Tree plantings honor Hormel presidents; Spruce Up Austin installs 10 oaks outside corporate north

Published 10:48 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Not many get an oak tree for their birthday, but Hormel Foods Corp. CEO Jeffrey Ettinger did. And a special tree it was.

The organization Spruce Up Austin, which promotes beautification measures for the city, paid tribute to the company on its 125th anniversary on Tuesday by planting swamp white oak trees that honor each of the company’s 10 presidents.

Over two dozen volunteers gathered to plant the trees following an Austin Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Hormel’s corporate offices. The trees were planted on city land along the fence line abutting Interstate 90. Ettinger, the company’s ninth president, and Chief Operating Officer James P. Snee, the company’s 10th and current president, were on hand to cut the ribbon. Afterward, the group of Chamber members, Spruce Up Austin officials and all its volunteers sang “Happy Birthday” to Ettinger.

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“This is special,” said Ettinger following the ceremony. “It’s a neat thing, being a part of the 125th, being part of that legacy.”

Snee agreed.

“It’s exciting to be a part of such an amazing history; it really is an honor to be part of that leadership and vision,” he said.

Spruce Up Austin President Chris Stepp said the selection of oak trees to honor the leaders made sense.

“They are symbols of strength and character,” he said.

Spruce Up Austin member Mike Ruzek added, “planting these trees is appropriate. Our community has oak trees that are over 125 years old; they were around to see George A. start the company.”

In addition to Ettinger and Snee, trees were planted to honor past presidents George A. Hormel, Jay C. Hormel, H. H. Corey, R. F. Gray, M. B. Thompson, I. J. Holton, R. L. Knowlton and Joel W. Johnson.

Swamp white oak is a variety that is tolerant of the area’s soil conditions which tend to be wet, said Ruzek. The swamp white oak is, according to the organization, a tree with attractive peeling bark, especially on young trees. Leaves are dark green on the top with a silvery undercoat. The leaves turn yellow in autumn.

Spruce Up Austin, in its 26th year, works to enhance the community’s landscape by coordinating resources to initiate, establish and maintain beautification projects in the Austin area with a strong emphasis on planting trees. The organization partners with volunteers, business community and Austin Park and Recreation Department to promote environmental awareness, property improvement and and to create a positive image for the city of Austin.