UF/IFAS Earth Day Celebration Proceeds With Tree-Planting In Spite Of Rain

By:
Ami Neiberger

Source(s):
Terril Nell (352)392-1829

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GAINESVILLE-Even rain couldn’t put a wet blanket on the University of Florida’s Earth Day Celebration recently. Heavy rain showers forced the outdoor event to move indoors about an hour before it was scheduled to start, but that couldn’t dampen the spirit of the celebration.

“The theme of this event is ‘In Florida, Every Day is Earth Day,'” said Mike Martin, vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “And that’s true even on wet days.” He added that the rain was much needed, and that the celebration would go on, even though the 25-foot tall Earth Day tree had to be left outside.

The Earth Day Tree, a tulip poplar, was planted later that day by 4-H youth at the Environmental Horticulture Landscape Education Laboratory. The newly-refurbished 35-acre facility was dedicated to teaching undergraduate and graduate students about environmental horticulture.

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Dean for Academic Programs Jimmy Cheek and IFAS Dean for Extension Christine Waddill praised the effort being made to teach youth of all ages, from 4-H’ers as young as five, to undergraduate and graduate students, about the environment.

“We have a commitment to teaching both students and the community about environmental stewardship and how to care for the world around them,” said Terril Nell, chairman of the UF/IFAS environmental horticulture department and one of the event’s organizers.

“Every day can be Earth Day if people care about the environment. It’s not just a one-day event,” said Nell. “Homeowners can show their commitment to the environment by recycling and learning how to care for their yards using environmentally-friendly techniques.”

Florida Nursery Growers Association Executive Vice President Ben Balusky talked about the industry’s commitment to education and using sound research-based techniques that won’t damage the environment.

The 4-H time capsule, festooned with colorful stickers, was removed from the ground where it had been partially planted near the Earth Day tree, and delivered to the festivities still muddy. It included: the first $5 ever earned by someone, stories about 4-H from women in three generations of one family, and hopes for the environment in the new millennium. It will be installed at a later date by Alachua County 4-H’ers near the Earth Day tree because a larger capsule is being constructed to accommodate additional items.

4-H alumnus Ernest Spann, who was in 4-H in Alachua County in the 1930s, and 4-H alumna and Gainesville’s WCJB-ABC TV20 anchor Paige Beck were present. The Micanopy 4-H Friendship Club brought 10 youth members under the age of 11 to the event.

Jason Grabosky, assistant professor in environmental horticulture, helped the Micanopy 4-H’ers plant the tree, and was covered in mud while structuring shovelfuls of dirt around the root ball. He said that tree planting is especially important on Earth Day. “Planting trees provides shade and reduces energy costs for homeowners, and it beautifies the community,” said Grabosky.

Grabosky said plans for the facility include classes to teach Master Gardeners new techniques and to help 4-H youth members examine careers in plant industries. 4-H taught more than 68,000 youth in Florida through the Cooperative Extension Service about recycling, forestry, gardening and waste management last year. The facility will share research results with members of the landscape and horticulture industries.

Traditionally, community Earth Day celebrations have focused on renewing commitment to environmental care and stewardship. National Arbor Day in Sarasota on April 29 also featured major 4-H involvement, with a mini-village of children’s educational activities which taught hundreds of youth about the importance of caring for the environment through their daily actions.

“The university has a commitment to teaching and educating about the environment both on campus and through the Cooperative Extension Service around the state,” said Nell. “It really is a wonderful thing to see so many people supporting stewardship, education and young people.”

Check out Florida 4-H Online & Are You Into It? A Volunteer Program for Kids Who Care

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