Arbor Day, Arbor Day Farm, Hazelnut Consortium

National Arbor Day is at the end of April but each state celebrates when it is time to plant trees in its climate zone. For example FL celebrates in Jan., GA in Feb., OK and TN in Mar., CO in Apr., and Alaska in May.
Arbor Day’s history starts with the family that founded Morton’s Salt Company. J. Sterling Morton and his wife Caroline Joy French moved to Nebraska City, NE in 1854 where he became a newspaper editor. They quickly changed their treeless160-acres into an apple orchard with 1300 trees. Morton wrote about his successes in his paper, advising other settlers how to plant trees as wind breaks, fuel, shade and fruit.

J. Sterling Morton became a legislator and served as acting territorial governor, but his interest was in agriculture, horticulture and conservation. In 1872, at the age of 40, he introduced an Arbor Day or Tree Day resolution to the State Board of Agriculture and the rest is a legacy of the celebration of trees in the U.S. Morton became U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 1893.

The purpose of Arbor Day is to encourage tree planting and prizes have always been awarded to communities and organizations that plant the most trees. That first year, over a million trees were planted in Nebraska alone.

It was Morton’s oldest son, Joy, who founded Morton Salt Co. The Morton family’s Nebraska home became Arbor Lodge and was eventually donated to the state. The lodge and the family land are now a state historical park. Joy Morton’s former estate in Chicago, IL, is now known as Morton Arboretum.

Sorting chestnut seeds to plant and ship
Today the million-member Arbor Day Foundation ( is probably best known for giving 10-free trees with each $15 annual membership. The millions of trees shipped each year from the Arbor Farm apple house are grown on tree farms in Michigan and TN.

The Foundation was formed in 1972 by John Roseneau who revitalized national tree-planting efforts, creating Tree City USA, Conservation Trees, Trees for America, Tree Line USA, Rain Forest Rescue, Arbor Farm, and the National Poster Contest.

The Arbor Farm and Lied Lodge are destinations for hundreds of thousands of Nebraska City visitors annually.

Outdoor music room at Arbor Farm
Arbor Day Farm and Tree Adventure ( is a nature classroom with several playscapes, historic barn, pick-your-own apple orchards, greenhouse and growing house, nature trails, indoor forest, and tractor rides.

When we visited, there were 150 school children onsite, learning about botany and conservation, having lunch and picking apples. Our tour guide was Heather Austin, Curriculum Coordinator and Educational Tour Coordinator.

A former teacher, Austin said her family moved to NE from FL and found Arbor Day Farm while working as a volunteer for her children’s school trips. Eventually she was offered a job there.

Heather Austin
“It is fun to work for a company that has a holiday and a parade,” said Austin.

Visitors to Arbor Farm can stay at the Foundation’s nearby Lied Lodge ( which was designed to serve as a resource for Arbor Day Foundation members, conservation-related organizations, teachers, and forestry professionals.

Another Arbor Day project is finding the “soybean of the future” through its experimentation with growing hazelnut trees. The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium is made up of Oregon State University, Rutgers University, University of Nebraska and the Arbor Foundation. They are looking for participants to grow the new disease resistant cultivars in Oregon, Washington, the Midwest and eastern U.S. Interested growers can request information through their website.

The Orchard Manager said they give away 20,000 trees to Tree Adventure visitors, they ship 8-million trees a year to members, as gifts, trees purchased for business give-aways and trees donated to parks and conservation groups.


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