Mike Raaymaker learned about trees from his father, Martin Raaymaker, who founded Raaymaker and Sons Tree Service in 1957. After 20 years in the business, Martin retired and Mike’s older brother John took over the business. “I grew up climbing trees and learning about the tree business. My father and brother taught me the trade and helped me develop a love of trees,” explains Mike Raaymaker. In 1996, Raaymaker formed Guardian Tree Systems Inc. with a group of partners and shareholders, and in 2008, Raaymaker and his wife Ann purchased the company and became the sole owners and operators. “My son Ian is now involved in the tree business, so that makes three generations of Raaymakers committed to caring for trees in Sarnia-Lambton.”

Guardian Tree Systems, located at 1701 Michigan Line, is a complete arboriculture care company. “We are arborists dedicated to preserving and maintaining trees. If a tree is unhealthy, we’ll diagnose the problem and take action to restore its health. If a tree is in danger of falling, we’ll provide it with support through cabling or bracing,” shares Raaymaker. Their services include planting, fertilization, tree health care, pruning, tree and stump removal, and line clearing. “We recommend home and business owners have an arborist assess trees on their property every couple of years to check for disease and see if they need trimming or fertilizing.”

Guardian Tree Systems works with both commercial and residential customers. They also have contracts with municipalities to care for trees on city property and local utilities to keep power lines clear of trees. “We’ve had a contract with Bluewater Power since our company formed in 1996. We are really proud of that.” Guardian Tree Service also provides emergency service after ice or wind from storms have broken tree branches or toppled trees. “Our goal is to preserve a tree, but if that’s not possible, we have the equipment and knowledge to safely remove the limbs, trunk, and stump.” Raaymaker’s fleet includes boom trucks, chippers, stumpers and aerial lifts that allow them to work as high as 85 feet in the air.

Raaymaker ensures his employees complete a two-year apprenticeship, working closely with one of their arborists. “Our arborists complete 6,000 hours of on-the-job training before getting their certification, and education is ongoing. We also have different specialists on staff like our utility arborists who’ve been trained in power line clearing.” Safety is a priority for Raaymaker. “Thirty years ago, we would free climb trees without a safety rope. Now, safety is our first priority, and the rigging equipment and safety gear we use is very advanced.”

Raaymaker was part of the committee that formed Ontario’s Utility Arborist Program and sat on the board of the Ontario chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. He has also been actively involved in the Ontario Tree Climbing Championship which takes place each September. “Caring for the trees in Sarnia-Lambton and ensuring there is a trained, enthusiastic group of arborists to continue doing that has provided me with a very rewarding career.”