WHAT: Tree planting in Canada

Tree planting in Canada: a lucrative job that offers people with a high school education the chance to make a ton of cash, spend time in the great outdoors, embrace sex, drugs, and rock n roll, and get fit while helping save the planet. Each year, it’s idyllic images like these that inspire thousands of youngsters from Canada and beyond to buy a tent and shovel. They head for the Canadian wilderness and sign up to join a tree planting crew. Months later, some return fitter, healthier, and way richer. Others quit before they’ve even covered the cost of their shovel.

Maybe they couldn’t deal with the blackflies or mosquitoes. Perhaps they couldn’t hack being woken at dawn in a flooded tent, aching to the core, by tough-as-nails crew bosses yelling at them to shake a leg. Maybe they were just so preoccupied with images of booze-fuelled hippy orgies on cash-strewn camp beds they overlooked the warnings concerning the hellish, back-breaking reality of daily life for a Canadian tree planter.

 Tree Planter in Canada tired after working hard
Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth


Tree planters in Canada get team briefing
Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

Tree planting goes like this. Insert your shovel, displace some earth, throw in a seedling, back in with the soil, pat it down, job done in ten seconds flat. Simple right? But so is a push-up. How about ten thousand of them, back to back, in the mud, while being attacked by insects, day after groundhog day?

If you think tree planting in Canada sounds brutal, you’d be correct. Yet, despite hardships that would shame a Russian gulag, tree planting remains a popular, lucrative rite of passage for many young Canadians.


Tree planters in Canada walking up hill
Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

Despite being around for decades, the industry is just taking off. In 2018, Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau promised to plant two billion trees over the coming decade. Consequently, there’s an abundance of jobs tree planting in Canada. Moreover,  the demand for young, motivated tree planters is at an all-time high.


Tree planting in Canada. Virgin Terrain
Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

If you think you’ve got the raw minerals to try tree planting in Canada,  simply apply via one of the many agencies that contract with the government. If you’re accepted, the first thing you’ll need to purchase is a tent, shovel, sleeping bag, and non-reimbursable ticket to whichever boondock basecamp you’ll be operating from. Some planters stay in cheap motels. Most stay in temporary bush camps, which pack up and move out every month to a fresh, soon-to-be reforested location.


Tree planter in Canada taking a break
Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

From day one you’re in at the deep end. After a dawn breakfast, you’ll be ferried to your patch in a pick-up truck, quad, or maybe even a helicopter depending on your location. Prepare to spend the next eight to twelve hours zig-zagging for up to 20km a day across fields and mountainsides, expending the calorific equivalent of a marathon runner,  all day, every day for weeks, and months. Expect to dodge roots, stumps, and puddles, while weighed down by 50lb of seedlings. You’ll plant one, walk a few meters, plant another one, and another one, and another one, without missing a beat. If you do it wrong, your crew boss will dig up your plants, fling them back at you, and make you plant them again. Of course, there are days off. You´ll just be too exhausted to remember which day it is.


Tree planting in the rain
Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

Regardless of your sex, shape, or stamina, tree planting will utterly destroy you. Arriving in good physical condition may ease the initial suffering. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter how much you can squat, lift, or how far or fast you can run. Tree planting will still break you in half.

“The only way to train for tree planting,” say seasoned pros, “is by tree planting.” For these rock-hard veterans, tree planting in Canada is rarely about making friends, paying student loans, or saving to go snowboarding. It’s how they put food on the table year in, year out, season after season. Watch the way they operate. Pay particular attention to their mental game. They get on with the job. Head down, impervious to the torrential rain or blistering summer days. They’re thinking neither of the good life they left behind in civilization nor how they’ll spend their earnings when they return. By getting paid by the tree, they are literally reaping what they sow.


Team of tree planters working together
Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

Although rates vary, each seedling drop will land you around ten cents. The harder you work, and the more seedlings you offload, the fatter your paycheck. Skilled planters can drop thousands per day, which amounts to big bucks at the end of the season.  Around fifty percent of the workforce are female and often end up outpacing their male counterparts to become top planters.

Newbies should expect meager paychecks. Before you question your life choices, remember that with time comes experience. With experience comes more money, comes more motivation, more money, and so on.


Tree planting in Canada occurs in every province, usually during optimal climatic conditions for seedlings, through  April,  May, June, and July. Although the workforce is overwhelmingly Canadian, nationals from other countries may apply for a working holiday visa.


Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

If you like being bitten half-to-death by black flies, horseflies, and mosquitoes, you’ll love a job tree planting in Canada. Beyond that, planters have been surrounded by wolves, chased by bears, fallen off ridges, or just simply forgotten about and left behind. Unsurprisingly, the most common injuries are said to result from a combination of booze, boredom, and powerful, high-clearance off-road vehicles prone to performing cartwheels.


Photo Credit: Luc Forsyth

Tree planting in Canada will stretch your physical and mental limits to breaking point. If you can handle this, or better yet, learn to love it, the benefits can be substantial. Those who don’t tap out early can exit the season five figures richer. Seasoned planters can double or triple that amount. And if you think there’s zero stress relief, then think again. Interesting things happen when you throw a twice-weekly truckload of beer at a bunch of horny, mixed-gender twenty / thirty-somethings,  in prime shape, alone in the wilderness. And, after waking from a night of primal debauchery you get to ride in helicopters.

Finally, it’s not without reason that Doctors Without Borders and other NGOs look favorably on anyone with tree planting experience. The emotional, physical, and mental fortitude tree planting requires is a vital and highly transferable skill. Particularly for those performing demanding humanitarian work in less developed countries. In fact, research shows that top tree planters tend to be successful at any career they apply themselves to.


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