Can you tell us about childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in forestry and urban forestry?
Eric Greenfield: I grew up in Delhi, New York in the western Catskills. Delhi is small community surrounded by agriculture and forests and is home to one of the SUNY campuses.
Growing up, my interaction with nature was primarily through family camping and Boy Scouts (Troop 33). My father was a professor at SUNY Delhi, so our summers were filled with family camping trips, mostly throughout upstate New York. Unlike the typical Boy Scout troop meetings, our troop met twice a month over weekends at the troop leader’s camp in the woods. Most of my “woods” skills—like tree ID, wildlife tracking, survival skills, and ecological awareness—were developed there. In relation to urban forestry, some of my most vivid memories are of the large American elms in Delhi and the community mourning their loss when they were removed because of Dutch elm disease.
My dad was very active in our church and in community service. Participating in activities with him really helped to build my appreciation for service to neighbor, nature stewardship, and spirituality in nature. I was fortunate to be selected to participate in the American Legion Boy’s State as a teenager, and that experience helped shape my interest in the positive role of government.
I like to think that forestry (and especially urban forestry) augmented my focus on public service. The transition was natural as my appreciation of the working landscape in the Catskills grew.