She may not have graduated yet, but Diana Austin is sowing the seeds for an innovative new business that will help protect Nova Scotia’s environment and revitalize Cape Breton’s economy.
The Strait Area Campus student has launched Treenewal Forest Gardening & Forestscaping, which provides environmentally and ecologically ethical land management expertise to landowners across the province.
“There are many experts who can look at your property, tell you what kind of trees you have and how much those trees are worth,” says Diana, who is currently completing her second year of Natural Resources studies.
“What I do is tell people the ecological value of their trees in a way that gets them involved in managing and preserving their property. So if you’re a bed and breakfast that wants to attract more deer or bald eagles to delight your guests, or you just want to protect an endangered tree species on your land, I help you create an environmentally sound habitat to do that.”
An inspired endeavour
Inspiration for the venture came in part from a conversation Diana had with her instructor, Waddie Long, about an elm tree on her family’s farm that had escaped the ravages of Dutch elm disease.
“He suggested I collect some seeds from the tree to save it, and that started me thinking that not only could I participate in the rehabilitation of this particular tree species, I also could engage people in enriching their land so it will be around for generations to come.”
Much to Diana’s delight, Waddie agreed to be her business mentor, and she says his knowledge has been crucial in getting Treenewal up and running. “He created the Natural Resources program at NSCC, drawing on his industry experience, and he has a strong passion for what he does. He’s been very encouraging and supportive of me, and so have my other instructors.”
Long a mentor to NSCC students in starting new business, Waddie says he is particularly impressed by Diana’s focus and determination.
“I connected her with the Students in Business loan program and she just ran with it. She has a strong work ethic, a connection to the land, and no real competition, and once she has a supply of trees that are suited to Cape Breton’s climate, I think she’s going to do very well.”
Diana is currently creating a nursery of native and naturalized trees and she’s already landed a client or two. She not only hopes to inspire Nova Scotians to plant trees, she’d also love to encourage habitats that help Cape Breton landowners and companies generate new business through investment or tourism.
“Cape Breton is my home, and it’s hard to watch so many people leave for opportunities. If I can breathe new life into this island, then I’ll be happy.”