Since its beginning, Lobo Gardens has been a place for the students, created by the students.
A little over ten years ago Alex Borowski, a then-freshman living in Hokona Hall, planted a garden in the courtyard outside the student living facility. Shortly after, the garden was taken down by the Physical Plant Department for not having the proper plans or permission to form a garden.
Over the past decade, building and maintaining its successor — Lobo Gardens — to its full potential has been a struggle, both with organizing a team and making sure the plants are tended to year-round, according to Monica Kowal, the associate dean in the Office of Community Engaged Learning & Research. Kowal said one of the biggest hurdles of her job is finding space and funding to make the gardens an actual living-learning classroom that's accessible to every student on campus.
"This is the first solid year we’ve approached the gardens as a cohesive unit of people," Kowal said. "Now we’re trying to figure out a new vision for the Lobo Gardens, which includes an expansion of the actual gardening space."
Kowal, who has worked with the Lobo Gardens for five years, said she would like to see the gardens as a true living and learning communal space where faculty can teach and students can become involved and do projects if they want. However, getting to that point has taken patience.
"I think that when you're doing community organizing, in the way that we approach our work, you realize that it’s a slow and steady process," Kowal said.
Over the years, students like Travis McKenzie have tried to speed up the process by being advocates for the gardens' growth on campus.
According to a Daily Lobo article dating from 2010, McKenzie tried for four years to build up the gardens at the University without success.
"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."
Today, the gardens offer a number of opportunities for students to learn about gardening and sustainability through classes and the Lobo Gardens Club.
Isabel Strawn, the president of the Lobo Gardens Club, said the club recently became chartered through student government and that she is excited to be able to use some of the school’s resources for the club.
Strawn, a senior majoring in biochemistry, became the president of the club at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester. She said at first she didn’t want to be the president and just wanted to be a member and help out.
"I just wanted to go to the gardens and water things, but I realized that that wasn’t going to happen because there was no club," she said.
Strawn said Lobo Gardens really stopped being a club a few years ago, and she had to start from scratch to rebuild the club and get it rechartered.
Just like the seasons, Strawn said everything comes in cycles, and now the Lobo Gardens is back at a time of action.
"I feel like everything is going to be different now, just because of what we are facing with climate change," Strawn said. "Yeah, ten years ago it was the same, but now it’s more extreme and changes need to happen. I feel like a lot of us realize it — we all know where we’re headed if we don’t pay attention and do something. We can start with something as simple as a garden."
Amanda Britt is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @AmandaBritt__