Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Matthew Largess, owner of Largess Forestry Inc. located in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. We first crossed paths about a year ago in Newport, and from the moment I met him, I was entirely intrigued. Matt is not like most people. He is vibrant, passionate, inspiring, and real. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. He is not afraid to cross lines, follow raw instinct, and offend others in order to save his first and true love: trees.
Matt’s passion for trees began when he was just a boy. He struggled in school, finding it hard to concentrate and overcome his teachers’ judgments and limiting labels, but nature always made sense to him. After high school, he went on to study at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks, eventually becoming an ISA Certified Arborist and building his own forestry business from the ground up. With just one truck and $9,000, he started Largess Forestry in 1986, and now his nationally known business makes about $1.5 million a year. With eleven employees to handle and eight trucks to maintain, he says there’s no turning back. He planted the seed of his dream, and his dream outgrew his expectations.
While Matt’s passion led him along the high path of success, doing what he loves, his passion also led him down the dangerous path of drugs and alcoholism. At age thirty, he was diagnosed with fatty liver disease and almost died. He spent thirty days in rehab, and on the day he got out of treatment, his good friend Donnie Dupre left a bar intoxicated, flipped his truck, and died at age thirty-one. Matt needed no further motive to stay sober. He committed to AA, got a sponsor, and has been sober now for thirty-three years.
One of the reasons why I deeply admire Matt is because through all his struggles, both personal and professional, he only seems to grow wiser and more caring. Because of the way he was judged by teachers in school, he leans toward hiring people with special needs and learning “disabilities”, accepting others the way he yearned to be accepted as a kid. Since his divorce from his ex-wife--a marriage of twenty-four years--he refuses to say a bad word about her, choosing compassion and understanding over fear and resentment. He is no stranger to darkness, but he has this miraculous ability to take his darkness and turn it into a brilliant light of empathy. In his presence yesterday, I felt completely at ease. I found myself telling him personal bits about my life—pieces I normally try to hide or at least keep tucked away for a period of time. Matt doesn’t judge. He acknowledges and accepts the darkness and light in everyone, seeing the contrast as natural as the trees see the night sky and the bright break of day.
Going forward, Matt plans to continue running his business, saving trees, and spreading the power of positivity. He has already saved several old growth forests, including Saddler’s Woods in Haddon Township, New Jersey and Oakland Forest in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He is now actively working to save Arbuckle Creek in Avon Park, Florida—a virgin forest dense with wildlife located eighty-five miles from Disney and frighteningly close to a bombing range. His positivity continues to spread through the love he puts into his business and the vulnerability he dares to share with others.
Matthew Largess never gives up on himself or his dreams. He believes setbacks are setups for success. He also believes in intuition, magic, and the power of nature. A local futurist named Crystal Powers dubbed him “The Voice of the Forest” years ago, predicting that he would save Oakland Forest, along with many others, and no doubt he did. Matt is also the magical hand behind the poetry box in Portsmouth—the poetry box that inspired me to build and plant two of my own!
I hope everyone is as fortunate as I was last year and gets the chance to cross paths with Matthew Largess. You can learn more about his incredible life by reading Shamus Flaherty’s book “Treehugger” (link below). At the very least, take a stroll through Oakland Forest in Portsmouth, Rhode Island—the woods Matt risked his business over in order to save—to experience the magic for yourself. The healing power of trees is real. Matt felt the power as a child and continues to spread his natural-born spirituality and strength today.
Click here to check out "Treehugger" by Shamus Flaherty