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Couple donates 12 trees to NMSU campus to honor storytellers of the area

At one point or another most people have either been read or have read “The Giving Tree.” The children’s picture book centers around a little boy who eventually grows old and a tree, in an effort to make the boy happy, gives him parts of herself as he goes through different stages of life. She gives him apples to make money, branches to make a home and her trunk to make a boat. This continues until only a stump remains.

After being insured by the book "The Giving Tree." Randy and Cindy Farmer donated 12 Cedars of Lebanon trees to the NMSU campus. The trees can be found at 8 different locations throughout campus and will honor the storytellers of the area. (Created by Kiana Pinter)
Randy and Cindy Farmer purchase 12 cedars of Lebanon trees to be planted around New Mexico State University’s campus, after being inspired by the book "The Giving Tree." Pictured here is one of the trees outside the Skeen Hall that will be named after a storyteller of the area. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)

It was that book that inspired Randy and Cindy Farmer to purchase 12 Cedars of Lebanon trees to be planted around New Mexico State University’s campus. The first tree was planted at the original site of a “storytellers” tree, located on College Drive by the nematology lab buildings and Heritage Farm.

“The original tree was planted here during Fabian Garcia’s time. He was a part of the first graduating class and he was on the first football team,” Farmer said. “The reason why that tree ended up dying more recently was because the water stopped going through the canal here. A tree can’t go from a lush environment to a dry one all of a sudden,” he added.

The other 11 trees are spread out at seven other locations on campus: southeast of Educational Services Building, south of the campus Spiritual Center, west Garcia Annex, north Science Hall along Frenger Mall, east of Skeen Hall, west of Skeen Hall and the Heritage Farm site.

The Cedars of Lebanon trees, which are approximately 20 feet high right now, but will reach a height of 120 feet and are said to represent eternity, strength and endurance. The Farmers are hoping to name the 12 trees after storytellers of the area. The first two tree names have been decided.

“I would like to name one tree, the tree planted at the original site in Jennie Curry’s honor and the second in Don Cotter’s honor,” he said. “The rest of the trees I want to be named to honor other great storytellers of the area.”

Jennie George Curry founded Storytellers of Las Cruces in 1927, a group that promotes, supports and encourages the art, knowledge and history of storytelling. It provides opportunities for anyone interested in storytelling to meet and engage in the art of storytelling and to bring storytelling skills, techniques and experience into new environments. In 1973, Curry published her book “Tumbleweed Tales,” a collection of stories about the Southwest, Christmas, Mother Goose and other topics. Curry believed that storytelling was a “service to the community” and that “stories should be told anywhere and everywhere, to anyone and everyone.”

Don Cotter, NMSU professor emeritus of horticulture and plant science spent 20 years researching vegetables as a physiologist and also teaching. He published his first photography book in early 2018 titled “Fran’s Organ Mountains.” The book is named after his late wife Frances Cotter and captures over 20 years’ worth of pictures of the Organ Mountains. His second book “The Cotter Family: An Adventure” was released in March 2018 and tells the story of an American family including history, adventures, international travel, unique experiences, notable events and people important to the family.

While a criterion hasn’t been set up just yet to name the rest of the trees, the Farmers would like the public’s input once it has. They would also like to make sure a plaque is placed on each tree so those who are passing by will know who the trees are named after and why.

“These trees aren’t for us or even our grandkids,” he said. “They are for our grandkid’s grandkids.”