“We’re looking at diversity within the farm itself, what we can use and do to grow to add value to what we’re doing and how we can get more people—young people, older people—interested and being able to grow their own food and do it efficiently,” Ayers-Elliott says.

Zachary Williams, who is currently studying plant science at Alcorn State University, is one of the farmers at Foot Print and was previously a football player at Wingfield High School. He was one of the participants in Ayers-Elliott’s Football and Farming program at Wingfield, which allows the players to raise money for the football team and learn a new trade.

The students train at Foot Print, and also do sweat equity, working to eventually earn a plot of land and own their own farms. Ayers-Elliott also trains community members. Williams’ brother, Curtis, and Charissawn Alexander and Daniel Murray currently own farms under the Foot Print umbrella, along with their one acre of land at the farm. This season, Alexander grew peanuts.

“The whole goal of this is to create entrepreneurs as well as agriculture producers,” Ayers-Elliott says. “We’ll teach them every aspect of the growing, as well as the marketing.”

Having students and others come train at the farm is valuable in improving access to healthy foods and how people look at making healthy options more available, she says. “It’s all about what we have access to; one of the focuses on the farm here for us is to bring local, fresh, affordable food to the community for the community to have access,” Ayers-Elliott says.

(Left to right) Zachary Williams, Chrisshawn Alexander, Curtis Williams, Cindy Ayers-Elliott and Daniel Murray are some of the farmers at Foot Print Farms. Photo by Imani Khayyam.