October 17, 2022
An interview with Kate Forrer, outgoing Outreach Professional (and special projects master!) with the VT UCF Program
You've been with the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program for 16 years! How have you seen the program change during that time?
I've been reflecting on this one a lot. The Program has changed so much in so many ways yet we have stayed so core to our roots. As a program we have grown – I’m really proud of that – when I started it was just Danny [Danielle Fitzko] and I; through our partnership and collaborative approach we were really able to expand the program in exciting ways and grow out of the model that was mandated by the USDA Farm Bill. I was brought on to run the SOUL Tree Stewards program and that was a big part of what we were doing back then. When I think back, it was through our combined ability to envision possibilities but also see the needs and listen to communities that we were able to expand and build a foundation of what the program is today. The program has grown and evolved through all the hands that have touched it over the years. Each of us, whatever position we’ve been in with the program, have left our touch.
What do you consider some of your biggest successes with the program?
It was all a success! I feel like I truly grew up within the UCF program as an advocate for forests in Vermont. There have been so many prgrammatic successes over the years, but for me the biggest success is that I found my footing as a professional - both at UVM Extension as as a collaborator with the Dept. of Forests, Parks & Recreation and countless other partners - through the program. Part of the UCF program has always been about planting seeds - we’ve done that for communities and for volunteers, but also for ourselves.
What have been the notable challenges in supporting municipalities, volunteers, and other audiences in stewarding VT’s trees?
I think, looking back, one of the biggest challenges (and successes!) over time has been figuring out and adapting how the program engages people, gets them the resources they need to be involved with local volunteer-led tree programs, and keeps them involved. It's that local capacity piece. Even as an established program, it's a challenge. How do we do the work we do and grow, given the capacity we have?
What excites you about your new role at Vermont Woodlands Association and the future of VT’s forests?
A big part of what excites me is that it’s an opportunity to move from one amazing community to another, all in support of the people that care for our forests, from trees on the greens and along streets to trees in privately-owned woods. I’m excited for the work ahead. As a state we’re facing some pretty big challenges to our forested landscape, from fragmentation to climate change to landowner turnover and I see a whole body of work that needs to be done to help shape Vermont's future forests. I get to continue to work with many of the same partners, as well as many new partners, to continue to do this work.
What are some of your favorite Vermont trees?
I’m a sucker for maple and oak! When I think of maple I think of all the different ways that it ties us to the land as an iconic piece of VT culture, from fall color to maple syrup production. Oaks are strong and mighty and as we think about and prepare for adaptation and forests of the future, I think we’ll see much more oak on the landscape.
Any last words for the UCF audiences?
I reflect on my time with UCF and see how, while I started in the real community-facing, hands-on work with volunteers, I transitioned to really doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work. I've had so many different roles in the program, but if I were to pick one that really sticks out to me, it was running the SOUL Tree Stewards course all those years ago. Through SOUL, I got to know so many of the people that were - and still are! - doing on the ground tree stewardship work in communities across the state. Working with them and hearing their stories was a really big part of what has fed me over the years.
I'd like my goodbye to this community to be just plain gratitude. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the UCF program for the past 16 years.