Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

NMSU icon Fabián García inducted into the National ag’s hall of fame

By Adriana M. Chavez, Senior Communications Specialist, NMSU News Center News Team

After a two-year delay, Fabián García, a Mexican immigrant whose research at New Mexico State University helped shape agriculture across the country, was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Agricultural Center in Kansas on October 23, and with it the first Hispanic and first New Mexican to be inducted.
García (1871-1948), who was originally to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the fall of 2019, joins the ranks of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Eli Whitney, among others. The first ceremony was postponed due to unforeseen circumstances and the second ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte nominated García for the award and attended the ceremony on October 23, along with NMSU President John Floros and Rolando Flores Galarza, Dean of the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
“It is a great honor to be present and attend the induction ceremony at which Dr. Fabián García will be recognized as a real agricultural icon, ”said Witte during the ceremony. “His influence on agriculture and our cuisine continues to this day, over 100 years since the beginning of his legacy. Not only is he known for his agricultural heritage, but also his humanitarian influence, a legacy that is evident in the New Mexico State University dormitory that bears his name and that he funded to provide a home for students. Today is a great day for all of New Mexico as we celebrate an icon that makes us proud. “
García left a legacy that can still be felt today. He was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and became an orphan at an early age. His grandmother moved with him to the Mimbres Valley when García was only 2 years old. Once there, García’s grandmother became a domestic servant and later found work with the Casad family in what is now Old Mesilla. The family provided García with a private tutor and later sent him to what was then Las Cruces College.
In 1894, García became a member of the first graduating class of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, now known as NMSU. He studied at Cornell University for an additional year but then returned to Las Cruces for his additional degrees.
In 1907 García married Julieta Amador, a member of a prominent Mesilla Valley family. The couple had no surviving children and Amador died in 1920. García never remarried and preferred the surrounding area to his beloved university.
In 1914, García was appointed the first director of the state agricultural research station, as well as a horticulturist. His accomplishments include making the first reliable chilli pepper, which was the beginning of the Sandia pepper, popular with chilli lovers today. He also introduced the Grano onion breed and was instrumental in planting some of the first pecan trees in the Mesilla Valley. Some of the 35 varieties of pecan he helped plant are still standing today.
García is also credited with developing modern irrigated agriculture in the state, and his horticultural publications included tests on pear, peach, grape, and plum varieties, as well as trials on onion, spinach, melon, and cauliflower varieties.
“It was an honor to finally see Fabián García get the recognition he deserves,” said Floros. “He has been a leader in creating sustainable and reliable food supplies not just for New Mexicans but around the world. He also changed the lives of his students for the better. He has left a great legacy here at NMSU and it is wonderful that he is finally receiving national recognition from his colleagues. “
Sometimes faced with prejudice due to his Mexican origins, García was known for helping poor Mexican-American students and often providing rooms for them while they attended school. After his death, García left more than US $ 85,000 to finance student dormitories and scholarships for poor young people with Spanish names because “I want to help poor boys because I know their needs.”
“This is long overdue recognition of the outstanding contributions to food production by a Mexican immigrant who dedicated his life to New Mexico and US agriculture,” said Flores. “Without his valuable contributions, New Mexico, the United States, and the world would not have had advances in plant production, and the many lives he touched with his kindness and devotion would not have received that benefit. Fabián García is a true hero of the College of ACES, NMSU and New Mexico. “
NMSU has named a 45-acre research station after García, as well as NMSU’s Faculty Senate Hall, its largest dormitory, and a building that sits on a hill between the Corbett Center Student Union and Breland Hall.

Further information can be found at https://president.nmsu.edu/fabian-garcia/.

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