ANOTHER KIND OF HARVEST: THE REMARKABLE VEGETABLES OF JOSE' CARMEN GARCIAJose Carmen Garcia Martinez is a 49-year-old farmer, one of hundreds who eke out a meager livelihood by tilling the granite-like soil of the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, some 260 miles northwest of Mexico City.
Like his neighbors, Garcia hitches a pair of mules to his plow each autumn and prepares seedbed furrows on his three-acre plot. Then he plants seeds he has purchased at the community store.
This store (it should be noted) also supplies seeds to Garcia's neighbors - identical seeds. All have been shipped from Texas in burlap bags. No seeds planted by Garcia differ from seeds sown by the other farmers of Guanajuato.
The products which grow from Jose's seeds are quite another matter. Each spring after the harvest, Garcia again hooks up his mules and heads for the local marketplace, where he instantly becomes the focal point of excitement that has begun to spread through Mexico and promises to reach around the world.
A crowd draws around as Garcia starts to unload his wagon. Onions weighing eight pounds each, and more, draw gasps of admiration from the onlookers. There are huge cabbages 60 pounds each with some even larger, and collard greens five feet long bearing leaves more than two feet wide. These king-sized super vegetables quickly find their way into the wagons of shoppers, who rush to buy out Jose's vegetables as fast as he can unload them.
Thirty-two years have passed since Garcia first astounded the people of Guanajuato by marketing his gargantuan produce. Despite their bulk, his vegetables are as tender and tasty as any of conventional size. Many of Jose's customers assert they not only go farther, but taste better than any others.
Other farmers ask how it can be that Jose Carmen Garcia buys seeds where they buy theirs, plants them and harvest his crops exactly as they do in soil no different than theirs, yet grows vegetables of magnificent proportions, the likes of which are found nowhere else on earth.
I asked those questions of Garcia myself when I met him for the first time in April 1976. I also saw his giant vegetables and tasted them - and was greatly taken by their flavor and tenderness. What Garcia told me, he has told other people. The story has subsequently been published in Mexican newspapers and magazines.
Garcia told me that in 1947, when he was seventeen years old, he was plowing one fall afternoon when he met a stranger, although everyone, quite literally, knew everyone else in Garcia's farm community. However, the trespasser was invited by Jose to eat and drink.
Warmed by homemade sweetbreads and coffee, the stranger soon unfolded a story which stirred Garcia's youthful imagination and was to have a major impact on his life.
Jose sat spellbound as his mysterious guest told how he had been captured by a band of strange beings and held for a number of days in a long, spacious tunnel beneath one of the many inactive volcanoes surrounding the area.
His captors were described as humanoids - tall and fair-skinned, and who spoke in weird, unintelligible sounds. Most seemed occupied at harvesting giant vegetables. As they worked, they appeared to be studying an odd formula consisting of hieroglyphic symbols.
Young Garcia's guest said he had memorized this mysterious formula and would share it with Jose out of gratitude for such fine hospitality. Working quickly, he sketched the symbols on paper.
"Concentrate on these writings," he told the youth, "and in time you will understand their meaning. It is a magic formula, and by using it, you will feed the world."
Evening came, and as mysteriously as he had appeared out of nowhere, the stranger disappeared in the gathering darkness.
Jose followed the instructions he had been given. Day and night he thought of nothing but the symbols. After three sleepless nights, he knew it was time to plant his seeds. Three months later, he harvested his first crop of out sized onions, cabbages and greens. The legend of Jose Carmen Garcia had begun and his fame has spread each year by word of mouth.
Now, communicating through a friend named Oscar Arredondo, Garcia says he wants the world to have his secret, even if his government won't help.
Arredondo, a photographer, has compiled an impressive record of Garcia's accomplishments in the form of pictures. He says there really isn't anything surprising about the story of the mysterious stranger and his message to Jose. The state of Guanajuato is host to numerous visitors from outer space, he adds, and people report UFO sightings almost every day.
And there are other interesting facts, Arrendondo asserts, including:
o Nicolas Infante, a farmer, heard the sound of rushing water when he reached the 40-foot level while digging a well. Infante says the well expels strong bursts of air, and absorbs air at night. He believes he inadvertently hit a tunnel linking two of seven inactive volcanoes which may house inhabitants from other worlds.
o Maria Carmen de Guisma swears she was the captive of extra-terrestrial beings in a space ship for three months.
o Dr. Manuel Garcia Rivera, a local physician, says he cared for the woman caretaker of a hacienda near one of the craters. She told Rivera she left her bed at 3 a.m. and saw a bright object on the ground. Four beings, all glowing, disembarked and gathered samples of the earth. She described the four as being of medium height.
These and other incidents have been reported in a local newspaper and in a national magazine, but to date have not generated the interest they appear to warrant.
"Why isn't the world interested?" asks Arredondo. "If this happened anywhere other than Mexico, world scientists and agricultural experts would gather here."
To prove the validity of Garcia's revelation, a challenge was issued. On a warm March day in 1978, two crops were harvested on a farm far from Guanajuato's volcanoes in Tampico. The site had been selected by government agricultural specialists, who inspected all seeds with great care and supervised the planting three months prior to the harvest.
Two farmers had sown identical 20-acre plots. One was a local man, the other Jose Carmen Garcia, and every step of the growing process, from plowing until final harvest, was under the watchful scrutiny of government agents.
The seeds planted by both men were identical. No fertilizer was used. On the final day - the day of harvest - government scales were trucked to the farm. It was sundown before results could be tallied, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Crops grown by the farmer enlisted by the Federal Department of Agriculture averaged 30 tons per acre. Jose's output totaled 105 tons and 690 kilos per acre.
Garcia's onions, including stalks, stood six feet tall. His cabbages spread their leaves over a seven foot circumference. His collard greens boasted five-foot stalks, exactly like the greens he had grown in Guanajuato for more than 30 years.
The officials climbed into their trucks and disappeared into the fading sunlight. Only Raul Moreno, a balding government employee who had believed in Jose from the beginning, remained.
"We would normally keep these huge vegetables for research," he said to Garcia, "or sell them for the government. But since we took you from your farm, you may sell them yourself and keep the money."
The next day, the poor families of Tamaulipas added very large vegetables to their meager diets - given to them free of charge by Jose Carmen Garcia, the uneducated farmer from Guanajuato.
A disappointed but not embittered man, Garcia still wonders why, having passed the test, the government has refused to acknowledge what he has done.
The officials of the agriculture department had promised a visit by President Jose Lopez Portillo and official recognition, perhaps a news conference where the President would bestow a medal on Jose, or possibly fly him to Mexico City to proclaim his formula to the world.
If the President himself couldn't make it, the officials said, at least there would be a visit by the Minister of Agriculture.
However, there has been no visit by the President or his Minister of Agriculture, no news conference, nothing.
Asked why he thought no official took him seriously, Jose scratched his head for a moment. Finally he replied: "They took it personally."
Garcia has no wish to keep the secret of this annual phenomenon to himself. He believes vegetables like his could end hunger everywhere in the world if grown in other countries. For three decades, he has attempted to enlist the interest and support of Mexican governmental agencies, but has encountered only disinterest or disbelief. Official have not been able to deny the existence of Jose's out sided cabbages, onions and greens, but they consider his story of how they are grown as far-fetched and - in a manner of speaking - out of this world.
By Bill Robinson for San Diego Home and Garden - date unknown