Meet Jacob Holzberg-Pill

By: Alicia Daniel

When Jacob Holzberg-Pill pulls up in front of Speeder and Earls on a hot August day, he is only wearing one hat—a bike helmet.  In life, he is someone who wears many hats:  Master Naturalist, Tree Keeper, Permaculturalist, father and educator.  Jacob moved to Burlington with his family a year ago and already he has his hands deep in the native soil.  Pedaling his bike across town even as the temperatures soar into the 80’s is no sweat.  Jacob is at home here.

“Burlington is my favorite place I’ve ever lived.  So beautiful and so bike-able,” Jacob says.  “The City proper has so much green space—forested, lakeside and in agriculture.  It has the Trifecta of ways to interact with the land.”

Jacob finds the people in Burlington as engaging as the landscape.  He is a self described “nature dork” and has found a tribe of like-minded people through the Master Naturalist BTV Program.  Jacob and his nine team members spent a year learning about the natural history of Burlington from the ground up.  Starting with geology in the fall and ending with birds and wildflowers in the spring.

“The Master Naturalists, everyone of them, was open to learning and open to sharing their knowledge, whether they are interested in the different components of the layer cake or the whole cake.” He pauses to sip some icy water.

“I learned the importance of the local geology and how it informs the natural communities.  Other places I’ve lived, the geology doesn’t matter as much.  The alkalinity here is really important.”

Jacob is teaching a Reading the Forested Landscape – Osher Life Long Learning (OLLI) course through UVM this fall.  He describes reading the landscape as “teaching participants to look backwards through time.”  His focus for this workshop is on trees.

“Based on which trees are present and which are absent and how they are growing, we can tell what the land probably looked like and how people were probably using it.  Trees are grounding and foundational (to the study of natural history.)”

A love of trees has also drawn Jacob to take charge of the Branch Out Burlington! City Tree Keeper Program coordinating activities with the former City Arborist Warren Spinner. Volunteers are recruited to take care of newly planted trees to help ensure their survival.  “I love collecting seeds and nuts and turning them into the City’s future trees.  Take nut trees.  We are really starting to look at nut trees as a part of our celebrated local agriculture.”

As the conversation returns to the Master Naturalist BTV Program, Jacob reflects on who would benefit from the training.

“Broadly speaking—everyone, because people really interact with the Burlington landscape.  People are going to the Intervale and going to the lake.  There is so much more to be aware of and they can be made aware of it so easily.”

To help people become more aware, Jacob Holzberg-Pill will be leading a public walk on trees and what they can tell us about the landscape for BPRW on October 15 at 10:00 a.m. at Rock Point.  Meet at 5 Rock Point Road in the parking lot.

“I like the shoulder seasons—late May and the end of September and early October.  Everything is so vibrant and no bugs!”