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Young kale plants begin to grow at the Lobo Gardens on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Lobo Gardens cultivate community and sustainability on campus


For 12 years, the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Gardens have been growing as a University mainstay for the creation of community, environmental awareness and, of course, delicious produce. Tucked behind a building on the corner of Vassar Drive NE and Campus Boulevard NE, this quiet growing space and “living laboratory” teems with life, according to volunteer coordinator Amara Szrom.

The Gardens are an open space for students to help, learn and grow their own plants. In addition to being a volunteer space open on Tuesdays from 1 to 3 p.m., classes, workshops and guest speakers are hosted out of the garden as a part of its role as an outdoor classroom, according to Szrom.

“I feel like having this space to garden gives me a sense of belonging to a place and a way to truly live out my values of Earth care,” Szrom said. “It’s a space where I’m directly interacting with the Earth, and that means so much to me. Also, as an academic it can be really challenging to balance everything, and I feel like getting out here, being in the sunshine, being with the roadrunners and the robins and the pollinators, it’s really relaxing … also the food tastes really good.”

The garden currently grows both plants and flowers, and hosts a number of fruit trees and perennials. They are also preparing to grow annual produce like peppers and tomatoes — all of which is donated to the Lobo Food Pantry. One of the biggest goals with the garden this year is to increase donations to the pantry, according to William Tara, volunteer and sustainability studies student.

“The goal is to allow it to become this open space where people can come in and practice gardening, which is why we have the volunteer hours … I think the biggest goal right now for the garden is to produce food for the Lobo Food Pantry so that we can feed our Lobos and provide people with healthier alternatives than just non-perishables,” Tara said.

Outside of growing food, the garden is also geared toward providing an educational space for students to learn about sustainable practices so that they can carry what they learn into their lives, acording to Szrom and Tara.

Student-made projects are also welcome in the garden: Szrom pointed out several student-made structures in the garden which include a rain catchment as well as a greenhouse and three-bin compost system (which students are welcome to drop off organic waste at.)

Currently, the two are hoping to increase recognition of the garden on campus: though the Gardens have been on campus since 2010, Szrom said that they aren’t listed on the official campus map. The program has also been working to increase the size of the garden by 7,000 square feet onto the adjacent area of land.

Szrom said these projects and the ultimate goal of uniting people in a place where they can connect with the earth is especially important in a time when climate change is becoming increasingly worrisome and interest in sustainability has increased in recent years. Szrom hopes the space can make students feel “empowered to experiment with sustainability.”

“There’s so many benefits (of the Garden) that one could get it’s kind of hard to narrow it down, but I feel like a greater environmental awareness, a sense of belonging, green skill sets that will help us with our future careers and influence the direction that we’re heading as a species with climate change,” Szrom said.

The community and friendships made also keep the two invested in the garden. Tara, who initially started at the Gardens because he was in need of volunteer hours, has continued on out of a love of the place and people he has gotten to know over time.

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“I’ve only lived in Albuquerque for the time I’ve been in school here and being a part of participating in the garden here has really embodied a sense of community for me and has really expanded my social network and given me a place to explore my connection to the land and become more in touch with what that means for me,” Tara said.

Both Szrom and Tara emphasized the closeness with the Earth they feel when they are in the Gardens, and they hope to pass this love to others who enter the space.

“I want people to learn and be able to more easily recognize how easy it is to care for the Earth, and how it’s not this grandiose chore that has to take and take from you. It can be simply something that you can incorporate into your life and is very accessible,” Tara said.  “I want my community to try to decrease the perception that they’re separate from the Earth.”

Lobo Gardens can be found through Facebook and Instagram @unmlobogardens.

Zara Roy is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle 

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