FAYETTE, Miss. (WJTV) – Fayette is the county seat of Jefferson County. The population is 1,388. Forty-nine percent of people living in Fayette live below the poverty level. Janell Edwards moved to the county in 2006. She came from Savannah, Georgia.
“Coming from Savannah, Georgia, I would use the words of a show I used to watch with Lisa Bonet. It was called, ‘It’s a Different World Than Where You Came From,'” said Edwards.
For over a decade, Edwards has been the driving force behind the non-profit Fayette Community Service Organization. The COVID-19 pandemic halted many of her programs, so she turned her focus to helping the community economically.
Just about every yard in Fayette has a native pecan tree. Edwards and her husband have a dozen on their property. Like many, they pick pecans and sell them to a pecan vendor in Natchez each fall.
“My husband saw that everyone had a pecan tree in their yard. We’re taking our pecans to Natchez so we can capitalize on them,” said Edwards.
The Edwards’ soon began buying pecans from neighbors, adults and children. This gave neighbors an opportunity to make some money.
“We had one gentleman who said it would be the first year he could buy Christmas gifts for his children,” said Edwards.
Soon, the idea of a community orchard bloomed.
“A lot of these trees are native, so the Mississippi State Extension Service was very helpful in coming out. They did a conference to share with the community how to care for their trees during the year so that they could get the most potential yield during pecan season,” said Edwards.
Janell Edwards might live in a small town, but she thinks big. A pecan manufacturing company is now in the works.
“From here, Jefferson County pecans will go all over the world. Shelled, cracked, glazed, praline candy and all that. In this rural community, we can start to generate economic sustainability right here off of what we call our community orchard,” said Edwards.
That’s not all that’s happening on this plot of land.
“By USDA standards, we’re considered a food desert. We have to travel to the Super Walmart or the markets in Natchez. That’s 27 miles one-way. You’re talking about 60 miles to get fresh fruits and vegetables. So, we’re establishing the farmer’s market here,” said Edwards.
There’s no doubt Janell Edwards would say this isn’t the end of her story.