LIHU‘E — Aunty Janet Kahaleokomo was happy she has a lot of children and grandchildren.
“They all came with me this morning and I got everything I wanted for ‘Ele‘ele Elementary School,” Kahalekomo, the kupuna at ‘Ele‘ele School said. “Just don’t open the door because the plants (will) all fall out.”
Kahalekomo was one of the early arrivals Saturday at the Kaua‘i Arbor Day Tree Giveaway at the back parking lot of the Big Kmart store, and through the judicious use of her children and grandchildren, was able to get up to three free plants on the visit.
“Everyone gets a free tree,” said Carolyn Lum of the Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development. “When you stop at the educational exhibits, you get a stamp which allows you up to three free plants.”
The free plants excluded the Keiki Vegetable Planting Zone where youngsters could earn a stamp, but beyond that, take home a seedling they transplanted themselves with guidance from several adult volunteers.
Riley, Andrew and Matea Davalos of Kekaha each took a turn and emerged with a lettuce plant.
“We’re going to do an experiment,” the children’s mother said. “We have an aquaponics setup at home and the lettuce will be set in the aquaponics and one being watered regularly so the children can see which one does better.”
Arbor Day was started by a movement by J. Sterling Morton, a pioneer from Detroit moving into the Nebraska Territory in 1854, states the Arbor Day Foundation website.
Both he and his wife loved trees and his Nebraska home was quickly planted with trees, shrubs and flowers.
A journalist by trade, Mortion rose to become the editor of Nebraska’s newspaper and through that forum, spread agricultural information and his enthusiasm for trees to an audience, which included pioneers missing their trees.
Trees were also needed in Nebraska as windbreaks to keep soil from eroding, for fuel and building materials and for shade from the hot sun.
Through his journalistic forum, Morton encouraged civic organizations and groups to join in the movement of planting trees.
Following his advancement to become the secretary of the Nebraska Territory, Morton continued his advocacy with trees, proposing a tree-planting holiday to be called Arbor Day during a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture in 1872.
On April 10, 1872, more than a million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. The event was officially proclaimed by the state’s governor and in 188, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska, to be celebrated on April 22, Morton’s birthday.
Today, the most common date for Arbor Day is the last Friday in April with several U.S. Presidents having proclaimed a national Arbor Day on that date.
However, a number of state Arbor Days are at other times of the year to coincide with the best tree planting weather.
Keren Gunderson of the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee said the Saturday event featuring more than 2,000 free trees being distributed was due to the Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program.
Visit www.arborday.org for more information.