Training available for key volunteer positions with the Tree Team!

Help us get ready for our 33rd season of planting and caring for trees!

We have training opportunities for key volunteer positions, no experience necessary:

JC & Jimena, pruning stars!

Pruning training sessions – learn to prune!

  • Oregon City, 9/25, 9am-12pm: The training is designed for OC residents, but all are welcome
  • Wilsonville, 10/2, 9am-12pm: The training is designed for Wilsonville residents, but all are welcome

Remember back in February when the massive ice storm left so much tree destruction in its wake? Did you know that proper structural pruning when a tree is young is a tool you can use to help mitigate major tree failures from wind and ice storms?

Thanks to funding through the City of Oregon City and the Oregon City Community Enhancement Grant, FOT is offering a free, young-tree structural pruning workshop! This workshop will teach you how to identify pruning needs, how and when to prune trees, how to use different tools (no chainsaws!), and more.

How do I register? Visit our online calendar, click on the event, and fill out the quick registration form to reserve your place. Space is limited.

What will the training be like? Participants will learn from and practice alongside FOT staff and experienced FOT pruning volunteers as they prune young trees. Participants will also receive educational materials that provide more information on basic pruning techniques, how structural pruning can be used to improve tree resiliency, and the importance of young tree care and a healthy urban forest.

What about Covid-19? Friends of Trees continues to take safety very seriously and are using the following precautions at this time:

  • All volunteers are required to be fully-vaccinated against Covid-19, and willing to show proof at their event if asked. OR are not eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine at the time of their event (e.g. due to being under 12 years old, or severely immunocompromised).
  • All volunteers and staff wear a properly fitted mask to the event and through event introductions. After crews split off and are more spread out pruning, those who prefer are welcome to remove their masks as long as they can remain 6’+ apart.  
  • If you feel unwell within 2 weeks of the event, please cancel your volunteer registration.
  • Please bring your own food and snacks, there will likely not be any shared food or drinks provided by FOT, we hope to return to shared coffee and breakfast snacks as soon as it is safer to do so!
  • FOT is committed to limiting the risk of exposure for our volunteers and staff in every possible way while continuing to prune, plant, and bring people together safely outdoors. For a full list of our Covid-19 protocol, please see our Volunteer FAQ page.


Crew Leader Training – lead teams of tree planters!

You can always spot a Friends of Trees Crew Leader through the impressive vest.

If you are looking for a way to combat climate change and create a more equitable community, you might just be a future Friends of Trees Crew Leader!

If you want to lead the public to plant trees in parks and neighborhoods that don’t have as many, you might be a future Friends of Trees Crew Leader!

If you want to make a lasting, positive change in a fun and physical(ly-distanced) way and you don’t mind working in the mud and rain, then you might be ready to become a Friends of Trees Crew Leader!

And we hope you do — all are welcome!

Visit our Crew Leader training webpage to see your online and in-person training options.  Space is limited, register soon to hold your spot at one of these fun Fall trainings!

Get to Know Crew Leaders

GOOD JOB! I love being a Crew Leader and I love Friends of Trees. FOT Crew leader

If you are looking for a way to combat climate change and create a more equitable community, you might just be a future Friends of Trees Crew Leader!

If you want to lead the public to plant trees in parks and neighborhoods and you don’t mind working in the mud and rain, then you might be ready to become a Friends of Trees Crew Leader! And we hope you do — all are welcome!

I love being part of this organization and appreciate all the work you do, and how you make it possible for me to contribute in a meaningful way. Thank you. FOT CL

As a Crew Leader, you will join a friendly family of trained volunteers to lead a safe, positive planting experience for volunteers throughout western Oregon and southwest Washington. If you love being outdoors rain or shine and you believe that everyone deserves equal access to the benefits of trees, this might just be the role for you! Learn more and register for the required training here.  Space is limited.

Crew Leaders volunteer several times during our planting season that runs October – April. No experience or special knowledge or education are necessary! As a CL you’ll learn everything you need to know about planting trees at the CL training, and you’ll in turn share that information with teams of community volunteers. You’ll help plant trees, teach and lead others, you’ll move & lift trees and tools, and you’ll play a key role in events that really make a difference!

Every interaction I have ever had with FOT staff and volunteer leaders has been positive and welcoming. And thank you for welcoming my daughter to participate and allowing her to learn and take part in this awesome work! FOT CL

Crew Leaders are particularly needed in Salem, Washington County, Oregon City, Wilsonville, Milwaukie, and Vancouver — these are the areas where we have the most planting events scheduled in the upcoming Oct ’21-May ’22 season. If you’re willing to travel to these areas, that counts too! We’ll be planting at other locations in Multnomah and Clackamas Counties as well, but have fewer events.

Ready to learn more? We’d love to welcome you to the Crew Leader Tree Team!

2014-2015 Rookie Crew Leaders Weigh-In

By Randi Orth

We’ve had an incredible 25th year of planting! Both our Green Space Initiative and Neighborhood Trees programs can claim massive feats this past winter with over 45,000 native trees and shrubs planted and over 3,500 street and yards trees planted, respectively.

With such high planting numbers it is truly a community effort and thanks to our tireless Crew Leader volunteers, it’s a fun and educational experience for all involved. At the start of every season we welcome and train new Crew Leaders to our ever growing Tree Team. Now, after six months of wind, rain, mud and more, I’ve asked some of our newest Crew Leaders about their first season out in the field with us. Here’s what they had to say:

1. What inspired you to join Friends of Trees as a Crew Leader this year?

“I am very interested in environmental restoration in general and I find that it simply isn’t enough to learn about these things by reading about methods in a classroom or reading success stories published by activist non-profits. To really learn about and appreciate these things, you just have to get out there and do them. Friends of Trees provided me with the awesome opportunity to come in and learn first hand. I will absolutely continue to grow and apply the things I have learned in the seasons to come, as an FoT volunteer, in my own time, and in the workplace.” – Charles Batey

“I love the wilderness of the PNW, and never really knew how to properly give back for all the great adventures its provided me with. When I learned about FOT from a teacher of mine, it was a no brainer! What better way to say “Thanks World” than to teach other people to care for it.” – Sara Potter

Chastain Creek 030715
Green Space Initiative Crew Leaders briefly pause for a photo op.

2. Aside from the assorted snacks (or maybe including all the delicious donated food at events!), what is your favorite part of leading volunteers at plantings?

“My favorite thing about leading Friends of Trees volunteers is not only being able to able to meet lots of different, interesting people, but also being able to plant the seed in every one of them of feeling more connected to the region and their own ability to make a difference.” – Matt Pizzuti

3. What was your favorite Crew Leader experience of the season? Have you had any special moments at plantings, met someone, learned anything new?

“Every weekend with FOT was amazing this season, but the one that really sticks out in my mind happened in the middle of March when an enthusiastic young man named Silas joined my crew for the day. When I told him that I was studying chemistry in college he told me all about what he wanted to do when he grew up, which included nanotechnology and possibly chemistry (by the way, he’s only nine years old!). We didn’t only share this common interest; he was absolutely stoked to plant trees too! It was an incredible experience to work with such a motivated individual. I made what I hope will be a long-time friend in Silas, and he’s coming to the lab I do research in soon.” – Noah Forest

“My favorite experience is a collective one-Just getting to chat with everyone who comes out to pitch in to their community.” – Sara

Neighborhood Trees Crew Leaders gather for a quick morning huddle before a tree planting.

4. What advice do you have for others thinking about becoming a Crew Leader?

“It’s not necessarily a fun moment when your alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning in January, it’s barely light out, it’s pouring rain outside, and you’re thinking, oh my god, am I really going to drive 15 miles to some muddy riverbank, speak in front of a group of strangers and and personally plant 25 trees in this weather? What did I sign up for?

But you do it anyway. You head out there and meet up with the group under the Friends of Trees tent, eat a smashed Voodoo Doughnut and drink some coffee, check out the trees, meet your volunteers, get to know some fun and interesting people and end up feeling so glad that you met the challenge. I definitely stuttered through it a little bit the first time I gave the “safety talk” but I don’t think anyone noticed. I also got a lot of regular exercise at the plantings. Not once did I or any of the people I dragged along to a tree planting ever have a bad time or head home feeling anything but proud and grateful for the opportunity. So whatever hesitance you have about signing up with Friends of Trees, just get yourself to an event and you’ll be glad you did.” – Matt

“Any advice I would give to people looking to be crew leaders in the future would be to really appreciate the people that they work with. Planting trees is really fun, but making new friends from new backgrounds and different walks of life is by far the best part of the FOT experience.” – Noah

“Do it! *coughdonutscough*” – Sara

“If you’re considering it, do it. There is no try.” – Charles

Nuggets of wisdom from our newest crew leaders

Crew Leaders huddle before a planting
Crew leaders huddle before a planting (FOT file)

By Andrew Land

We’ve done it again–another record-breaking season with 4,545 new street and yard trees planted through our Neighborhood Trees program and more than 24,000 trees and native shrubs planted through our Green Space Initiative in the Portland-Vancouver area. That’s more trees with more volunteer help than ever before, and there’s no way we would have done it without the help of our incredible volunteer leadership.

Our crew leaders play a vital role at our events by guiding planting volunteers through the process of putting trees in the ground. They’re essential to team building and help remind planters that we are a community-building organization whose success is measured in part by the number of trees we plant each year. Every fall and winter, we train new groups of assistant crew leaders who represent the future of our volunteer leadership.

Below are responses to questions asked of some of our most dedicated assistant crew leaders as they thought back on their first season planting with Friends of Trees.

What’s something you learned this season with FOT, either about trees, leading volunteers, or otherwise?

I learned not to underestimate the capabilities and desire of the youngest volunteers. The young kids I led this season were awesome and inspirational.  –Mary Kay Giersch (MKG)

I should start by saying that I am not historically much of a landscaper/gardener/plant person. I enjoy them all as a spectator but have little to no prior experience, so the whole idea of me spending a season helping put trees in their new homes was new and fun. I thought you guys did an awesome job of training us. I also enjoyed learning what an impact FOT has had on our local environment with the shear number of trees you guys have planted over the year. It’s astounding!  –Jae Larsen (JL)

It sounds pretty obvious, but the most important things I learned this season with Friends of Trees were the fundamentals of planting trees to ensure they have the best chances for success. From dealing with the various forms in which the trees are delivered to plantings (e.g., bare root, balled & burlapped, containerized, etc.) to determining the correct planting depth, to mulching, berm-building, etc., these were skills and knowledge I did not possess before the start of the planting season. –Steven Gray (SG)

One thing that I learned this year at Friends of Trees is that to really organize a group well, one has to make sure that everybody has a fun and continuous part in the project. –Leah Haykin (LH)

Do you have a favorite tree?  If not, how about a favorite planting site?

That’s like asking do I have a favorite child! My favorites are Dawn Redwood, Katsura, Parrotia, Ginkgo, Black Tupelo, Redbud, and Tulip trees.  –MKG

I have always been a huge fan of the cherry blossom. My other favorites are magnolias.  –JL

It’s hard to play favorites but if I had to pick one I’d probably go with a Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) since that is the only tree that has bothered to ask to become my friend on Facebook. My favorite planting site has to be the Collins Sanctuary for the Gift Tree plantings. I love the setting and like that the planting itself has special meaning to the volunteers beyond getting trees in the ground.  –SG

My favorite tree is the cherry blossom. Not only are they beautiful, but they’re a nice reminder that the winter is over, at least for another year.  –LH

Did you have any funny or exciting experiences this season during a planting?

I particularly enjoyed the plantings that included my three-foot-and-under army. I enjoyed putting the little bitty ones to work. We had more than a few tree naming sessions. There is a lovely elm in the Cully neighborhood who was officially dubbed “Fred” by it’s new three-foot steward. Long live Fred. –JL

My daughter Camryn thought it was funny when I slipped on mud while carrying two buckets of mulch on the hill in Collins Sanctuary and fell smack on my butush (that’s the Gray Family name for it). She asked me in the car on the way home if I could hear her laughing at me from the top of the hill. I could. –SG

I think the funniest thing that happened this year was when my crew and I accidentally planted a very tall tree with its branches still bound by string. Not wanting to de-plant and then re-plant it again, we performed some pretty ridiculous maneuvers to get those strings off. –LH

Any nuggets of wisdom for next year’s ACLs?

Mostly just to jump in and have fun. Be a good scout and leave the place cleaner than when you got there. And sign up for more than you think you can. The season goes fast, and you’ll be glad you did it. –JL

At the start of the season you might think that a ten-year-old pair of shoes held together with duct tape and roofing caulk and normally used to mow the lawn might cut it for plantings, but they do not. The investment I made in a new pair of boots was worth every penny. Plus, less teasing that way too. –SG

My biggest nugget of wisdom for future ACLs is really pay attention to your head crew leader. You will almost certainly learn something that you didn’t know before. –LH

Final thoughts?  Anything else you’d like to share?

I feel strongly about Portland’s need to diversify our urban forest.  I believe we have way too many maples, pears, ash, birch, cherry and plums.   FOT is in a unique position to significantly impact urban forest diversity.  –MKG

I have rarely had such a satisfying volunteer experience. FOT runs a tight ship and I really appreciate how well organized you guys are and how very respectful you are of your volunteers’ time. I never once felt like our time was being underutilized. You guys are really clear on what your mission is, and you do a fantastic job of executing. Very fun and rewarding to be even a small part of an organization that makes my city a better place to live. –JL

I really enjoyed the opportunity to get outside, meet new people, and volunteer in a meaningful way for a really well-run organization that I believe provides immense benefits to my community. It will be fun to revisit various planting sites over the next few decades to watch the progress of all the trees we planted this season and seasons to come.  Even more importantly, I was pleased to learn that my children also enjoyed planting right alongside me and that Friends of Trees was more than happy to have them help too. Even though this season is wrapping up, I’m already looking forward to volunteering with [my wife] Emma and my girls for the next planting season! –SG

Final thought: I love Friends of Trees! –LH

We’ll be training crew leaders for both our Green Space Initiative and  Neighborhood Trees programs again in November, so please email Andrew Land at [email protected] if you are interested in joining us next planting season.  We’d certainly love your support!

— Land is the Volunteer & Outreach Specialist with Friends of Trees.

Make a difference – become a Crew Leader

Jurgens Park, Tualatin - 2/20/10 (Greg Tudor)
Jurgen's Park, Tualatin - 2/20/10 (Greg Tudor)

By Greg Tudor

In all honesty, I didn’t want a job with Friends of Trees. Obviously I’m thrilled with where I work, but when I started coming to the office, it was as a volunteer. Since it was summer, I inspected trees and did plenty of data entry, but secretly, I was just biding my time until Crew Leader Training.

The idea that I could go out on a Saturday morning and plant a dozen trees before lunchtime was incredibly appealing. It was the chance to make a physical difference in my community, a difference that didn’t just benefit the homeowner who got the tree, or even just the block where the tree was planted.

Putting a tree in the ground means shelter and (potentially) food for bugs, birds and small mammals. It means cleaner water for salmon and trout, and cleaner air for everything. The leaves become compost in the winter, and the whole process starts over again in the spring.

Crew leading was something I could do that wasn’t writing a letter, wasn’t picketing a gas station. It wasn’t something done out of anger, or in retaliation. Planting a tree is a simple act with benefits that will long outlive the planter.

These small, direct actions are essential, especially when faced with doom and gloom reports of drought and famine and climate change and superstorms. I know as well as anyone else how overwhelming it can be—how you wonder if your actions make a difference. By planting trees, you can be sure that your actions do make a difference.

  • They make a difference to that homeowner whose new street tree shades their house on a scorching summer afternoon.
  • They make a difference to the red-winged blackbird who lives at the edge of the pond at Jurgen’s Park in Tualatin.
  • They make a difference to the cutthroat trout trying to make it in Balch Creek.
  • And they will certainly make a difference to you, as you walk around Portland in the years and decades to come.

Even in my short time with Friends of Trees, I’ve planted a good number of trees. I’m sure I could calculate some carbon sequestration numbers to make myself feel good, but the day I saw a cedar waxwing in an Oregon white oak that I helped plant, I got all I needed.


You can pre-register for our Neighborhood Trees Crew Leader Trainings HERE and for our Green Space Initiative Crew Leader Trainings HERE.  These trainings are always popular and space is limited!

For more information about becoming a crew leader, or about volunteering in general, contact Andy Meeks at (503) 282-8846 ext. 24, or email him at [email protected].

Tudor is the Development Manager for Friends of Trees.