Rocky & Diane Hoffman of North Platte, Nebraska
In 1978, Rocky and Diane Hoffmann purchased an acreage 10 miles south of North Platte. The tract was part of the old Hunter property, and a neighbor remembers planting corn with a horse-drawn planter on the site in the late 1920’s. Later, during the dust bowl years, the fields that he had worked with horse and planter blew into a huge sand dune. In the late 1930’s, Hunter planted a few rows of Cottonwoods he had pulled from the South Platte River to control the blowing sand. Most of those Cottonwoods had died by the time the Hoffmanns had moved onto the acreage, but remnant survivors of that original planting symbolized hard work with a shovel and a bucket to conserve the fragile soil. Those old Cottonwoods triggered a plan for a new planting. The wind blew constantly during July when the house was being constructed, and the Hoffmann’s were determined to temper the harsh environment.
In the fall of 1978, Rocky and Diane pulled winter dormant Cottonwood trees from the South Platte River and planted them around their new house. Rocky’s father, who provided much of the tree planting inspiration, carted trunk loads of American Elm, Black Walnut, Silver Maple, Raspberries, Nanking Cherries, Sour Cherries, Grapes, Apricot, Apple, and Pear trees from his hobby arboretum in the eastern part of the state. In the spring of 1979, the Hoffmanns hand planted the perimeter of their property with Red Cedar and Rocky Mountain Juniper. Pines and Plums were also planted that year, and other trees were constantly added from any source available. In 1980, the Hoffmanns cost shared with the Twin Platte Natural Resources District and hand planted 400 more trees.
They continued to plant trees through 2001, most years cost sharing with the Twin Platte NRD, while constantly deriving trees from other sources as well. Too many horses placed on the small plot by a previous owner had resulted in badly damaged topsoil with little cover. Native grasses were restored through an inter-seeding project conducted by the Twin Platte NRD.
In the early 1980’s, hand cultivating and watering of trees by trailer and water tank pulled by a 9N Ford tractor provided summer diversion for the Hoffmann kids, Deb and Chris. In 1996, the Hoffmanns hung up the hoe and laid down 3,600 feet of conservation mulch for a 475 tree machine planting, again cost shared with the Twin Platte NRD. Every year, a few trees were planted and still are today. The property supports Ponderosa, Scotch, Jack, and Austrian Pines, Hackberry, Russian Olive, Autumn Olive, Cotoneaster, Skunkbush, Sumac, Sand Cherry, Sour Cherry, Pear, Apple, American Elm, Black Walnut, Green Ash, Honeylocust, Red Cedar, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Cottonwood, Silver Maple, Ginala Maple, Cutleaf Birch, English Oak, Burr Oak, Mulberry, and Catalpa.
Winter and summer environments have been changed dramatically and continue to change as the trees mature. Deer, quail, pheasants, and prairie chickens find cover in the plantings from the heat and cold, and winter bird feeding produces a diversity of species.