Clare County Review & Marion Press

Faces in the Crowd: Brock Witbeck

Brock Witbeck, a ’94 Evart graduate, grew up in the outdoors: hunting and fishing, and working his way around a chainsaw from an early age.
But it wasn’t until he met his wife, Nicole, that he decided to make a career out of cutting trees.
These days, Brock and Nicole run Witbeck Family Tree Service from their Evart home. They specialize in tree removal, tree trimming, and storm response. Their kids – Allyssa, Brock II, Cilie, Cason – have all helped out with the family business from time to time. [You can find Witbeck Family Tree Service on Facebook, or call them at 231-349-3321].
And the Witbeck family wouldn’t have it any other way. They love the outdoors, and they love the challenge that comes with climbing and cutting trees.
We caught up with Brock recently and learned a little bit more about his life, and his career. We learned that Brock Witbeck is more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised? What kept you busy growing up?
Brock: Born and raised in Evart, graduated in ’94. Sports; I played all three sports in school, and did a lot of tractor pulling as a kid. Dad always had us pulling tractors. We had a small farm, but we had tractors for pulling – we had a few of ‘em. There were five of us in our house, and we’d always lived in the country.
MP: What was your favorite sport in school?
Brock: Track and field. I was a pole vaulter in school. I had the school record and was the conference champ junior and senior year. I had the Cadillac News meet record in the pole vault at one point. Those records have since been broken.
MP: Any favorite memories from your time at Evart schools?
Brock: Thinking back on it, I always thought it was cool that I had teachers that also had my dad. Then after I graduated, most of them retired. It’s always neat to run into them and get to talk to them, those who are still around. My favorite teacher was probably Mr. [Dave] Schlaack, he was our track coach and also taught. And Mr. [John] Bennett – he was our gym teacher – he was always a big influence on sports and whatnot.
MP: Tell us a little bit about Witbeck Family Tree Service. How did that all come about?
Brock: My wife. Growing up, I’d never seen anybody up in a tree with climbing gear and cutting trees until I met my wife. Her dad had a local tree business – he passed away a few years ago now. That’s how I got into it – LaFontaine was her maiden name. That company was LaFontaine and sons. Running a chainsaw has been a part of my life since I was probably 10 or 12 years old – I’ve always been around chainsaws. It came pretty natural to me. Growing up around a chainsaw, and then the athlete in me helped out with the climbing side of it. That’s one thing about this line of work, if you’re working hard, you’re physically fit.
Once I met her, it wasn’t long after that I started working for her dad and started climbing. Pretty much took over for a while doing all his stuff. I’ve got over 25 years of experience going back to those days. I’ve traveled on storms, went to hurricanes, ice storms, been all over the country cutting trees. I’ve had equipment in the past, and traveled all over, but I’m trying to stay local more now and not travel so much.
MP: What all does Witbeck Family Tree Service offer?
Brock: Trimming, removal, tree planting. We still do storm response. We do a lot of removals, but we also do a lot of trimming. We give customers pretty good rates, so a lot of times we get to working and they add trees to us. A one day turns into two, because they like the work, and they like the rates. It’s me and my wife every day, and whenever we can get the kids to help out.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Brock: Being outdoors is a lot of it. You get to be outside every day. Meeting new people; it’s always nice meeting new customers and building a relationship with them. We get a lot of return customers. Word of mouth is huge.
MP: Have you ever seen a tree removal job and said, “Not gonna happen”?
Brock: No, can’t say that I have. And that’s part of the fun of the job is how challenging it is. No two trees are the same; never in the same spot. It’s always different, always changing. Most of the serious injuries and fatalities, and damage to buildings that happen are from guys taking stuff too big. Instead of going up a little higher and doing it safely. Saving time, or whatever their reason – that’s what gets people killed and things damaged, “Oh I can cut it from the ground!” Take the tree as slowly and safely as needed. It might take a little longer, but you know everybody is going to go home, and nothing is going to be damaged.
MP: When you’re not working, what keeps you busy?
Brock: I do a lot of hunting and fishing; being outdoors in general. Camping, and just being outdoors. We have four kids: Allyssa, Brock II, Cilie, and Cason. Family is everything; that’s what it’s all about.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about living in Osceola County?
Brock: I think just the diversity of your options to be outdoors. We’ve got lakes and streams everywhere, and we’ve got excellent hunting now that they’ve done the point restrictions. The hunting and fishing is good, and it’s a good area to live.
MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Brock: Hands down, my father. Ron. I spent a lot of time with him, and he always worked hard. That’s how I was raised.

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