Garman’s history lessons extend from classroom to home garden

By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

Alex Garman has been living and working in Portales since he and his wife moved here in the fall of 2004. Garman moved here to teach European history at Eastern New Mexico University, where he is now the assistant history professor.

Garman has a great love not only of history but for something a little more domesticated as well — he grows heirloom fruits and vegetables.

Garman’s attraction to history was piqued when he was given his first book about Greek and Roman mythology when he was just 3 years old.

“I think I was corrupted very early on,” Garman said.

Most children aren’t even counting at that age but reading the book was not a problem for Garman because he learned how to read when he was just 2 1/2 years old. He said his mother always told him it is not how smart you are but what you do with it.

Taking her advice, Garman, 41, entered college and majored in history, acquiring two undergraduate degrees, one in history and the other in classical archeology. He then went on to receive his master’s degree and Ph.D.

Garman’s favorite part of history is the ancient Greek and Roman period. He likes to compare our world today and the world then, seeing similarities.

“I guess it’s because I look at the ancient world and I see our world and how people haven’t changed. Technology may have changed, but ideas, people and human nature have not,” said Garman. “The Greeks and Romans were just as sophisticated as we are. They just didn’t have the technology.”

Garman said he likes to look at the parallels of history and compare them to things that happen today.

“I like to take a look back at the past. It kind of helps me think about where we’re going in the future, because Rome was a world power like the United States. It was the super power of its time,” said Garman. “Where is it now? It’s gone.”

Another area of history that Garman takes a keen interest in is early Christianity. He has always found the beginnings of Christianity fascinating because of the many beliefs.

When teaching religion, Garman tries to approach it in a way that is comfortable for the students.

Jamie O’Rourke is a former student of Garman’s. She really enjoyed his classes and plans on taking more of his courses in the future.

“He was really fair and honest and I loved his lecture class. It worked for me,” said O’Rourke.

Garman said what makes teaching worthwhile is when he can see students learning something new. Garman said he can see it in their eyes when they understand something, and when that happens it makes him feel good.

“I really enjoy teaching because I learn something new every time I teach. There is always going to be a student with different points of view. I love it when they ask questions and say they disagree with me,” he said.

History also has a part in Garman’s favorite hobby, which is growing heirloom fruits and vegetables. Garman prefers to grow tomatoes but also grows watermelons, cantaloupes and corn. The difference between these fruits and vegetables and regular ones is they can’t be bought in stores and they grow to be different colors, shapes and sizes.

The types of tomatoes he grows range from a variety of colors including black, yellow and green. Another interesting thing about these vegetables, according to Garman, is that they were the types of vegetables that were grown more than 100 years ago.

“I love to try to grow these because they got a better flavor, and I’m preserving part of the past,” said Garman.

He came across growing these fruits and vegetables when he was living in Missouri a few years ago.

Garman is looking forward to planting his heirloom fruits and vegetables this summer and said he’s still trying to figure out how to grow all 31 types of tomatoes in this climate.

“The first time I planted all the species, over half of them died because of the heat out here,” said Garman.

He hopes to be handing out his heirloom vegetables to family and friends soon.