Making Missouri Green

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

for the use of the nursery, its tools, buildings and equipment. In return for use of the land, the Conservation Department produced 2.5 million shortleaf pine seedlings annually for Missouri national forests.

By 1949, the nursery was producing almost five million seedlings. To get seed for pine trees, landowners brought in bags of pine cones. Workers put the cones in a dry kiln and let them roast at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat forced the cones to open. A machine called the tumbler then rotated the cones, allowing the seeds to drop out.

A bundle of 1,000 deciduous trees sold for three dollars. Four dollars bought a 1,000 pine trees. The Conservation Department delivered the trees to county courthouses for pickup. The most seedlings ever distributed by the nursery was in 1966, when close to 14 million trees were delivered throughout Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas. The Conservation Department ceased county drop-off of bundles in 1974. The Conservation Department now uses United Parcel Service and the United States Postal Service to ship seedlings to landowners. Landowners also can, with prior arrangement, pick up their seedlings at the nursery.

Miller was the first Conservation Department worker to deliver the seedlings in 1947, earning $110 a month. He drove across 110 counties in six weeks. Miller's wife, Nellie, remembers scraping together enough money to cover Miller's expenses on the road, which included one dollar a night for lodging and 35 cents per meal.

The Conservation Department dramatically expanded the nursery in 1955, with the purchase of 414 acres, 38 of which nurserymen used for seedbed area. This increased the nursery's seedbed area from 27 acres to 65 acres. In addition, the Conservation Department added new seed storage and packing buildings. The agency also drilled a second well in 1963.

The Conservation Department changed the name of the nursery in 1960 to the George O. White State Forest Nursery in honor of the contributions White made to reforestation in Missouri. Three years later, the Meramec Nursery closed its doors, making the George O. White Nursery the only official state nursery. Women broke the "men-only" barrier in 1962 when the Conservation Department hired the first ladies as seedling graders.

In 1972, the 25-year lease between the Conservation Department and the Forest Service expired. The Conservation Department operated the nursery on a yearly lease until 1976, when it agreed to a land exchange that deeded title

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