Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns tours Arbor Day Farm

United States Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska toured Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City this morning and was keynote speaker for the American Agri-Women mid-year meeting, hosted at Lied Lodge & Conference Center.

Senator Johanns and members of his staff members toured the Tree Adventure attraction at Arbor Day Farm, the greenhouse and hazelnut growing facilities and even worked alongside crew members as they packed tree seedlings to be mailed to Arbor Day Foundation members.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Johanns is well-positioned to advance legislation in support of conservation and sustainable development.

We’re glad to host the Senator. Of course, with an early apple bloom, this is an ideal time for everyone to visit Arbor Day Farm.

This weekend, visitors to Arbor Day Farm can take a closer look at the blooms on board the Discovery Ride, departing the Tree Adventure at 1pm on Saturday and Sunday. This guided tour includes a stop in the orchards and information about the apple varieties currently in blossom. The cost of the Discovery Ride is $4 for adults, $3 for children ages 3-12 and free for children 2 and under, and is separate from regular Tree Adventure admission.

You can read more about the Senator’s visit at the official blog of Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm.

In the photo atop, Senator Johanns discusses the Arbor Day Foundation’s hybrid hazelnut program with Doug Farrar (left), Vice President of Arbor Day Farm, and Nursery Manager Adam Howard. Below, the Senator takes a turn at packaging tree seedlings.

Arbor Week celebrated throughout Oklahoma

Oklahoma has been bustling with Arbor Week activities since kicking off the tree planting holiday on Sunday, March 25.

In Oklahoma City, residents and visitors surveyed the almost-complete arboretum at Will Rogers Garden, a half-million dollar project funded by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to revive the underdeveloped tree canopy.

The arboretum, which will soon include more accessible sidewalks and pathways, was first built as a Depression-era public works project.

The University of Oklahoma, located in Norman, celebrated yesterday around the theme “A Planting Tradition,” with a picnic and tree planting, accompanied by the OU Jazz Combo. Campus President David Boren, a former governor and U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, spoke about the importance of tree planting and Arbor Day. According to the Norman Transcript, Boren called tree planting a “truly selfless act.”

“The thousandth tree will be a water oak, which is one of the biggest, tallest and longest-living trees. It will live for at least 100 years and will stand as a great symbol for what we do here each year,” Boren said.

Oklahoma State University, a first-year Tree Campus USA located in Stillwater, hosted a Campus Beautification Day yesterday, and the Oklahoma Forestry Services is sponsoring a poster contest for fifth graders. Last year’s winning entry from a student in Paul’s Valley is shown above.

The State of Oklahoma is currently home to 25 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Oklahoma is Oklahoma City, population 540,000; the smallest is Morrison, population 636.

Cast your vote for America’s Favorite Cherry Tree

Today marks the official start of festivities for the Centennial Celebration of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.

America’s Favorite Cherry Tree, an online poll launched in January by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Cherry Blossom Festival, allows all Americans to participate in the Festival’s Centennial Celebration by casting their vote for one of three finalists: the Yoshino, Kwanzan, or Autumn Flowering cherry tree.

Participating in the poll is a great way to celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival, especially if you’re not able to make it to the capital. And, if you are in DC, you can do your own on-the-ground research before voting.

Since we launched the poll in January, nearly 5,000 people from 25 countries and all 50 states have participated.

We won’t be releasing any numbers until the end of the Festival is approaching on April 27 – National Arbor Day – but we’ll say for now that one of the three has maintained a commanding lead so far.

Vote for America’s Favorite Cherry Tree here.

Photos are © Jeff Mauritzen

It’s Arbor Day in Arkansas

Today is Arbor Day in Arkansas, which like a handful of other states, celebrates the holiday earlier in the spring than National Arbor Day to correspond with the best time of year for planting.

North Carolina and Arizona both marked the holiday last Friday.

The best way to celebrate Arbor Day is by planting trees, and many Arkansans are already doing just that. In late January, Entergy launched its second-year partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation to offer free trees to customers through the Energy-Saving Trees program.

Nearly 2,000 Entergy customers in Arkansas ordered 3,384 trees to help shade their homes and reduce energy bills.

Entergy gave out a total of 7,000 trees to customers in four states – Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – meaning Arkansans claimed nearly half of the trees available. Many learned about the Energy-Saving Trees program through the community news site Arkansas Matters.

Arbor Day Foundation members and others are encouraged to contact their utility providers about participating in Energy-Saving Trees.

The State of Arkansas is currently home to 40 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly one million people. The largest Tree City USA in Arkansas is Little Rock (pictured above), population 183,333; the smallest is Beaver, population 80.

Happy Arbor Day to North Carolina and Arizona

Last week, Californians observed Arbor Week and New Mexicans marked Arbor Day. Now, it’s North Carolina and Arizona’s turn to celebrate.

Both states celebrate the holiday earlier than National Arbor Day to align with the best time of year for planting.

North Carolina is the Tar Heel State – and the Tar Heel also serves as the mascot for the flagship University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill. The best guess is that the name comes from the tar and pitch produced by the state’s large pine forests.

North Carolinians appreciate their state’s urban and state and national forests on the outer banks, the Appalachian Mountains and everywhere in between.

The North Carolina Forest Service also sponsors an Arbor Day Poster Contest every year, with the 2012 winning entry from a Kinston fifth-grader shown above.

The state is home to 74 Tree City USA communities, accounting for a total population of nearly 3.7 million. The largest Tree City USA in North Carolina is Charlotte, population 726,000; the smallest is Bath, population 304.

Like in neighboring New Mexico, Arbor Day is more understated in Arizona, in part because large deserts make tree planting a challenge.

Arizona’s unique climate makes it hospitable for a number of trees that would be unable to survive elsewhere, like the Arizona Cypress. A southwest native with soft- textured gray and green foliage and rough shredding gray brown bark, the Arizona Cypress thrives in hardiness zones 7 through 9, which effectively excludes much of the country.

The State of Arizona is currently home to 22 Tree City USA communities, accounting for more than 4 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Arizona is Phoenix, population 1.5 million; the smallest is Quartzsite, population 3,600.

Diversity of trees crucial to urban forestry success

Whether for disaster recovery, beautification, or something else, as cities are planting trees, it behooves them to be aware of how each unique tree species varies in the benefits it can provide to the urban environment.

The updated release of the USDA plant hardiness zone map has indicated the potential affect changing climate conditions will have on the survival of certain plant species. In addition to the new map, a recent Science 2.0 article revealed the results of a collaborative study from the Sapienza University of Rome and Portland State University. This study determined that biodiversity in urban forests impacts the removal of ozone from a city’s atmosphere.

In other words, different groups of tree species perform different levels of ozone uptake activities at different times (and temperatures), ultimately complementing each other and working together synergistically.

The ozone is a necessary chemical that protects us against the sun’s rays, while exerting its own negative impact on the environment by damaging man-made materials and polluting crops. Understanding which tree species can survive in your city and which species are best for removing ozone can result in long-term benefits for you and your community.

In urban areas, ozone can be problematic and removal services costly. Learning how different tree species respond to environmental conditions would aid managers in developing systems for planting the right amount of trees in the right places. According to Science 2.0:

Managers in several U.S. cities–including D.C., New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago–already tout urban forests as a cost-effective method of reducing air pollution, and these results suggest that other cities would experience similar benefits. Given that over half the world’s population currently lives in ever-expanding urban areas, this management practice could improve air quality for a significant number of people.

The Arbor Day Foundation has been extolling the dynamic benefits of urban forests for decades. Urban forests raise property value, add aesthetic appeal, lower temperatures, change wind patterns, reduce energy use (and costs) and improve air quality. Through its Tree City USA program, the Arbor Day Foundation has awarded national recognition to over 3,400 communities (where over 135 million people live) for implementing their own urban and community forest sustainability programs.

Planting trees in your city provide many benefits. So plant trees…and plant a variety of trees, in the right places to make those benefits count.

California and New Mexico celebrate Arbor Week, Arbor Day

Californians have celebrated Arbor Week from March 7th through 14th for many years. In addition to being an ideal time for planting, the 7th marks the birthday of pioneering California horticulturalist Luther Burbank, who helped develop dozens of fruit, vegetable and flower varieties.

California Arbor Week, however, was not officially recognized by the State Legislature until last year’s passage of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 10. The measure acknowledges March 7th through 14th as Arbor Week for 2011 and each year thereafter, as well as encourages Californians to plant trees and participate in local conservation efforts.

The resolution was introduced by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, who hails from the state’s tree-friendly capital Sacramento, pictured above.

“(Trees) help us make our communities more attractive by their aesthetics, but they’re also good for saving energy, for boosting our economy, for maintaining property values, so trees have many many enormous contributions to make to our urban landscape, as well as of course our wildland and forestland trees,” Dickinson said.

California is currently home to 141 Tree City USA communities, accounting for a total population of nearly 17 million people. The largest Tree City USA is Los Angeles, population 3.9 million; the smallest is Weed, population 3,000.

California ReLeaf, a state non-profit, played an important role in both supporting last year’s resolution and raising awareness about ways to get involved in Arbor Week activities.

The celebration was lower-key in New Mexico, where Arbor Day is recognized on the second Friday of March – this year, falling on Friday the 9th. The Albuquerque Journal’s Nancy Tipton, a Nebraska native, said while Arbor Day is a “big deal” in her home state, in New Mexico it’s “a little less so.”

New Mexico is currently home to 12 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 746,921 people. The largest Tree City USA is Albuquerque, population 484,246; the smallest is San Jon, population 308.


Search for great coffee takes Arbor Day Foundation’s Jared Carlson to Costa Rica

The Arbor Day Foundation’s specialty coffee has great taste and great values. It is shade grown under rain forest canopies in Mexico and Peru, and great care is taken during every step of production.

As Development Manager Jared Carlson tells me, we don’t cut corners.

“Our focus has been on sourcing with the highest quality possible,” he says. “We want to put together an amazing cup of coffee.”

Carlson, who works out of the Foundation’s Lincoln office, knows what he’s talking about. In January, he traveled to Costa Rica to explore possible new coffee sources and to get a closer look at how it’s done on the ground.

He spent his trip waking up before sunrise and taking long journeys every day to talk to farmers, staying in what he described as “some rustic, remote areas.”

Shade-grown coffee has a number of benefits. It requires fewer inputs like fertilizer and pesticides. And it prevents the clear-cutting of rain forests that is required for traditionally mass-produced, sun-grown coffee.

The care of harvest also produces a richer, more flavorful bean because it matures more slowly.

While some of the larger coffee producers pick the cherries that later become coffee beans before they have fully ripened and throw them in a large truck, shade-grown farmers only pick the cherries when they are ready to be picked.

“Back in the 70s, there was a big shift toward basically a more mechanized approach to production of coffee,” Carlson says. “What they figured out is if you level out all the trees and you start planting these coffee trees in a row and start using a lot of pesticides and fertilizers, you can actually get them to produce a lot more cherries. So there was this big push just to slash and burn.”

The result has been devastating to the environment, which Carlson saw firsthand.

“Costa Rica is a very beautiful country, but everywhere you look you can see the deforestation that has occurred. And you have the coffee shrubs in their place.”

People talked a lot about roads getting blocked off and farms being destroyed by landslides, but they didn’t make the connection that ripping out native trees was the cause. Coffee is technically a shrub, though its green color can be deceiving. Many think it’s going to hold the soil in place, but it is no substitute for the larger trees that coffee plants replace.

Shade grown coffee truly makes a difference – for saving rain forests, but also by greatly reducing the environmental degradation that follows from severe deforestation. That has a meaningful impact on quality of life.

Carlson says the economy of scale is not there yet for shade-grown coffee farms to work in much of Costa Rica and other South and Central America countries. That’s where the Foundation has a role to play increasing demand.

“Basically, what we need to do is create a larger marketplace, which I believe comes from educating the consumers that it does make a difference what coffee you drink,” he says. “And as we build the demand for those coffees, we can go to coffee growing regions and offer them an economic incentive to keep the rain forest intact.”

Learn more about our award-winning coffee here.

Parks superintendent in Redding, CA an evangelist for community trees

It’s Arbor Week in California, and Redding – a medium-sized city in the Northern reaches of the state – is celebrating by giving away 800 frees trees and shrubs to community members.

Redding is in its 31st year as a Tree City USA. The city-run energy provider, Redding Electric Utility, is an 18-year Tree Line USA, in recognition of its commitment to managing trees effectively.

Paul Anderson, the city’s parks superintendent, wrote in an op-ed this week that Redding planted more than 195,000 trees last year, and plans to plant even more in 2012.

“I consider myself lucky to live in a city that has such a commitment to the environment and to the preservation and continued activity of planting new trees in the community,” he wrote in the Record-Searchlight. “Tree planting is at an all-time high in California.”

The Sacramento River Trail provides a scenic experience for Redding residents and visitors seeking outdoor activities like walking, biking and boating. The photo above features the view from a café at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which is accessible by the trail.

Anderson said he has seen the direct benefit of trees first-hand, and hopes to continue to convince others of their enduring value.

The majority of the public is not against trees; they are indifferent. They shouldn’t be. Study after study links urban greenery with improved public health, fewer people are overweight, residents are more likely to be more active, children have reduced symptoms of ADD and asthma, and stress levels in all residents are lower.

With local leaders like Anderson, we’re confident that California will have plenty to celebrate for many Arbor Weeks to come.

Photo courtesy of American Trails.

PBS NewsHour highlights challenge of warming winters for tree planting

The new release of hardiness zone maps from the USDA has certainly piqued the interest of the adventurous gardener. As USDA data shows – and the Arbor Day Foundation similarly corroborated in 2006 – the uptick in lowest minimum winter temperatures in much of the country has shifted the landscape.

Many of these changes are highlighted in a new blog post from the PBS Newshour.

Chihuahuan desert plants are expected in rural New Mexico, for instance, but now they’re making an appearance in the more-elevated Santa Fe, writes Rebecca Jacobson. And wine-makers in Virginia are happily experimenting with new crops.

There is another side to the coin, however. Warmer winters also mean pests that used to be killed off by the cold survive into spring.

In Ohio, fungi are latching onto the Colorado blue spruce tree (above) for longer periods. Virginia, while ripe for experimentation, has seen bacterial infections choking grapes. Beetles and other insects are also thriving in the warmer weather, destroying crops and trees, writes Jacobson.

How are we to assess these zone changes? That depends a lot on where you’re standing, or where you tend your backyard. But like any change in the climate, it comes with myriad consequences, some of which we may not notice right away.

You can read more about the new USDA maps here, and check out our online nursery here.