The Future of SAF: Brittany Church
December 10, 2019
Continuing with profiles of up-and-coming SAF members, this month The Forestry Source
features Brittany Church. Church is a senior studying forestry at Grays Harbor College in Washington State. In 2017, she joined the college’s SAF student chapter and swiftly moved into leadership roles. She was the District 1 student representative on the Student Executive Committee (SEC) and is the 2019–2020 SEC chair. In her own words, Church shares how a simple question set her on a path to becoming a forester.
Turning a Passion into a Career
By Brittany Church
My career path to forestry was an indirect one to say the least. I grew up in Raymond, Washington, a small coastal town that relies heavily on natural resources as a source of commerce. The two largest industries are timber products and seafood. I grew up in a family that relied on both for a source of income. My family consists of third-generation loggers, as well as commercial fishermen and fisherwomen. Raymond is surrounded by working forests, yet I was oblivious to the active management of these timberlands. Growing up, all I knew was that trees grew, loggers cut them down and took them to the mill to be processed into lumber, and the cycle continued year after year. As a child, I spent many days in the passenger seat of a log truck, yet I had never heard of a forester.
Fast-forward to age 16. I decided to participate in the Running Start program, which allows students to take college classes at the age of 16 instead of high-school classes. At this point, I had changed my mind a million times on what I wanted to pursue. I wanted to be a marine biologist, a merchant marine, a longshorewoman, a heavy-equipment operator, a firefighter, a Coast Guard ship captain, a photographer, etc. As deadlines approached, I decided to join Grays Harbor College’s vocational welding program, get my welding certification, and pursue a degree in diesel technology.
I met with a college adviser and explained my plan. She asked what my hobbies outside of school were. I happily shared my passion for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping—basically, everything outdoor-oriented. She gave me a confused look and asked one simple sentence, “So… you want to become a welder?” In that moment, my career path took an abrupt turn. My adviser signed me up for a quarter of forestry classes.