by Nat Frothingham
As it enters its third year, Sylvan Tree Care, a local Vermont company that’s based in Marshfield, appears to be establishing itself as a growing business with an impressive track record of safety and a growing list of satisfied customers. Backed by these achievements, why wouldn’t Sylvan Tree Care owner and operator Lincoln Earle-Centers be looking forward to another year up in the trees?
As a boy growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, Lincoln was never happier than when climbing trees. “I climbed for pleasure,” Lincoln told The Bridge.
As a kid, then as a teenager, he built tree houses and rope walks between trees. “I was a recreational tree climber before I became a tree professional,” Lincoln said. It was quite a pleasant surprise when Lincoln realized there was a trade to learn in climbing trees.
Ever cautious of the danger, but fascinated, even attracted to the heights, Lincoln said, “I would always climb the tallest tree in the woods just to get to the top and see the view.”
From North Carolina, across the country to California, then to Idaho, Lincoln climbed trees wherever he went, whether it was sleeping in hammocks high above the ground, or climbing an irresistible tree on a whim, or tree-sitting to protect a giant, old-growth redwood, he found enjoyment and a connection to the trees around him. For Lincoln – no doubt it’s his feeling and convictions about trees that inform his professional work as a tree care specialist.
“I love being in trees; the energy of trees; the structure of trees. It’s a thrill to discover a particularly good climbing tree and finding an uncommon view. My passion is tree preservation so that people can live safely around healthy trees,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln moved to Vermont from Idaho seven years ago in search of a place to settle and raise his kids, a place (and these are his words) “with the right mix of beautiful deciduous forest and great people.” He feels lucky to have landed in Vermont. “I can’t imagine calling anyplace else home,” he said.
During his time in Idaho, Lincoln met the man who would introduce him to the art and profession of working as an arborist. It was Mark Germain who hired Lincoln on to learn the ropes with Rembrandt Tree Care, a small family-owned operation. Lincoln remembers Mark as a truly talented old-timer who grew up logging in the redwoods, and who had become one of the highest regarded men in his region. After three years of working with Mark Germain, Lincoln, with his climbing background, had learned the basics and was ready to act as foreman and take responsibility as the head of the crews and as the company’s lead-climber.
When Lincoln moved to Vermont, he took a pause from his career as an arborist and worked as a builder, but he continued to take on tree work here and there. But random tree work wasn’t what he wanted. Lincoln was anxious to get back into the trees full-time. That’s when he started Sylvan Tree Care.
“It’s been such a pleasure taking the plunge of starting a new business,” Lincoln said. “And having it take off the way it has. I always dreamed of getting a business like this going when I came back east. What a wonderful thing to do what you love for a living.”
From his time in Idaho, Lincoln had learned the ethic of keeping his business small and simple. Out west he had specialized in climbing large and hard-to-reach trees without the help of bucket trucks or cranes. “We were often called in when outfits who were heavily reliant on machines and equipment couldn’t reach or get access to a job. I learned to do any job with the use of simple rope and pulley rigging, by hand,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln has applied that learning to Sylvan Tree Care. When removing large limbs or whole trees, Sylvan Tree Care uses plenty of chainsaw power. “But for everything else,” Lincoln said, “we have hand tools, pruning poles, ropes and lowering devices.”
By foregoing the use of large equipment—and Sylvan Tree Care even hauls all their brush in a trailer rather than using a chipper—the atmosphere of the work environment is transformed from one of loud and dangerous machines to one where tree care workers are employed in low-impact, low-cost, human-powered tools, ropes and devices.
“I don’t want to yell at coworkers and clients over the sounds of loud equipment all day, every day,” Lincoln said. “I don’t want to be disconnected from the tree I’m working on by hovering in a bucket over a heavy truck on the lawn, or having an aggressive chipper pulling limbs out of my hands. There are times when renting a chipper makes sense, or subcontracting a crane.
But day-to-day we operate with basic equipment.”
Summing it up, Lincoln said, “That feels safe. And our clients appreciate the low impact on their property and the lack of noise. And it’s a low-overhead cost model that let’s our prices stay low in doing work where hiring a professional is often the only option.”
Lincoln has been recently recognized as a “certified arborist” by the International Society of Arboriculture. “After a decade of being a professional in this field, it feels great to become personally certified through the most prominent organization in my line of work,” he said. As Lincoln talks about his tree care work, there’s an unmistakable enthusiasm for what he is doing. It’s work. But it’s more than work.
Or as Lincoln puts it, “Then there’s the sheer joy of climbing into a tree, of quietly moving from place to place. My job can be a meditation, a thrill. It can also be exhausting. But keeping things at a pace and a scale that fits each job is the trick. At the end of the day, I want to leave a tree that’s been cared for. And leave, also, a happy customer and get safely home to my family.”
For further information about Sylvan Tree Care, or to get free estimates or consultations call Lincoln at 802-279-7818, or go online to SylvanTreeCare.com
by Nat Frothingham