate offices.
After volunteering in Prospect Park in Brooklyn for a year, I decided to go back to school and graduate with a Forestry degree from Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff. I always tell everyone that I learned about two trees at NAU, ponderosa pine and Gambel oak. That’s it, haha! And only a few urban tree species were planted on the streets of this 7,000-foot-elevation town (Siberian elm and honeylocust, mostly). We hiked to the higher elevations of Arizona to study Douglas-fir, bristlecone pine, Colorado spruce, etc. and I learned a lot about native grasses, scrubby oaks, and cactuses at lower elevations.
Jeremy Barrick is Deputy Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources for the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation and a graduate of the Municipal Forestry Institute. This is adapted from a profile of Jeremy that appeared in City TREES.
Jeremy, can you tell us about your education and career trajectory? Jeremy Barrick: Growing up in a small town in Minnesota that had a city forester, I have always been interested in city trees. After passing through a couple of different declared majors in college, I came to my senses and settled on my boyhood dreams of managing city trees; who wouldn’t want to drive around town in a truck with a black lab and look at trees all day?
As a child I never had any interest in climbing trees. What I did like was having my feet on the muddy ground and scrambling under vines and logs, ending my day with wet knees and dirt under my fingernails. I remember getting my Arbor Day trees in the mail and planting them with my dad (25 years later, two of them are still around!) I remember as a fifth grader being very concerned about recycling, the Amazon Rainforest, and the humpback whale.
Throughout high school I was usually in one of two places—romping about with the Ecology Club or playing the piano and singing with school ensembles. I went on to study music education in college but I found that teaching music wasn’t for me; the thought of being cooped up in a classroom for the rest of my life seemed soul-crushing. I moved to Flagstaff to study forestry at Northern Arizona University, a move that didn’t shock the people who know me best.