WITC Scholarship Winners: No Holds Barred for Amber Lloyd and Margaret Gardner

TCIA offers two $1,000 scholarships annually for travel and related expenses for women in the industry to attend TCI EXPO and take part in the Women in Tree Care (WITC) Pre-Conference Workshop held there. The opportunity has garnered great interest in the past, and this year was no different.

Amber Lloyd
Amber Lloyd

“This past year, for the 2023 Women in Tree Care Scholarship, we had 17 applications,” says Erin (Demers) Aaron, TCIA’s manager, workforce recruitment and retention.

The selected recipients were Amber Lloyd, with Farmer Excavating & Cutting in California, and Margaret Gardner, with the City and County of Denver in Colorado.

“I am thankful TCIA can continue to offer opportunities for folks like Amber and Margaret to attend TCI EXPO,” says Aaron.

Amber Lloyd

Amber Lloyd is a faller and project manager for Farmer Excavating & Cutting, an excavating and tree-service company with a primary focus on fire-fuel reduction, wildfire mitigation and hazardous-tree removal.

“We are a small business in West Sonoma County with fewer than 10 employees, three of whom are women,” Lloyd says of Farmer Excavating & Cutting, a first-year TCIA member company based in Sebastopol, California.

Amber Lloyd was a trainee learning about tree felling
Here, Amber Lloyd was a trainee learning about tree felling. “As for eye protection, I took them off for the photo,” she says. Photo courtesy of Amber Lloyd.

Before working in tree care, Lloyd was a paralegal studying to take the bar, and she had never laid hands on a chain saw.

“I was miserable. I loathed going to work every day. And I hated being stuck in an office day in and day out, inundated with paperwork. Until one day I just decided enough was enough, and I quit with no clear direction on what I was going to do next. A neighbor and long-time friend who was looking to hire heard I was jobless and asked if I wanted to drag brush. I thought, ‘Sure, why not?’ and that’s how it all started.”
That was in 2019.

“I started as ground crew just dragging brush and chipping, then moved up to cutter, then climber followed by faller. Being that we are a small business, I currently hold the title of project manager, but still work out in the field and as a faller,” says Lloyd.

“My role at my company is mainly to supervise and train new employees in the field. The work can be dangerous, and safety is of paramount concern,” she says.

“My job on a typical day can vary depending on the job. Right now, we are working on the Glass Fire burn scar in Napa, doing wildfire mitigation, felling hazardous trees and burning slash piles. Usually the day starts by assessing the work site, checking equipment and reviewing safety procedures. We lay out the day’s work plan and start sizing up trees, coming up with a game plan for each tree before we start cutting.”

Lloyd says she has faced skepticism about her physical abilities, competence and suitability for the job, which made it difficult to find mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals in the industry in an effort to advance her career. In her scholarship application, Lloyd recognized that the WITC workshop is about more than just gender parity; it’s about fostering diversity of thought and perspective, promoting women’s voices in tree care and contributing to a more innovative and forward-thinking industry.

“The Women in Tree Care network helps to level the playing field in a historically male-dominated industry,” she says. “It supports women’s career advancement and offers a space for women to connect, share experiences and provide support to one another.

“At the Women in Tree Care workshop and TCI EXPO, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see so many women. It was empowering to see and hear from other women in the field.”

Asked for a next step in her career, she says she likes what she is currently doing.

“We recently got contracted as a faller mod (module, a two-person team assigned to specialized hazardous-
tree-falling operations) with CalFire, as a hired vendor,” Lloyd says. “We have yet to get a call, but that would definitely be the pinnacle of my career, to go out
on a fire and fell hazardous trees.”

Margaret Gardner

Margaret Gardner is an arborist with the City and County of Denver, Colorado. She started as a seasonal ground worker in spring of 2021 and quickly became interested and excited about climbing and technical tree care.

Margaret Gardner scholarship winner
Margaret Gardner

“The first tree I ever climbed was a big plains cottonwood during an aerial-
rescue training, and I was absolutely terrified. Tree work was never something I imagined myself doing, and now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.

“Every day is different as an arborist, and that’s one of the things I love the most,” Gardner says. “I climb at least two days a week, and I operate the aerial lift and the grapple. I’m involved in every aspect of urban tree care, and I learn something new about trees and myself every day.
“Prior to working for the City and County of Denver, I did botanical seed collection in Northwestern Colorado for a program called Seeds of Success,” Gardner says. “I also worked at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Mosca, Colo., doing everything from plant surveys, elk tracking, beaver-dam removal and measuring of the sand dunes. I have a degree in environmental science and love doing any job that gets me outside.”

"Tree work was never something I imagined myself doing, and now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else."
“Tree work was never something I imagined myself doing, and now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” Photo courtesy of Margaret Gardner.

First woman climbing arborist in

Gardner was the first woman climbing arborist ever hired by the City and County of Denver, and says the ability to be around other women in tree care holds a special place in her heart. She says she believes representation of women is important to encourage other women to get into tree care, as it can be an intimidating field if you don’t see yourself represented.

“As one of the only women employed in the production area of our forestry department, I don’t often get the opportunity to be around other women in tree care,” Gardner says. “It can be very difficult to convince people that, as a woman, I can do all the same work that men can. Sometimes it’s hard to have your voice heard as a minority in the tree care industry.”

At the time she was submitting her scholarship application, Gardner had recently done her first spike removal and was anticipating being able to start rigging. She said she believed that going to TCI EXPO would avail her of the opportunity to learn new techniques, network and provide opportunities to connect with others in the industry.

In the aftermath of that experience, she has adjusted her career plans somewhat.

“I am currently in the process of moving to New Mexico and finding a new arboricultural job,” Gardner says. “A long-term goal I have is to make it out to the Pacific Northwest and get a master’s degree in canopy ecology. The idea of being able to combine my newfound love/obsession for tree climbing and my passion for botanical and data science is an amazing prospect that I can’t wait to pursue.”

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