Racial discrimination in agriculture has led to a steady decline in the number of Black farmers over the decades. In fact, Environmental Working Group reports that the number of Black farmers has dropped from the 1 million working in the 1920s to just around 50,000 today. A number of factors contribute to the issue, including exclusion from federal relief programs to the simple act of taking land away from Black farmers over the years.
The racism against Black farmers doesn’t only exist in the arenas of farmland and farm laws. Forbes did a report on one of Washington D.C.’s largest Farmer’s Markets that is notorious for denying spots to Black farmers.
The Farmer’s Market space should be a welcoming space to all farmers as it creates a lucrative opportunity for those working in agriculture. One unique initiative called Prosperity Market is doing its part to address racial inequality in the Farming industry, and the food and job insecurity that faces minority groups. Let’s take a look at what Prosperity Market does and how they came to be.
What It Is
Prosperity Market is a mobile market that is providing a platform for Black farmers and food producers. They operate in and around Los Angeles, often setting up shop in some of the most iconic locations such as beachside in Malibu or in the vibrant streets of Hollywood. They also do virtual markets, offering pickup locations for those wanting to buy their food during off-hours or those who do not live near the in-person market spots. The market has a rotating roster of over 60 vendors selling everything from produce to pastries and even non-perishable goods.
How It Started
When the founders of Prosperity Market – Carmen Dianne and Kara Still – started the project, they only hoped to have enough money to run one truck that would serve as a location for a small Farmer’s Market featuring Black vendors. Dianne and Still have a surprising background, given the field they now work in. Before the two started Prosperity Market, Dianne was a makeup artist and Still worked in fashion. They credit the pandemic for the career pivot. Between the social unrest and the glaring economic disparities suffered by the Black community, the two entrepreneurs felt compelled to do something to boost economic stability for the Black community. They thought: what better way to do that than to work with something everybody needs? (Food).
Their Mission and Progress
On their website, the Prosperity Market team explains, “By providing a platform for Black farmers and food producers who have long been marginalized, we are creating jobs throughout the entire supply chain, strengthening our ecosystem, and stimulating the economy.” They’re doing so much more than running a Farmer’s Market now, including working with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council to get their vendors’ produce in local stores, and facilitating a networking space at their pop-up markets for entrepreneurs to find and support each other. The project is getting great community support, too. Last year, the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund awarded Prosperity Market with a grant and financial coaching.
A Look at Some Of The Vendors
Prosperity Market has provided an incredible launching point for many LA-based Black food vendors. In fact, Dianne and Still have been sort of mentors for some vendors, like the young ladies Maddy Bear Bakes – a vegan cookie brand run by 12- and 14-year-old sisters Madeline and Mariah Williams. The founders of Prosperity Market not only gave them a place to sell their product but also introduced them to other Black business owners who can help them grow their business. Maddy Bear Bakes is just one of the great stories of connection and support that have happened at Prosperity Market. At their events, Prosperity invites everyone from potential investors to owners of brick-and-mortar stores so Black entrepreneurs can make the connections they need to keep thriving.