By Derek Lirange

The Master Tree Stewards Training Program is offered in the fall at Tower Hill as a deep dive course into tree care. The class meets once a week for five weeks in the fall. This year classes will be held on Wednesday evenings in October from 6 to 9 p.m. starting on Oct. 2. The program is a great introduction to all things trees, especially trees in our urban and suburban environments, covering topics like tree ID, tree pruning, biology, soil science, pests and diseases, and more. The course is led by Tower Hill’s Worcester Tree Initiative Department and features guest speakers from the College of the Holy Cross, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Clark University, and the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.  

The program attracts people from all around, not just the city of Worcester, with interests ranging from caring for trees at their home to starting their own community-based efforts in their hometown. Many people come with some experience, some even come with professional experience, but regardless of how much someone already knows, they have always learned something new from the program.  

One requirement of the course is to give 20 hours of volunteer time to Tower Hill Botanic Garden – either in the field with WTI or on the hill. Throughout the winter WTI prunes street trees around the city of Worcester as well as coordinating special projects in Worcester County. In order to truly become a Master Tree Steward participation in these projects is essential. In addition to the knowledge you gain in the classroom the practical experience you will gain in the field under the supervision of staff and your fellow volunteers will equip you with the skills and confidence you need to be considered a master. 

One highlight of our pruning program last year was visiting the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard to help them trim up some the of the trees and shrubs on their property. The Healing Garden approached us after seeing our appeal for projects. Upon learning more about the organizations purpose of providing care and healing programs for cancer patients and their families we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them and bring our stewards out to lend their talents to the cause. 

Besides just accomplishing the pruning work we do in Worcester and during special projects going to the Healing Garden, our hope is that participants in the program will return to their communities and become the caretakers and advocates of their neighborhoods and towns. 

Last year our stewards helped us to coordinate some of our spring planting projects. One volunteer helped to organize a small tree giveaway in her town with a local committee that she is on. We gave away 12 trees to families in the town and we also taught them about tree planting. Another steward helped to coordinate a planting with a cohort of volunteers she helped to organize. We planted 10 trees in four locations around town to help beautify parks and public spaces.  

These are the kinds of things we are proud to have inspired and helped to come to fruition through the Master Tree Stewards training program. We invite you to participate in this year’s program and get involved yourself. You can sign up through the Tower Hill website here. We hope you’ll join us!