Thanks to J. Sterling Morton’s fascination with the most modern business practices and equipment of his day, Arbor Day Farms has always been a place of advancing technology.
Adam Howard of Arbor Day Farms shares the most representative example: “The old hand-turned apple press was replaced by a hydraulic press in the 1960s.” Even the horse and plow gave way to tractors.
Travelers to this antique orchard in Nebraska City, Nebraska, can join in the fun when apple harvest time comes and while they’re at it learn about the evolution of energy use.
You can feel the Morton family’s industrious spirit as a fixture in today’s harvest activities. The old barn is attached to a new country store. There’s a glorious corn maze, and children and adults both can enjoy The Tree Adventure, with trails, a treehouse, and fun educational displays.
The property’s icon is the stately 52-room Morton mansion, originally built in 1855, with a white-pillared, White-House-style porch. Here, you can study yesteryear’s home energy “gadgets”: large fireplaces and a floorplan encouraging airflow from cool brick basement to open tower windows.
The enchanting sunroom has a stained-glass ceiling window to open, so warm air can escape. Morton, ever the efficiency fanatic, added a coal and steam radiator system for warmth. Now, of course, the home is heated and cooled with modern appliances. Howard said property energy costs have risen considerably, not only because new technology costs more to operate, but because the space has grown.
Even the breathtaking antique carriage house is a study in energy use, with a progression of motor-technology from horse-drawn carriage to gasoline-powered automobile.
The most obvious modern nod to responsible energy use is the Lied Lodge and Conference Center, heated and cooled with biomass (wood chips) – a return to the fuel of old! Guests can tour the nearby Fuelwood Energy Plant to see how it works.
The conference center takes every opportunity for fuel efficiency, even indirectly, from recycling bins and the option to reuse linens to locally grown food and recycled office supplies. The lodge shuttle is a hybrid vehicle. Read more here.
What does the future hold for energy use at Arbor Day Farms? Howard said there aren’t currently plans for solar or wind power. But who knows? Morton’s dedication to betterment is one of the most important features of this amazing attraction.
Photo attribution: Lied Lodge and Conference Center, liedlodge.org