In Canada, the world’s largest exporter of wood products and where logging companies are required by law to replant the forests that they clear cut, no machine has been invented to date that can plant trees more effectively than a hard working young person with a shovel.

Tree planting is one of the toughest summer jobs in North America, but this story is about more than work. It is the story of escapism and community set against the backdrop of wilderness, brutal manual labor, and a tribal rejection of 21st Century conveniences.

A hard working tree planter often expends the same energy during a day of planting as an Olympic marathon runner, and they do this for months on end while living in isolated camps across Canada’s boreal forest. Tasked with the manual replanting of the nation’s clearcuts, they are on the bottom rung of the commercial forestry industry and typically reject the image of themselves as environmental champions for one of highly paid specialists. 

But ultimately what draws tree planters back into the bush season after season is about more than money. It is about sharing an experience, one that is as simple as it is backbreaking. At a time when raw physical challenges are increasingly scarce for middle class youth, tree planting offers an alternative way of living that forges relationships through the embracing of hardships.