Gumbo Garden: Impact over Aesthetics


Gumbo Garden: Impact over Aesthetics




Xavier University's Gumbo Garden


An interview with Glenn Caston, a social justice and inclusion officer at Xavier University, as he takes Chaun and Chris Hubbard around the garden for the first time.


Chase Hubbard


My Nola, my story via Youtube


Mass Communication department at Xavier University of Louisiana


May 2, 2021


Chase Hubbard


My Nola, My Story


My Nola, My Story 2021




Imovie, video


A Digital Humanities project by Xavier University of Louisiana's Mass Communication department students, led by Dr. Shearon Roberts

Original Format


Why Gumbo Garden
Chaun Hubbard: Why do you call it Gumbo Garden?

Glenn Caston: “Interesting so Morgan Redd and I we thought. So he started the food pantry in his room, Vincent's vault. So when we first started talking about this project we were like, we need to come up with a name that resonates around several values, and one thing I wanna value is diversity because that’s important to me, because there’s a diverse group of people who live at both sides of the Canal. Then we wanted a name that wasn’t just garden because what we thought about was collectively how do we come together as people? Black folks,people in this community, and New Orleanians come together over food and gumbo. Actually the meaning of gumbo is okra, which we have growing over there. But when we thought about it we were like, let’s just ask people. So many people make their okra in so many different ways depending on where you are in the city. For example you might make your gumbo with tomatoes, that we call a Creole, some people make it with a base like okra. Some people don’t use okra or tomatoes, they just use rue. So when we thought about it, and we were like that’s a name that can resonate with everybody,
because one thing is that we all used fresh produce in our gumbo in some way. That’s a way that we can come together in a diverse space without being so rigid about how we are, the name is really rooted in diversity and inclusion and equity and that's why.

Glenn Caston: “Then I really thought about how food can be liberating on some people,
I had heard tons of their stories about how they were depending on this produce and it saved them a bill”
“ I think that it’s our due diligence to be civically engaged in our community. We might not be able to help you with everything but we can help you with food production because everyone needs food to survive.

Glenn Caston: “So this is what we have now this is our summer garden. So these are squash and zucchini”

Chaun Hubbard: Oh wow

Glenn Caston: “Those open flowers turn into squash. “

Cultivating the Soil
Glenn Caston: “We did soil sampling on all of the soil. What you see here we kind of keep this for a demo to see what used to be here. So you can tell t if you look here there’s glass there’s all kinds of debris versus this soil, which is high in nutrients. It’s called compost, and we import this soil to Gumbo Garden. You’ll see that soil coming over here after we finish it off.
Also in doing soil samples what we learned was that the soil is high in toxins and lead, primarily coming from people dumping paint. So two facts about it on top of this land used to be a paint shop, so they were just dumping paint then they tore it down and it was a warehouse style ,like that over there, but those toxins were still in the soil.”

Glenn Caston: “So what we were doing essentially was still growing and still disseminating this produce which is not good. That’s what commercial farming is right, that is the definition of commercial farming. They don’t care about the soil, they don’t care about the land, and they don’t care about what they put on there, as long as they get the best fresh produce, well what they call “fresh”. They use these qualifiers that aren’t necessarily true. Well what we did was we did multiple iterations of soil testing, so we did over 50 test so each one of these beds we amend the soil and amend the soil , and remove soil. So were removing soil, and removing things and we were adding things.

Chaun Hubbard: “So when do you decide when they’re ready?”

Glenn Caston: “So these will kind of peak out of the soil, so the little tops will come out, sometimes. Sometimes you wont get a good one like this one is ok. These are short and sweet carrots, so what we have been doing with these carrots particularly is we have been packaging these carrots to make salad mix. S people can make their own salads at home”

Glenn Caston: “These are called Georgia collards right here. Mrs. Angie Brown on her request, because we do source the community to figure out what they want to see grown.”

Chaun Hubbard: “She requested collards?.”

“Yep! She wants her collard greens so she got her collards.”

Chaun Hubbard: “They look healthy!”

Glenn Caston: “Yep and they’re really good too.”

Chuan Hubbard “In the store sometimes you can tell by the leaves and those leaves look really healthy.”

Glenn Caston: “Louisiana Red Beans, so these will actually grow and trelles up here, and we have intentionally put these here so when the garden is closed we want community members to come and get fresh red beans if they choose from the fence, the same thing for those eggplants and those tomatoes over there.”

Chaun Hubbard: “So the community can just get what they want?”

Glenn Caston: “Yep! Whenever they want.”

Glenn Caston: “We got our white onions as you can see down here, Chase and I were talking about how you can tell if it's done. With the white onions the leaves slope over and the leaves start to die. If you want to smell that”

Chaun Hubbard: “MMmmm. Onion”

Glenn Caston: “It smells oniony right!”

How the Garden can affect Xavier Students?
Glenn Caston: “Like at least you can learn to grow your own food and what it means to be liberated economically. This piece of reconnecting with something and watching it grow. I think the best benefit is when students come and they plant something and they come and take care of it every two weeks. That's so transformational and they’re like “I really grew this''. And chase too, we went to the community center and gave this out, and physically seeing it. Not just you grew this and didn't even talk to the person who's gonna consume it.”

Chaun Hubbard: “And it's a need, it's a necessity and a need that's always going to be there.”

Glenn Caston: “And it's therapeutic to them too.”

Chaun Hubbard: “Yeah and I was just gonna say it's probably relaxing to be out here, away from all the noise”

Chris Hubbard: “Just to get away from school”

Gumbo Garden’s Impact
Glenn Caston: “I'm always thinking about what VP Wright asks us, “If Xavier were to leave today what would the community miss” and I think right now we are moving to this phase where they're gonna miss the garden. If we left today, they would miss the garden, we aren't leaving but still this is something that I think the community is starting to resonate with. Now we just have to maintain it and keep it sustainable and growing, but the hard part of the work happened this year. That was the importing of the soil and all that stuff. Now we’re at a stage where we’re not doing thousands of hours of work to get something up and running.

The next stages of Gumbo Garden
Glenn Caston: “ The next stage of the project though is really talking about aesthetics part of it because that's important. It's not equally important as food production right, but it is important because what I hope to obtain from this is community gathering spaces where this becomes that space where community members can come together and create solutions for their community. Mrs. Angie Brown, everyday she comes and tells me about this step that has been broken and she’s almost 100 years old and she crosses this bridge with this broken step because she wants to catch this bus and go places because she’s tired of being in the house. I would too. Although it feels like such a small problem it's such a large problem for her. She made a point she said “ They would not do that in Lakeview”. I said “You’re right Mrs. Angie Brown they wouldn’t. They would not just leave that step broken and shattered.” “I wanna host events, I wanna do the event side of social justice and inclusion. Where people are sitting and talking and doing this good work, and finding solutions for their community. But it's hard when it’s not aesthetically pleasing, and it’s hard when you don't want anybody to get hurt. What cause can we talk about together in a space that liberates us to be free from some of the problems because largely in part the community has been forgotten.”


9 minutes and 28 seconds


Chase Hubbard


Chase Hubbard


Date Added
February 24, 2021
Item Type
Moving Image
, ,
Chase Hubbard, “Gumbo Garden: Impact over Aesthetics,” MY NOLA, MY STORY , accessed June 30, 2022,