What’s Working: Footprint Farms

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Great things are growing in the heart of Jackson.

Footprint Farms is like a green 68-acre oasis within the city limits. Mississippi has some of the best soil on earth. Almost anything will grow here.

One Mississippi native is working to make sure we take advantage of that and eat better.

Dr. Cindy Ayers-Elliot certainly looks like a farmer, but not too long ago, she worked as an investment banker in a New York high rise.

“I gave up my high heels for work boots and never looked back,” she said.

She’s been farming on her sprawling spread for six years now and is a proud part of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives. Farming is hard work, but help is out there.

Paul Darby is President of Darby Enterprises. He assists small farmers throughout Mississippi to develop their visions.

“We helped her develop a business plan, and everything that she put into that business plan, she’s following through on,” according to Darby.

Dr. Ayers-Elliot’s roots run deep in Mississippi. She wants to make a difference in her own backyard.

“Anything we can do to help lower diabetes or hypertension in my state, then, I’m excited to be part of,” she said. “For me, it’s about bringing information about health, the information that is necessary for our communities to understand the importance of eating healthier and having access.”
Five new farmers also work the land here. If they stay for a year, Dr. Ayers-Elliot sells them an acre for one dollar.

Growing food and growing the economy. Ninety percent of the food grown here stays in Jackson. You find it at Farmer’s Markets and schools. Also, keep an eye out for the bright pink Veggie Bus.
“We just pop up, and we bring fresh affordable local food there and we meet people where they are, Dr. Ayers-Elliot said. “We are certified USDA Nutrition. We can take SNAP benefits, the EBT cards.”

That’s how a food desert can turn green.

Dr. Ayers-Elliot calls Footprint Farms a labor of love, but it’s also her full-time job. Healthy, delicious produce grown right here in Jackson.

Dr. Ayers-Elliot rotates her crops out with the season. She grows a variety of Caribbean produce as well as traditional staples like lettuce and tomatoes. Flowers also flourish on Footprint Farms.