A visit to Nebraska City, Nebraska is all about a celebration of Mother Nature’s most perfect gift — a tree.
Nebraska City is where, in 1854, J. Sterling and Caroline Morton settled, migrating from their home in Michigan, a state richly covered in trees. The Mortons missed trees, so they planted trees. Lots of them on the mostly treeless prairie that was Nebraska at that time.
By 1872, they had proclaimed that April 10 would be known as Arbor Day, and the governor of Nebraska made it a state proclamation in 1874. Arbor Day has now been moved to April 22, which was Morton’s birthday. It is celebrated around the world by people planting trees. I cannot think of a better way to be remembered by the world.
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What to do in Nebraska City, home of Arbor Day
The place you want to stay in Nebraska City is the Lied Lodge and Conference Center. Yes, there are other hotels, but this one is owned by the Arbor Day Foundation, so proceeds will help plant more trees and research diseases that plague the ones we have.
The place is all about trees and conservation of the Earth’s resources. The massive lobby is anchored by 35 foot tall Douglas Fir tree and the fireplace — well it’s just beautiful. But take a look at the flags around the lobby, and then ask the receptionist for the latest information explaining what they mean. The flags change annually, based on awards to communities and countries that have made great contributions to reforesting the earth. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a flag from your hometown up there?
The wood burning fireplace that just calls for you to settle in for a while in one of those overstuffed leather couches is some marvel of engineering that burns away its own smoke, therefore not contributing to air pollution. And there are no heating or air conditioning bills at the Lied Lodge. They generate their own heating and cooling from burning wood chips from the 2800 trees on the Arbor Day Farm.
All of the Trees on Arbor Day Farm
Yes, trees. That’s what it’s about. The 260 acre farm has about 2800 trees, so think of what that’s contributing to the clean air we breathe. A full grown tree provides enough oxygen for two people each year, roughly 260 pounds of oxygen. That same tree can absorb and disseminate near 760 gallons of rainwater in its lifetime, thus reducing storm water run-off and erosion.
Among the apple trees are 150 varieties of Heirloom Apples, as well 14 additional varieties. So time at the Pie Garden Cafe is a must when visiting the Arbor Day Farm. And of course, a bag of apples or apple related products is the necessary souvenir.
To learn about the trees, take a wagon ride around the farm or spend time walking and exploring in the Tree Adventure. It’s a pleasant walking trail through the trees with lots of little interesting signs about trees, foot prints of wild animals that live among the trees, and of course, a tree house!
The AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City is the third weekend of September each year.
Tip: If apples are your thing, consider a trip to Fort Wayne Indiana, the final resting place of Johnny Appleseed.
Hazelnut Research at the Arbor Day Farm
Visible from the back patio of the Lied Lodge is the Hazelnut grove, nine acres of hazelnut trees. If you’re like me, you don’t know much about hazelnut trees or shrubs. It turns out that hazelnuts are an excellent source of human nutrition, but also animal feed and renewable energy. But there’s something called an Eastern Filbert Blight that attacks some varieties of hazelnut trees and makes them less productive.
The Arbor Day Foundation is a leader in hazelnut research to develop a more resilient tree for commercial production. Everyone at the Arbor Day Farm is really excited about this. Think about that the next time your order hazelnut flavoring in your coffee.
If you want to try to grow your own hazelnuts, you can buy a tree from the Arbor Day Farm. Watch them package up saplings and prepare them for shipping across North America. Or you can reach in the cooler and select your own tree. Best souvenir ever!