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Homegrown Utica celebrates the rich legacy of rural self-determination and artistic voice in the Utica community.


Utica Locals Tackle Food Desert Woes With ‘Homegrown’ Festival

Echoing Federal Theater Project, 18
Towns Plan Simultaneous Events
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How One Rural Town is Using Community Organizing for Fresh Food Access in Mississippi
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Meet the Community Advisory Group

Mary Kinnard Lofton

Mary Kinnard Lofton is a Utica native. Married to Osie Lofton, they have 6 children, 15 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. Mary is a retired eligibility worker of 28 years with the Mississippi Department of Human Services and a graduate of Hinds Agricultural High School and Utica Junior College. A member of Water Valley Missionary Baptist Church, Mary loves to sing in the choir and work in her flower garden.

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Kayla McDonald

Kayla McDonald is an example of "Homegrown." A life-long resident of Utica, MS, her most rewarding achievement is growing future leaders, giving back to her community while teaching at her hometown school Utica Elementary. When not spending time with family and friends, her hobbies are event planning and decorating. As an educator and  resident, Kayla believes Utica's  historical attributes and residents are hidden jewels, with much to offer and explore.

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Sherril Curtis Strong

Sherril Curtis Strong’s roots in Utica date back to 1780. Forty-five years married with two children and five grandchildren, Sherril worked in the health sector caring for patients for forty years. After this career, Sherril opened Rebecca Rose Flea Market with her mother. When their building burned down, Sherril reopened on Main Street in Utica. Sherril recently organized a nonprofit - Utica MS Revitalization - to bring life back to her town.

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Cycsila Washington

Cycsila Washington is a Utica resident who works at the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Centers Utica clinic. She attended Carver Elementary/Middle School and graduated from Raymond High School. Washington holds degrees in Practical Nursing and an Associate Degree in Arts from Hinds Community College. She has three children, one grandchild, and loves helping people and giving back to her community when she can. Her hobbies are cooking and traveling.

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James Owens

James Owens is from Hot Coffee, MS in Covington County. He attended Collins High School and graduated from Jackson State University with a degree in Physics.  Owens is retired from Entergy after 30 years, with all but 3 of those years at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station. He is pastor and founder of Ebenezer Church of God in Christ at 145 White Oak Street in Utica. He operates Omnibus Thrift at 118 White Oak Street in Utica. James has been married to Barbara Owens for over 40 years. They have one son, one daughter and one grandson all living in Texas. The Owen's have been residents of Utica for over 10 years and have a strong passion to leave the world better than they found it.

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