Blog : Green Collar Careers: Cornerstone Tree Care Owner Micum Davis

By Patrick Haigis | Dec 3, 2014 | in

By Anna Murphy

Some equate Micum Davis, owner of Cornerstone Tree Care, to the Lorax. Much like Dr. Suess’s lovable character, Davis always does what is best for the environment and the trees with which he works. At 38, Davis has already amassed a wealth of knowledge in the proper techniques to service trees and maintain their long-term health.

Because every tree has a unique form, Davis studies their basic structure before making his first move. From limbs interfering with power lines, trees blocking roads and walkways to injuries and property damage, trees can cause serious and life-threatening problems. Pruning eliminates existing hazards while preemptive work – removing dead or weak limbs - can help prevent damage during storms. In order to protect the trees from damage during pruning, Davis and his employees use a system of rope knots and belays to scale the trees without damaging the bark or using spikes in what he refers to as an "aerial circus act."

Through the Nature Conservancy, Cornerstone Tree Care has raised more than $3000 to plant over 3040 trees in areas suffering from deforestation. Davis goes beyond your average landscaper, providing volunteer tree care services to the community and offering pro bono work for local tree care projects, for which he pays his employees. Though he echoes the Lorax when he says he speaks for the trees, Davis is also a voice in the community, making his services available when they are needed, not just when affordable.

A proud member of Seacoast Local, 99 percent of Cornerstone’s tree jobs are within a twenty mile radius. Davis travels to those jobs in a hybrid vehicle. To further conserve resources, Cornerstone has a no-idling policy on all trucks and equipment which operate on the highest grade of biodiesel. Trees and branches removed during jobs are repurposed in a variety of ways, such as in Cornerstone's own wood-chipped mulch. As an environmentally-conscious business, Cornerstone Tree Care is determined to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible.

Anna Murphy (AM): What do you like most about your job?
Micum Davis (MD): There is a lot I really like about my job. I like that it lets me stay connected to the natural world and help others to do the same. Trees are living art pieces, each with a different structural form. I have the fortunate position to help folks build greater appreciation for that form and a stronger understanding of their trees. Most people love trees and are in awe of them, but because of the variety and complexity of trees, there is much mystery surrounding them. I love that I can help people better understand what they can expect from their trees in terms of strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, and how they vary from one another. I love to help guide people make sound decisions in caring for, preserving or even removing their trees where appropriate.

AM: Where did you go to college? Does your college education help with your current job? What skills from college most prepared you for the work you do now?
MD: I have a degree in English from the University of New Hampshire, class of 2002. My degree prepared me to communicate well with customers and potential clients. The ability to write well has helped me excel in my field and be very specific as needed for detailing work orders and communications to employees as well as customers. Studying English required that I listen well. This is extremely valuable to succeed in any sales field. You have to listen effectively and without ego to understand what your potential customers want, need and expect. I would also argue that studying English has helped me learn well and acquire new information, which is important. I have had interests all over the map and English didn’t restrict me to any one discipline. It allowed me the flexibility to study a wide variety of things. It took me eight years to graduate, but I took the path less travelled. After three years, I took a year off from school and started my business. At that point, I didn't know where I was going and it was a great way to get grounded. It helped me support myself while going to school part time to finish my degree. When I finished, I was in a good position to follow my passions which included getting paid to climb trees.

AM: What do you look for in an employee in this field?
MD: Honesty is one of the most important things to me. I want someone who is reliable, someone I can trust. I look for somebody who is proactive. Someone who thinks ahead, listens well, and has good spatial, physical and mechanical sense. My employees need to have a good attitude and experience working outside. They can’t be afraid to get their hands dirty.

AM: What made you integrate sustainability into your business/go into a green industry?
MD: It doesn’t make sense to go about in the world and undercut the natural ecosystem that supports us. That is an inefficient and shortsighted approach. I grew up in a restaurant that my dad still runs. He used everything when he cooked. We had to be really efficient and frugal. The waste involved in traditional business gets under my skin and makes me want to run my business sustainably. A lot of problems are caused by focusing on profit instead of producing a healthy product. We use biodegradable bar and chain oil and two cycle engine oil made from beef tallow in our chainsaws. There is so much waste out there so why not utilize a product that’s repurposing something and also add less to the waste stream. It’s a double benefit. You get to lessen your impact by not using a virgin material and prolong the use of a recycled resource. It’s the sensible thing to do.

AM: What are you most proud of in your business as relates to sustainability?
MD: I am proud of how we are able to reuse waste from the trees that we remove and prune. We’re able to recycle almost everything. Some logs we sell to a local lumber market. Others get made into mulch or sold as smoking wood to restaurants. We also help customers cut and saw wood after removal so that they can use it in future projects. We work with a guy who has a portable mill that can cut logs into boards right on site. That way, we don’t have to truck the logs to the mill or go pick up boards after. We also have a small firewood business that sells out early each winter. It’s really rewarding to see people use the trees they had to take down.

GA member receive a one-time discount of 10% off any tree job!

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Learn more about Cornerstone Tree Care: PO Box 4505, Portsmouth, or call 603.436.8733 (office), or 603.396.3200 (cell), or visit www.cornerstonetree.com

Anna Murphy is a senior English major at UNH and a writer for the Green Alliance.