Annual Arbor Day tree giveaway returns to San Juan College

Arborists will be on hand to answer questions

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Hundreds of small trees grown for the inaugural San Juan College tree giveaway in April 2019 are displayed in a slat house on the college campus. The event returns for its third year on April 30.

FARMINGTON — Planting a tree is a meaningful thing, says Aiessa Thomas, the grounds maintenance supervisor at San Juan College who will oversee the college's annual Arbor Day tree giveaway on Friday, April 30.

That's because something you have a hand in starting can still be there generations later.

"If you look around at some of our native varieties, they're hundreds of years old," she said.

Thomas expressed the satisfaction she feels whenever she looks at a willow tree that was planted by her grandfather and mother when the latter was a child.

The annual San Juan College tree giveaway on April 30 will feature 11 varieties of trees.

"To be shaded by that even four generations later is awesome," she said.

This is the third year in a row the college has conducted the tree giveaway, which will be conducted on a drive-thru basis. It features 700 small trees of 11 varieties, including pinon, black walnut, white oak, Chinese chestnut and more.

Thomas said the seeds from which the trees were grown were harvested from across the Four Corners area, so they are all native species that fare well in the high desert environment. The trees range in size from the 3-inch pinons to the oaks, which are nearly a foot tall.

Each tree is contained in a small plastic container, and recipients are advised to plant the trees this spring, when conditions for their survival are optimal.

Thomas said the college staff will have a short chat with recipients to make sure they understand how and where the trees should be planted. Local arborists also will be on hand to answer specific questions about tree care.

Thomas noted the popularity of the annual event and said the trees tend to go quickly.

"We run out every year," she said.

San Juan College's annual tree giveaway on April 30 will be conducted as a drive-thru event this year.

She said the event already has become a tradition for some local families who have taken advantage of the giveaway both years. Thomas has gotten to know some of those families personally and likes to stop by their homes periodically to check on the trees to see how they're doing.

She said she's been delighted by the progress some of those trees have made in just a couple of years. She looks forward to a time when she can look around the Farmington area and see scores of mature trees that began as seedlings from the college.

The trees will be given away beginning at 8 a.m. April 30, and the event will continue until all 700 trees have been distributed. Those wishing to receive a tree should enter the college campus through Education Drive off Pinon Hills Boulevard and follow the signs to the San Juan College greenhouse. Recipients are asked to wear a mask and remain in their vehicle. The giveaway is limited to one tree per person.

The trees are free, but anyone wishing to make a donation to support the program may do so through the San Juan College Foundation. Visit for more information.

News:San Juan College jazz groups featured in April 20 livestreamed concert

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.