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Careers in arboriculture: An important, but often overlooked, piece of agriculture

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You may notice animal agriculture creeping its way into mainstream media with shows like Heartland, The Ranch, Yellowstone, Pig Royalty, and more, but what about our non-livestock raising friends? Where’s the shows about aquaculture, horticulture or … arboriculture?

“Arboriculture?” you may ask. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s partly because there’s no reality TV show about it, but probably also because it’s an overlooked sector of agriculture despite its importance.

Associate Professor Rebecca Hargrave of the environmental and renewable sciences department at SUNY Morrisville, won the 2022 Research and Education award from the New York State Arborists, and she takes the “boring” out of arboring!

If you’re still wondering what arboriculture is, it is the cultivation and management of trees and other woody plants like shrubs and vines. Arboriculture has three main areas of focus: commercial, utility, and municipal.

  • Commercial arboriculture focuses on private tree management, like if you need tree branches trimmed in your yard.
  • Utility arboriculture focuses on tree management around power lines or underground pipelines.
  • Municipal arboriculture focuses on pruning trees and shrubbery in city areas and along sidewalks. Arborists prune trees to allow them to live a long time without getting in the way of road signs, power lines, or daily activities.

Although it sounds like a mundane task, there’s a lot of knowledge and skill that goes into it. Trees are susceptible to diseases, they have pests, and they can harbor poisonous substances that can be dangerous for people and animals.

Did you know that black walnut trees can be harmful to some livestock? Many arborists can identify trees that may be harmful or are dangerous and help you manage or remove them.

Hargrave says that in addition to pruning, some arborists “identify pest and disease problems, evaluate abiotic conditions, and prescribe treatments. Treatments include improving air circulation around a tree, applying appropriate pesticides or fertilizers, root zone aeration and manipulation, or pruning off affected limbs.”

Arboriculture is a career path that aspiring farmers and outdoor adventurists should explore because it is an important and rewarding job. Arboriculture can take you down the path of hard work outside everyday, academia, research, public relations — or a bit of everything!

It is also important to note that arboriculture is important to other agricultural industries. If you’ve ever thought about going into forestry, orchard management, or horticulture, you’re already on your way to learning about arboriculture.

If I haven’t convinced you yet to consider arboriculture as a potential career path or field of study, take a better look at what you pay attention to on long drives or tranquil walks. We admire trees all times of the year, and we always have. We decorate cards and stamps with fall foliage, we admire forests like the redwoods and sequoias, we even bring trees into our houses to celebrate Christmas!

Hargrave says that “humans are inextricably linked to trees. Trees help us de-stress. They provide a welcoming place to recreate and add beauty to our personal environment. They are also a symbol of permanence and stability in our landscapes. Well-maintained trees reflect our commitment to the environment and our communities.”

Whether trees are your passion or not, you are surely affected by them everyday. Adding arboriculture to your list of things to learn will help you better understand your environment around you.

If arboriculture is something you’re willing to branch out into, you should look into the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) website to learn more. Being an arborist isn’t easy, and it requires years of training and practice. College can prepare you for a successful career as an arborist, or you can become certified through training courses that you can sign up for on the ISA website!


Elizabeth Maslyn is a born and raised dairy farmer from Upstate New York. Her passion for agriculture has driven her to share the stories of farmers with all consumers, and promote agriculture in everything she does. She works hard to increase food literacy in her community, and wants to share the stories of her local farmers.

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