By Judy Garrison
You may be reading this on or just after New York’s Arbor Day, the last Friday in April (the 27th this year). Although this is the most common date commemorated across our country, many states observe on different dates, according to their most favorable tree-planting times. (Maine’s celebration, for instance, occurs during the third full week in May.)
The tree-planting festival known as “Arbor Day” in the U.S. was conceived by J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaperman, in 1872. He later became Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland. Like many people with origins in the North he found the grassland of the Nebraska prairie to be stark. He was very successful in remedying the virtually treeless condition of the state. Now there are over 700,000 acres of trees in that state planted by human hands. When Arbor Day celebrations took hold in Ohio it was established in schools and trees were planted for ornamental purposes and as memorials of important historical events and celebrated authors and statesmen, not merely as windscreens. The focus on trees on this day has led to the further study of trees by students.
The National Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, adjoining the Morton Estate, runs Arbor Day Farm with exciting programs, displays and educational walks, and the Lied Lodge and Conference Center. It is the Foundation’s goal for Arbor Day Farm to become a nationally and internationally recognized forum for discussions of sustainability. Their very extensive and interesting website is: www.arborday.org.~