Q & A
Women in Forestry
‘Sasquatch’ logger: Q&A with Janessa Nelson-Smith
February 28, 2023 By Waratah
Janessa Nelson-Smith grew up in a logging family, married into a logging family and has now joined a growing group of women making their careers in forestry.
Q: How did you get started in logging?
I’ve been surrounded by logging my whole life. My dad was in logging, and my brother followed. One day my brother came home and said to me, “Grab your stuff. You’re coming to work with me.” I thought it was so cool just to be going somewhere with my brother. That’s where it started.
I also married into a logging family. My husband’s family has had a logging company for over 60 years.
Q: What’s a normal day on the job like for you?
I used to log full-time. I did five seasons of logging. Now I work for Nicola Post & Rail in Merritt, British Columbia, cutting fence posts, posts and rail. I love running my limber.
Sometimes I cut sawlog, and we have customers that like firewood. We do a little bit of everything. I have two huskies and a husband, so not logging full-time is kind of nice. I like being able to do something different. Not a lot of operators like cutting this kind of small wood.
Q: What kind of equipment are you operating?
I’m using the Waratah 622B to get through the wood that we have in the mill. I really like the 622B because it’s quite versatile, has great speed and good measurements. It’s by far my favourite head. Waratah heads are built to work. That’s why the company has been around for 50 years.
Q: You’re a woman in the logging industry. Do people in the industry treat you any differently?
I grew up around it, so I don’t think anything of it. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some really great guys. I had one instance where a guy wouldn’t let me drive him to work because I’m a girl. But I just laughed and drove away. You have to have that attitude.
But it’s also nice to see more women are getting into the industry.
When I first started back in 2007, my nickname was Sasquatch, because it was so rare to have a woman on the job. But now, it’s becoming more common, which is really great to see!
Q: What are you most proud of?
I just love that I’m able to have a family life and do what I love at the same time. I have great friendships because of logging, and our family has created memories I’ll hold forever.
Logging is hard work, but it’s not just a job – it’s a passion. That’s what gets me up in the morning. I’m usually out there first to watch the sun come up. It’s very peaceful. If you enjoy being alone and quiet, then it’s the thing for you.
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!
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