Land reclamation and productivity
Two companies owned by Dave and John Lamb abate the impact of industry on land and support local food sustainability
Dave Lamb and his brother, John, are second-generation owners of Interior Reforestation Co. Ltd. and Interior Seed & Fertilizer in Cranbrook, B.C. The company was started by their father in 1971. We asked Dave a few questions about himself and the evolution of the two companies.
What is your background, and what led you to this business?
I was born in England and moved to Canada when I was four. My dad worked for the Ministry of Forests in Wycliffe, managing the tree nursery at what is now Wycliffe Regional Park, before moving to Bull River and starting Interior Reforestation. I worked for him on weekends and in the summer, so I sort of grew up with the business.
Please describe what your two companies do.
Interior Reforestation does reclamation work—revegetation of disturbed land—from Manitoba to the Yukon and Northwest Territories, Haida Gwaii, Vancouver Island and everywhere in between. We work mostly at industrial sites—mines, construction sites, hydro projects, highway construction, pipeline construction and railroad construction.
The main supplies that we use are seed and fertilizer, and we built Interior Seed and Fertilizer in 1988 to fill our need for product and to supply the agriculture community. Mike Doggart, the manager of Interior Seed & Fertilizer for well over 20 years, has done an excellent job of building the company into a solid business that supplies the local agricultural and industrial businesses. He also provides our reclamation business with very specific products. He is an expert in his field.
It’s surprising how much agriculture there is in the East Kootenay, and how much food is produced here. The farms are bigger and more productive than you might expect. Probably the most volume of the seed we sell is for forage crops—alfalfa, hay and mixed grasses—for farms and ranches. We also sell a lot of corn and canola seed in the Creston area.
How many people do you employ?
When my dad got sick and I took over in 1986, I was the only full-time person working for him, with one part-timer. When he came back to work a year later, I had bid on a contract for the railroad and won it, and I had 19 guys under me. Then it went to almost 100 employees. When we sold off part of the company two or three years ago, a good percentage of the people went with that. We now have about 10 to 14 people in our busiest season and about four or five the rest of the time. We have a good reputation, so we get lots of referred and repeat customers. The business has evolved back to its roots, and I still enjoy going to work.
We’ve got a bunch of great young guys working for us—they do all the heavy lifting stuff, and they get the job done. As well, I’ve got a bunch of older guys like myself, who have some really good, valuable skills and like to work part-time. It’s not easy to find skilled workers for short-term jobs, so I am really lucky to have found these tradesmen.
What is an aspect of your own work that you find especially rewarding?
Safety is a significant factor on much of the terrain where we work, and my judgement is really good for what’s safe and what’s not. I’ll always find a way to get the job done with the least risk. After 40 years, I have a lot of experience with steep, severe terrain, and I like the challenge and the success. The thought of retirement has no appeal for me at this point—I’d way rather continue working.