By Michelle Werts

Earlier this month, the International Society of Arborists (ISA) announced the five members of the 2012 class of its “True Professionals of Arboriculture.”

According to ISA President Colin Bashford, “The True Professional honor is a celebration of those who reach for and strive to maintain high standards of the arboriculture industry. Their achievements and ideas educate and inspire others. We are proud they play such a leading role in promoting quality tree care.”

Since arborists are on the frontlines every day, protecting and studying trees in our cities, communities and forests, Loose Leaf is taking the next five Fridays to recognize this year’s “True Professionals” in celebration of the work of thousands of dedicated arborists across the country and around the world.

First up is Tim Kastning, an Idaho-based, ISA-Certified arborist and owner of Grace Tree Service, Inc.

Tim Kastning did not always plan on being an arborist. In fact, he was studying theology at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo., when his “true calling” struck. He was 25 years old and doing lawn-care work as the owner of American Lawn and Garden in Springfield. While driving down a street one day, he spotted a worker aloft in a tree on a rope and saddle.

Tim Kastning
Credit: Tim Kastning/ISA

“The man was tip-tying branches and roping them down over a house,” Kastning remembers. “I watched from my truck for about a half hour, and it was there I decided I wanted to do tree work. When this person came down from the tree, I introduced myself. Right then he taught me two knots — a taught-line hitch and a bowline. I memorized them and went home to practice them. I later bought some chainsaws, rope from a farm-and-feed store and climbing gear. I thought I was prepared. I remember the first tree I pruned was a large pin oak about 30 inches in diameter, and I killed it.”

Fortunately, the death of that tree didn’t end his career. With no real formal education in arboriculture, Kastning took advantage of various industry programs and quietly got involved where he could. He became an ISA-certified arborist, a board-certified master arborist, certified tree risk assessor and certified tree care safety professional and maintains ISA certifications as a municipal arborist specialist.

Kastning looks to his community to grow as an arborist and to run a business with a clear focus on giving back. One day while at a Chamber of Commerce leadership meeting in Coeur d’Alene, he learned about ElderHelp and the firewood charity program.

“As a tree-care company, we don’t sell firewood, so I try to dispose of it however I can,” admits Kastning. “Between the United Way and ElderHelp, we formed a partnership to provide about 100 cord a year to the elderly who cannot afford to buy it. Community volunteers from churches and clubs come to our yard nearly every Saturday in the fall to split up the wood and deliver it. This wood comes from trees that have to be removed, so if we don’t sell it, it’s ground up and sent off. This is a better and higher use of it in the end.”

“I learned a lot about arboriculture on my own,” continues Kastning, “So the best advice I can give another arborist is to simply apply oneself to education and certifications, set up a business well and follow the laws. There are a lot of arborists that ‘do what we do.’ There are fewer arborists that know ‘why’ they do what they do. The more I know about arboriculture, the more I realize there’s always more to learn.” –ISA and Tim Kastning

Come back next Friday to meet an arborist who spent 25 years working in oil fields before making the switch to arboriculture.