Sustainable agriculture student Travis McKenzie wasn’t swayed when people told him he should go to NMSU to study agriculture.
McKenzie said he has been trying to organize a community garden on campus for the past four years. Inspired by Alex Borowski’s garden in the Hokona residence halls, McKenzie said he wants to help Borowski and other students bring a community garden to campus.
“I think the dorms are a really great place to start,” he said. “Alex took the initiative to make the dorms sustainable.”
Borowski, a freshman, planted a garden in the courtyard of Hokona Hall late last semester. However, the representatives from the Physical Plant Department informed Borowski last week that he had to remove the garden just as sprouts were emerging.
Since Borowski didn’t seek permission before planting his garden, PPD director Mary Vosevich said she was wary of the garden’s management.
“We have concerns about the community garden just because of how it will be managed and what is being put in the garden — as far as are there any concerns about bacteria or diseases or something like that,” Vosevich said. “Our concern is not about having community gardens. We’re supportive of having community gardens, I think. It just can’t be ‘Put one here, put one there.”
Vosevich said the physical plant wants to see a business plan for the community gardens and then they will be able to move forward with the idea.
“The University is in the process of developing a master plan,” she said. “So how do these community gardens fit into the master plan as well? I think that’s certainly something that’s do-able. I think we need to put a plan together and that’s going to be something that all parties come to the table and orchestrate that.”
Mckenzie said he tried to start on-campus gardens for the past four years, but there wasn’t enough force behind the project.
“The reason why there hasn’t been success for gardens in the past — one is sustainability,” he said. “One of the problems was (not) having a constant support of watering, weeding … And there is liability. There are more complications and regulations of things that we have to oblige by, beyond the institution of UNM.”
Mckenzie said he works with a program at Health Sciences Center called Everyone’s At the Table, which aims to help solve hunger in New Mexico. It is funded by the Program Office of Kellogg/Community Voices at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.
Dr. Amy Scott, project director for E.A.T., said she received requests to build community gardens in the clinics at UNMH and thought E.A.T. could help formulate a plan. E.A.T. felt the idea for Lobo Community Gardens would fit under the programs purpose.
“The faculty and staff and students came to us and said, ‘Hey, we know you help with making linkages and that you’re community oriented. We would like to do some community gardens in clinics. What can we do?’” Scott said. “So we just started having conversations. That’s what we do; that’s about a community being a community, community-based projects. So we started having conversations with our clinic folks, with our agricultural extension agent from NMSU.”
Scott said she reached out to the Office of Sustainability, the Research Service Learning Program and other UNM departments to see if they had any input about building a community garden.
Dan Young, RSLP’s director, said the Hokona garden mishap helped Lobo Community Gardens figure out what they have to do to get a university-supported garden.
“There is a balance of students enthusiasm of wanting to get it done right now and the reality of how large institutions works,” Young said. “We know that over time if we work with all the folks involved we can get gardens as part of what the UNM campus contains. We’ll find a way to do that. A really good example of that might be the new student housing down on south campus.”