Immersed in forestry: Q&A with Ann-Marie Baron, OH&S manager at Lemare Group
By Jennifer Ellson
All the world’s a stage, said William Shakespeare, but as for Ann-Marie Baron, the word for world is forest.
“My dad spent 40 years in the industry, I am in the industry, my husband and kids are involved in the industry, the whole town is into forestry,” says Ann-Marie, who is currently the occupational health and safety and labour relations manager at Lemare Group, a privately owned harvesting, road building, log brokerage and civil works company based on Vancouver Island.
On top of that, Ann-Marie was re-elected last year for a second term as a councillor for the municipal council of Port McNeill, located on Vancouver Island’s north-east shore and was originally a base camp for loggers.
To paraphrase another power woman, Ann-Marie’s family is living in a forestry world and she is a forestry girl (or woman, rather.)
CFI: You started your career in special education, what led you to become involved in the forest industry?
I was at a point in my career – working part time hours in the public school system, while my children went to school – that I was ready for full time work. The forest industry allowed me to take that step.
CFI: What was it like for women when you first got involved in the industry?
When I started 18 years ago, there were women in administrative roles – payroll, accounts payable and occasionally you would meet a registered professional forester [RPF]. Now I expect to walk into a room and expect to find many women in compliance roles, as well as professionals like RPFs, biologists, etc.
CFI: In your years of experience, how do you think the logging industry has evolved in terms of diversity and inclusion? Have you seen it improve over the years?
In my bubble of exposure in north Vancouver Island, I have seen a steady increase of women in forestry. Our local Ministry of Forests and BC Timber Sales have more women than men employed in their offices. Forestry has an opportunity for many disciplines. For example, a married couple, both working in the forest industry, can have such diverse work scopes that when you overhear their dinner table conversation, you would think they worked in different fields. I find if you can do the task assigned, you will be accepted.
CFI: What do you like most about working in the logging industry?
I have been extremely fortunate in my career at Lemare that I have been encouraged by ownership and management to learn and participate in many different components or parts of the business. If I am trying to understand how regulations apply to the technical or operational side, the supervisors I work with say, “Hop in!” and we go to a worksite to watch or participate in the actual activity.
The industry is its own little family, there are connections through the work, logger sports, community sponsorship and partnerships that keep you invested. As a third generation, with my son being the fourth generation in our family to work in coastal B.C. logging, there is always someone who knows or worked with your family members and that has its own value and support.
CFI: What positive effects from forestry do you see in your community?
Forestry allowed both my daughter and bonus daughter the ability to work in positions that gave them valuable experience and a higher rate of pay while they were preparing for and attending post secondary school. My son and bonus son have both been apprentices and certified – one as a heavy duty mechanic and one as a welder and blaster.
Our town has held logger sport competitions for 11 years. Three members of our team (Nick Russel in the men’s division, my son in rookie, and Allison Briscoe in the women’s division) have all competed in Stihl Timbersports at both the Canadian and international levels. It sure swells your heart with pride when you hear your community mentioned and see your team on The Sports Network.
(Ed’s note: Stihl Timbersports is an extreme sport competition series where lumberjack sport athletes compete in the use of axes and chainsaws.)
Many of our local sports teams, and events on the north island are sponsored by forest industry companies.
CFI: Any advice for women who are looking to get into the forest sector?
The best pieces of advice I received, from a gruffled old-school logger, was “Take yourself seriously or no one else will” and, “Don’t let anyone talk to you in a way that they wouldn’t speak to their mom or sister.” I believe that you have to be passionate about whatever is important to you but don’t pretend to know everything. You have to be open to learning: All. The. Time.
This article is part of CFI, Pulp & Paper Canada and Canadian Biomass’ Women in Forestry series, an annual celebration of women in the industry. Find more content here and follow us on social media with the hashtag: #WomeninForestry.
Remember to join us for the Women in Forestry Virtual Summit on Mar. 7 at 11 am ET/8 am PT! It’s FREE to register. Sign up now!