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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Paul Arceneaux, community gardener

Metairie Community Garden

When Paul Arceneaux evacuated New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, he left behind 300 basil plants in the community garden he tends, on a plot of publicly-owned land in Metairie. He returned to three feet of trash and a “post-apocalyptic” scene. Most of his herbs – including edible marigold flowers, rosemary, and garlic chives – went into pestos that he sold at the farmers’ market, and he also supplied plants to local restaurants. Arceneaux took over the pesto business from a friend, who had asked him to fill in for her while she was out of town. “I started off as a shopper, and look what happened to me!” he says. Now, he is focused on evaluating the health of the soil and clearing the beds of debris – then, he hopes, he can begin growing again. 

Date of interview:

Laura Westbrook, University of New Orleans


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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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