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What is Arbor Day?

Forestry Agent Ricky Parnell with Judge/Executive Larry Wilson who signed the proclamation. Photo by Lorrie Gilpin

By PJ Martin


The Herald-News


We hear about Arbor Day each year, but how many of us actually know that much about it? Most people think of Arbor Day as a day to plant trees and that is correct, however, Arbor Day has a long history and has spread throughout the world.

The very first American Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska City, NE and estimates are that over one million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day.

“Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.” –J. Sterling Morton

According to the Farmer’s Almanac website, it all started with a newspaper editor named Julius Sterling Morton who went on to become the Secretary of the Nebraska Territory. When he and his wife moved to Nebraska, he found there were no trees on their 160-acre property so he began planting them. He planted an apple orchard, peach, pear, birch, oak, pine, and many others. Morton spread the word and when he attended a State Board of Agriculture meeting, he proposed the idea of selecting a day, especially for the planting of trees. Apparently, the board agreed, because they scheduled the first Arbor Day to be celebrated on April 10, 1872. To encourage people to celebrate the new event, prizes for planting the most trees were offered.

In 1885, Arbor Day was made a legal holiday in Nebraska and the date April 22nd was chosen as its permanent date, and many other states followed suit. Then pretty soon the spirit of Arbor Day caught on and it is now being celebrated around the world.

Today all 50 states celebrate Arbor Day and each state celebrates it on a different date to coincide with the weather and planting season within the state. In Kentucky, this year Arbor Day is being celebrated on Friday, April 7th so go plant a tree.

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