Talking Trees with Davey Tree

Learn About Davey's Annual Four-Week Flagship Training Program D.I.T.S.

February 23, 2023 The Davey Tree Expert Company Season 3 Episode 8
Talking Trees with Davey Tree
Learn About Davey's Annual Four-Week Flagship Training Program D.I.T.S.
Show Notes Transcript

Three students from the Davey Institute of Tree Sciences (D.I.T.S.) training program talk about the benefits of this annual four-week program, what they are learning and why they feel appreciative of the opportunity to attend D.I.T.S. Andy Grassia from Davey's Richmond office, Samuel Torres from Davey's North Philadelphia office and Santiago Valencia from Davey's utility Gulf region also discuss taking the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist® exam and the fun experiences they've had in Kent, Ohio, the past four weeks. 

In this episode we cover:  

  • Four-week long training (0:40) (5:20) (8:55)
  • Most enjoyable part about D.I.T.S. (1:05)
  • Parts of D.I.T.S. most looking forward to (1:38)
  • What is taught at D.I.T.S.? (3:11)
  • D.I.T.S. reputation (7:57)
  • "We're all in this together" (10:35)
  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist® exam (11:22)
  • Why arboriculture? (13:22)
  • The fun parts of D.I.T.S.! (17:08)
  • Instructor R.J. Laverne (20:02) 

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Doug: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Companies podcast, Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each week, our expert arborists, share advice on seasonal tree care, how to make your trees thrive, arborists favorite trees, and much, much more. Tune in every Thursday to learn more, because here at The Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer.

On this Week's Talking Trees podcast. It's three guests for the price of one joined by Andy Grassia, Samuel Torres and Santiago Valencia. Andy is from Richmond, Virginia. Sam is from North Philly, and then Santiago is from the Gulf region, and they're all together in Kent, Ohio for Davey's flagship training program called the Davey Institute of Tree Sciences. You guys are there in Kent for four weeks. Is that right, Andy?

Andy: Yes, we've been here for four weeks. We're just entering our last and final week. It's been a grind ever since we got here, but we're looking forward to wrapping things up this week and taking all of our knowledge back home at the end of this week.

Doug: Tell me just a little bit about this. Any one of the three of you, what has been one of the things that you've enjoyed the most about the training you want to start, Sam?

Sam: For me, one of the things I've loved the most about this training is getting to see the scope of the company and meeting people from literally every region of the country and also Canada. I honestly had no idea the breadth of the company and how many people we employed and how many different services that we offered. It's been a very eye-opening experience.

Doug: Santiago, is there any certain part of this training that you were really looking forward to?

Santiago: Really in order for expand our progress as a company, I believe the majority of the scenarios that I see in here is going to help us in many ways. I can tell you that I don't know nothing about Turf, and I learned a lot that it is going to be something that I'm going to definitely take back to Florida and start messing with that in my operation.

Doug: What do you think, Andy, was there any specific thing in the training that you were most looking forward to, or you got the most out of?

Andy: Yes, I agree with Sam. It was interesting seeing how many things Davey does and what's considered under the Davey umbrella but one of the most recent things we just did actually today was where is Davey going in the next 10, 15, 20, 30 years. It was really cool seeing how a lot of the folks up here at corporate office are already putting those concrete foundations in place for future success.

One of the things that has been constantly brought up time and time at again with all the presenters and instructors coming through, the folks that are in the classroom are going to be leading the charge going forward. It's cool seeing how Davey is actively investing in the future of itself as a company and especially as an employee and company, how they're constantly investing in the future. We learned a lot about what Davey's taking right now and what they're going to put forward in the future.

Doug: Specifically, what are some of the things that you guys are learning about? Is this climbing-type stuff or is this more like science? Sam, fill me in a little bit about what you're learning.

Sam: It's like totally encompassing program. We're learning everything from rigging and climbing to plant biology, to soil dynamics. It really is a complete package when it comes to every service that we offer. Just like Santiago was saying, I would've never imagined you could get so deep in on Turf science, but it's there. We have the experts there to facilitate those sorts of classes. It's just really excellent getting all this knowledge from PhD professors that are really deeply ingrained in their fields.

Doug: Santiago, tell me some more things that you enjoyed about this besides the Turf because you know what? When I've done podcasts on Turf they've turned into two parters. There were some of the first podcasts we ever did we're two-parters because there's so much information on Turf. What kind of other stuff are you learning?

Santiago: We can say that the information that we receive is going to be value to ourselves, but something that I truly enjoyed is to have the opportunity to talk with many different characters in this class. I have a chance to feel the most of the guys in here, they want to be here. There's no one single person that you can tell that they don't have that enthusiasm to be able to participate or to share their experience or to share some personal stories about what happened in their field. That is something that I believe that is more important for me, be able to connect with the guys, be able to enjoy them day-to-day in the class because believe me as of right now, we probably know some of them very well, and we have quite a few characters over there. I think that's something that I really appreciate. I enjoy that as of this moment.

Doug: Guys, when you were thinking about coming to the training, talk a little bit about the four-week thing. When you're back home and making this decision, hey, we're going to go to Ohio for four weeks. What were you thinking, Andy? Is this something like, "Geez, four weeks is a long time."

Andy: No, it's, four weeks is definitely a long time to be away from home, be away from the office. At the beginning of the four weeks everyone told us it's going to go by fast. Just try to enjoy it, try to take it slow, and obtain as much information as possible. They were exactly right. These past four weeks just absolutely flashed on by and we were all talking yesterday morning at breakfast how fast it's gone, how we can't believe we're leaving here at the end of the four weeks but my mentality coming in, I was thinking that this is an investment.

I'm investing my time, my energy and Davey is investing their resources in me to not only make me a better leader in this industry but also to bring this back home and make that client experience oh so much better by implementing what I'm learning in the classroom and by investing this time and energy. Hopefully I can take this back home and really make my clients experience both with me as their plant healthcare tech, but also with Davey as a whole.

Doug: Sam, has it been intense? Again, four weeks and a lot of classroom and other types of training. Talk a little bit about that, going to an intense school for four weeks.

Sam: Yes, I can definitely say as someone who already came into this with a degree in horticulture, it almost feels like I'm taking a full semester college course. Back to Andy's point, it's really nice because I actually met Andy this time last year. We did a week-long event for DIHS, which is Davey Institute of Horticultural Science. Just being able to meet people like Andy that are passionate and ambitious like myself just to be able to get more time with that and to have more of an intensive all-encompassing program has really been great.

We've been getting a lot of information thrown at us on a daily basis. We're in the classroom for nine, sometimes 10 hours a day but I've really, really enjoyed it. Like Andy was saying too, everyone that's here has, you can tell that they're enjoying themselves and we're all really, really passionate about what we're doing here.

Doug: Santiago is this like a big deal back in the office like, "Hey, he gets to go to Ohio for four weeks and when you come back, you've got all this special certification."

Santiago: More than a big deal. I believe that isn't a great opportunity they bring it to us. I'm being blessed by having this opportunity. I see, I'm looking forward for many of my folks down in my area. Probably they're going to also have this opportunity. I hope that they have the same joy that I have in these four weeks.

I'm looking forward also to gather the information. Sam and Andy said value things right now as what we going to do with that knowledge, because we have PhDs here helping us, giving us information, what we're going to do with all the things that we learned, that I think is the key of the base, what we're doing with this deeds course.

Doug: Santiago to follow up on that, from your point of view before coming, what were your thoughts being away for four weeks? Was it like, "Well, this is going to be awesome, I need this training, or is it like, I need the training, but man, four weeks, that's a long time to be away from home."

Santiago: It is challenging, but here's the thing. Most of us are going to take the ISA exam. That is one of the key factors for us coming to this class because Sam says that this is an advanced program and a semester of science and learning techniques and a lot of stuff. Well, all of that is going to be implemented on the test, some of us are going to take in tomorrow. Imagine that I'm going to be away from my kids and my wife for a month, but I'm going to add a value degree to my career. I'm going to be able to grow up in the change of command of this company and also bring more food on my table . It's something that I'm going to be very grateful for the time that I've been here and receiving all this training.

For some of the guys that asked me many weeks ago, going over there, you taking all this time and how is going to be affecting your income. I say, ''You know what, probably is not going to be the way that I think, but in the long run, I'm going to receive something better for me because the experience that I have from these four weeks, nobody's going to take that away from me.''

Andy: Just piggyback off of what Santiago was saying, we're all in this together. Each of us are coming from all corners of the United States. Some up in Canada. We all have the common goal in mind to make ourselves better, and to prepare for that ISA exam that we're all taking tomorrow night. If some of us are getting homesick or if someone needs help with a certain topic, we all jump in to try to coach, try to walk through, try to redirect. Or if we can't figure out the question or a certain topic, we can just go right over to the institute and ask the instructors who have PhDs like Sam was talking in that field to get that answer. We're all in this together. It's been a long four weeks, but we're looking forward to wrapping it on up.

Doug: Is there pressure in taking this ISA test because that's a big deal to become ISA certified? Andy, do you feel that you're going-- do you know much about the test? If people told you it's difficult. It's okay.

Andy: Yes. It's a 200-question exam. We have three and a half hours to take it. It's all multiple-choice. It's definitely nothing to sneeze at, but what's also so cool about the ISA exam is that it's international. It's world-renowned. People know that if you have, or if you hold that credential, the ISA credential, you know your stuff you're walking onto a property with a whole new perspective. Our clients like to see that. Our clients like to see that we are truly experts in this field because they're looking for answer. It's going to be a long exam. It starts at 6 and ends at 9:30 PM. It's definitely going to be a grind, but this is something that we all worked for. The finish line is so close, but we still have one more day and 200 questions to answer before we can get this mission accomplished.

Doug: Anyone nervous about taking this test or not?

Sam: I'm not nervous at all. I already took the test, I've been certified, but one thing I can say is I feel really confident just by hanging around these tree nerds for the last four weeks. I think most of the guys, if they want to pass this test, which I'm pretty sure everybody does, they'll have no problem with it. Just given everyone's level of intelligence and level of commitment. After having gone through almost the whole program like we only have a few days left, I really think they did a great job of preparing everybody to take the test. Just to reinforce what Santiago was saying, they're giving us a lot of knowledge, but knowledge is only potential power. It really only becomes power when you use it.

Doug: Sam, you were already into horticulture. Why Arbor culture for you?

Sam: For me, if I could, I would focus on every plant on planet Earth, but I just started realizing within the last five years that trees really tickle my fancy. That's what I've been trying to streamline towards. That's been my focus. I still love herbaceous plants, but trees are really what do it for me.

Doug: Santiago, what about for you? What drove you to be doing this for a living?

Santiago: To be honest with you, the leadership aspect. I don't know much about the three signs, I'm learning here with DITS. I am most likely been focused in my career on the leadership. I came from the utility. We deal with treating a different matter. We don't say that we don't love trees, but we treat them differently because we need to make sure that we provide a reliable service to our utilities. They need power. Sometimes trees interfere with power lines. That is when the hate and love, they start balancing. They love their trees, but then when they have an average or a storm, then they want to need anything possible in order to take the power back on. That is when Davey became one of the best and biggest company providing that service, especially down in Florida.

Sometimes we need to treat trees in a humble way, and I'm learning now how can I impact those in a different way, safe, reliable, and also make some customers happy. To answer your question more straight, the leadership part, dealing with people, dealing with men, be able to maneuver and manage a massive in accounts that sometimes bring you challenges There some people, some folks, maybe have the science process, but they don't know how to deal with the leadership perspective in the field. That is the reason why now I'm trying to get in like a superhero, getting every tool that I can possibly use to come back home and use those.

Doug: Andy, why is the job right for you?

Andy: Well, I started off in college. I really wanted to be a park ranger. I came into college undecided, wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to be outside. I couldn't see myself being behind the desk for the rest of my life. I was like, "Okay, park ranger." I really thought that's the only thing I could do with the degree that I was obtaining until I took a class in my junior year. It was called Trees in the Built Environment. it talked about arboriculture and it was taught by an ISA-certified arborist. I was like, "Whoa, I did not realize I could do all of this tree work, and work with trees outside of being a park ranger."

That's when I really started to put my nose to the grindstone. I took a class called Dendrology, or the study of trees where I had to memorize, and know how to identify over 120 different trees. Trees are no joke. They do not play games. Once you learn to respect them and once I learned how to accurately identify them, I felt it was my job in my position and my duty to go on out and be a steward of the trees and really speak for them. Now more than ever, trees are becoming more and more important in our urban environment. Coming to DITS is really, I really wanted to focus in on that. The focus in on why trees are so important to humans, our urban environment but also the world as well.

Doug: What's been the most fun for you, Sam?

Sam: Honestly the most fun for me has been going out with everyone at the end of almost every day or on the weekends. It's been great. Everyone's very sociable, very personable. I honestly didn't think that I would click with so many different people. We have a class of 45 individuals, and for the most part, by and large, everyone's been really awesome to be around. Everyone's very helpful. Like I said, going back to earlier, everyone's really passionate about trees, the environment. Like Santiago said, he brings things like leadership to the table and we can compliment that with tree biology and whatever else. It's like we're forming a really nice mosaic of all things, trees in the environment, which has just provided a lot of value for me that I'm going to in turn, bring back to my office and hopefully provide value to the people I work with.

Doug: Santiago, what's the most fun for you?

Santiago: I normally consider myself a very, very quiet, but I have the opportunity to participate here with a lot of gentlemen. We have a field trip to one of the probably best branches of clothing that they have in United States, and it's called Ava Wear. We did that trip and I really enjoy myself over there. I have the opportunity to learn about how they perform, the manufacturer. I can see how they create, they have new ideas for clothing based on our needs, especially for climbing gear, climbing pants. Things that we actually use it on a day-to-day basics. I really do enjoy that experience and I have the opportunity to be there with Sam and a couple other guys there. We have fun. It was a nice day and I just enjoy myself for a moment.

Doug: All right, Andy, you're up. What's the most fun for you?

Andy: I think the most fun I've had is just reinforcing what I already knew coming in to DITS, but then also adding onto that. I had a pretty strong foundation coming into DITS with my degree and then also a year and a half as a plant healthcare technician. It was cool coming in with that foundation, but then also building off of that foundation. I was able to dig deeper into a lot of the subjects. What I found out is the more you learn, the more you don't know. They led me down a whole bunch of paths at the end of each night trying to figure out, okay, well if this means this, then why does this happen? The resources for those questions are right here in Kent, Ohio with all the folks who are coming in teaching us. It's been real fun learning way more or adding more to my foundation than I ever thought I could.

Doug: I've interviewed RJ Laverne a couple of times here on the podcast. He's a big part of this training, right?

Santiago: Yes, that is correct. Matter of fact, I want to say thank you. If you're listening to this or if you're watching, Mr. RJ, thank you very much. I can see in every presentation that you have, that you put your love and your effort to make sure that we understand. I know that you know your material. Just like you say, I hope that one day you can put that over there, a transportation translation. Thank you. Thank you for all the work that you're doing for us.

Sam: From my part, I just want to say, RJ is an absolute titan in the tree industry. Just going off what Santiago was saying, his passion just completely shines through. Honestly, if I can accomplish half of what he's accomplished in his arborist career, I would be happy with that.

Andy: He's been our main source of contact throughout this entire experience. Coming from Richmond, I was a little nervous, but that first phone call that I had with RJ, nerves were absolutely shattered. He took the time to answer the questions that we all had. He made himself more than available throughout these past four weeks to answer questions, to write them down in his little notebook that he has, so he would never forget. Making himself available after hours as well. Santiago and I stayed a few times after class to ask him questions about the ISA because he's worked hand-in-hand with the ISA. It's been good to use him as a resource, but he's also made himself more than available for all of the questions that we could ever think of.

Sam: We're absolutely lucky to have RJ in the program and with Davey because he's awesome.

Doug: Well, guys, I want to thank you for sitting down with me, taking some time away from your lunch, which I'm sure you're looking forward to. For those of you who are taking the test, good luck. Thanks for all this great information. I know once you get back home that we'll be talking again in the future for the podcast. Thanks again, guys.


?Santiago: Thanks so much. It's been a really fun experience.

Sam: Bye-bye.

Andy: Bye.

Doug: Boy, that was fun. Sounds like everybody learned quite a bit at that four-week training program. Now tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I am your host, Doug Oster. Do me a favor, subscribe to the podcast so you'll never miss an episode. Do you have an idea for a show or some feedback about what we're doing? I'd love to hear from you. Send an email to That's P-O-D-C-A-S-T-S @ As always, we'd like to remind you on the Talking Trees podcast, trees are the answer.

[00:23:05] [END OF AUDIO]