Arboriculture – or tree care – is not a million miles away from farming, and most producers will already have a lot of the skills necessary, according to Steve Tinkler, arboriculture lecturer at Houghall College near Durham.
Setting up as a tree care specialist could be a useful way to supplement farm income and there are growing opportunities for people with the relevant qualifications, he says.
More than 95% of Houghall’s arboriculture students find work straight after leaving college, a fact which reflects the growing importance of trees as part of the landscape, points out Mr Tinkler.
Studying is designed to be flexible, and mature students with experience may not always need formal qualifications for their applications to be considered.
Six arboriculture/woodland courses are offered, to suit a range of abilities and ambitions.
For many producers, tree care can provide self-employed, flexible work that can usually be fitted in around farming responsibilities, explains Mr Tinkler.
Options include consultancy, setting up a logging or planking business, or one-off jobs for private clients.
Skilled workers can also tender for tree management contracts or apply for jobs with local authorities and organisations like the Forestry Commission.
For the self-employed, the basic tools of the trade are relatively inexpensive, he points out.
“A four-wheel drive vehicle, a trailer and a chainsaw are the main requirements, but of course most farmers have those anyway.
“A planking machine will cost anywhere between 400-4000 and it can also be used for making wooden gates and sculptures.
For post-making, machine prices start at about 1000.
Tree-climbing and safety equipment is fairly cheap to buy, and should last for a long time.”
However competition can be fierce, he warns.
“Most people asking for a quote will contact at least two competitors, so it can be difficult.
There is an element of marketing needed, especially when first starting up in business.
“Nevertheless, word will soon spread if a good job is carried out at a fair price.
Word-of-mouth is really the best form of advertising.”
There are also opportunities for the more adventurous to work abroad, he adds.
“Some of our students have found employment in the logging industries in Canada and New Zealand. Others have gone to work for large corporations in the USA managing trees in the towns and cities.
“There is also demand for qualified tree experts all over Europe.”