How does a person who really loves the great outdoors, but can’t do without the creature comforts of the city choose a place to live and work? They become an urban forester. At least that’s what Landcare Gardener Becky Schmidt did.
“After a couple years working in the Twin Cities, I realized that maybe I wasn’t cut out to live in a cabin in the woods all by myself,” commented Schmidt.
Growing up in southeast Wisconsin, Schmidt went on a lot of family vacations in a camper and was exposed to many hiking and outdoor experiences at state and national parks. An avid girl scout, she really enjoyed hiking and backpacking and looked into what kind of job would allow her to do that all the time.
Forest Ranger is what Schmidt came up with, and she pursued a degree in Forestry and Recreation Resource Management at the University of Minnesota. She worked as a student Landcare worker, but after graduating in 2002 found that Forest Ranger jobs are hard to come by.
Schmidt worked seasonal jobs for the City of Plymouth as a tree Inspector and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doing prairie restoration. While working in Plymouth and at the DNR, her interests started to change. She got more interested in urban forestry and started to appreciate the benefits of living in the city.
Wikipedia describes urban forestry as, “the careful care and management of urban forests (i.e., tree populations in urban settings for the purpose of improving the urban environment). Urban forestry advocates the role of trees as a critical part of the urban infrastructure.”
Hired as a gardener by the U in February of 2005, Schmidt views Landcare’s responsibilities as urban forestry. Trees make a big difference in the campus landscape, but need proper care to survive in the city.
“Trees and landscaping are more limited in urban environments like the U,” said Schmidt, who oversees the operation and maintenance of all the underground sprinkler systems on the Twin Cities Campus. “Out in the forest, if two trees die, nobody’s going to notice. But, if two trees die in your yard, you’re going to notice. So, it’s important to take care of them.”
Returning to work for her alma mater also meant that Schmidt would be working with her husband, Landcare staffer Chad Schmidt. The couple, who married in 2004, became college sweethearts after meeting in a freshman dorm.
While Schmidt and her husband seem to agree on a lot of things – working at the U, living in Minneapolis, hiking, camping, the Minnesota Twins – there is one thing they agree to disagree on. She is a Packers fan and he is a Vikings fan.
It must have been awkward watching the Vikings play the Packers these past two seasons, when she had to root against both her husband and Brett Favre. Much like deciding whether to live in the city or the forest when you love them both.