In a few short months, students living in the Hokona residence hall will have fresh vegetables growing outside their windows.

Alex Borowski, a freshman living in Hokona, planted a garden in the courtyard about a month ago, and he said most of the produce should be ready by March or April.
“It used to just be this big patch of dirt. It was covered with weeds and cigarette butts,” he said. “I just wanted to start a garden somewhere on campus.”

Borowski said he is in the Sustainability Studies Program at UNM, and his studies gave him the idea to start the garden, which is about 50 square feet and took two hours to plant.

The project was not sponsored by the University, and Borowski said he didn’t get permission from the administration before starting his garden.

“All the RAs I’ve talked to, they like it a lot, but I didn’t go out and seek permission before starting it,” he said. “To me it was like a pretty big eyesore, this courtyard. So, hopefully it’s better.”

Borowski said the plants in his garden include cabbage, snap peas, broccoli, kale, lettuce, garlic, radishes and onions.

Sevy Gurule, student hall director for Hokona, said the Residence Hall Association of Hokona supports the project.

“We think it’s a great idea,” she said. “We are currently starting an Eco-Rep Program within the Residence Hall Association, so we’re all about these types of projects.”

The Eco-Rep Program is a collaborative effort between UNM Recycling, Residence Life and Student Housing and a service learning class.

Borowski said his friends contributed the money and supplies needed to create the garden.

The cost of seeds for the garden was about $25, Borowski said, and the students also had to mix organic soil into the existing dirt.

Danielle Stevens, who helped Borowski start the garden, said community gardens like this one show the importance of locally-grown food.

“It’s just important to keep as much produce grown locally as possible, and community gardens clearly expose people to the variety of stuff we can grow in New Mexico,” she said.

Borowski said that after his garden was set up, he began looking for funding to allow students living on campus to start window gardens in their dorm rooms next semester.

“You can sort of plant them in cut-open plastic bottles. You can put the soil and then things will grow in the windows,” he said. “I have an east-facing window, so I get a lot of morning sun, and different people have windows facing different directions, so we could grow a lot of different things.”

Borowski said he hopes to get a $50 grant for every student who wants to start a window garden, and the funds could come from the Hokona Community Association operating budget.

Yarrow Allaire, who also helped with the garden, said it’s important to grow food locally and educate students about community gardening.

“Everyone eats, so it’s really important to know where our food comes from and to be able to grow our own food. The sense of community that gardens create is really essential,” she said. “I think everyone should go down and check it out and do what they can to help out, because UNM could really use a space like what Alex is trying to create.”