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Inspiring Conversations with Carmen Dianne and Kara Still of Prosperity Market

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carmen Dianne and Kara Still.

Hi Carmen and Kara, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Carmen: I am a makeup artist by trade, so people are really curious how I found myself starting a mobile farmers market. Long story short, I blame the pandemic and state of Black America. Over quarantine, I was able to just really observe everything that was happening, the social unrest, financial uncertainty, health vulnerability, and I felt the strong need to find my place in the solution. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, but I felt the need to contribute economically. Kara and I were happy to see the large support of black-owned businesses, and we found a gap within food businesses. There are just not enough black-owned grocery stores and farmer’s markets. They are few and far between and not widely accessible.

This brought us to another layer of the deep-rooted issues that we are addressing, food insecurity. Los Angeles has the highest population of food insecure residents, yet California is the largest producing agricultural state in this country. So this is what we set out to change. Prosperity Market, our mobile farmers market featuring black farmers, food producers, and chefs was born! As a mobile market, we are a platform for black farmers and food entrepreneurs, and we can go directly into neighborhoods that don’t have access to grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and alternatives for healthy, affordable food.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Carmen: We have seen so much progress in such a short time, but it has definitely not been a smooth road thus far. Each new milestone brings about new challenges. I would say our first challenge was finding black farmers. There is a long history of black farmers in the U.S. and today, they make up less than 2% of farmers in this nation. We’ve realized we had to find unconventional farmers, urban farmers, backyard growers, community gardens and etc., which was actually a blessing in disguise. We can create economic impact and empower our farmers starting at the most local level.

Our biggest, ongoing challenge would definitely be funding. We are currently fundraising for our trailer, which is a 48ft custom trailer that will house all of the produce and products from our black farmers and food entrepreneurs. The custom trailer will cost $140,000 and we are currently fundraising for our down-payment of $50,000. Raising money, applying for grants, and seeking additional financial resources has not been easy. We’ve had to readjust our timeline and I’ve had to readjust my personal expectations throughout this process.

If you would like to support Prosperity Market and our fundraising efforts please visit our website: www.prosperitymarketla.com/donate.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Carmen: Prosperity Market is a farmers market on wheels and a food truck in one featuring black farmers, food producers, and chefs. We travel throughout Los Angeles, conveniently bringing a curated farmer’s market experience to you. We make it easy to support local black businesses while creating food access in our communities.

Our model is very unique because we are half food truck, half farmers market and we haven’t seen anything quite like this before. I’m most excited about the impact that we are creating. We empower and support black businesses while also bringing food access and education to our neighborhoods, and we are doing it all at a high level. It is very important that we create an elevated experience because we believe that everyone deserves quality. We bring the same beautiful experience everywhere we go, whether we are in Malibu or South Central.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Carmen: I have definitely learned a lot due to the Covid-19 crisis. This whole business was sparked in part due to the pandemic. It really just showed me exactly how connected everything is, how vicious this systemic cycle of economic disparity and food insecurity in our communities is. Covid affects black communities at an alarmingly high rate. We are more susceptible to Covid due to pre-existing health conditions that come from diet-related illnesses. Our neighborhoods don’t have enough grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or available options for healthy, affordable food. Lack of proper nutrition is linked to many health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity. Pre-pandemic only 2.2% of all employer-owned businesses were black-owned. 2/3 Black businesses are located in the hardest hit Covid areas, resulting in 41% of them to close.

This pandemic also revealed that we have to focus on our local ecosystem, and we have to be really agile and innovative moving forward. Creating a business during a global pandemic definitely teaches you flexibility is key!

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Image Credits:

Jerome A. Shaw Alex Choi Alex Canevaro

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