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This Vegas-area farmers market puts Black culture at its center for Black History Month

Sierra Bowman is standing in the center of vendor tents during a farmers market.
Lucretia Cunningham
KUNR Public Radio
Sierra Bowman, the founder of the Black Farmers Market, stands in the center of vendors’ tents on Feb. 12, 2022, in Henderson, Nev. The Black Farmers Market puts Black culture at its center and celebrates Black-owned businesses during this year’s Black History Month.

A Black farmers market in Southeast Las Vegas is a first of its kind for the area. The founder’s goal is to bring people together to celebrate Black History Month.

Gary Gates is here at the Black Farmers Market selling clothes from his brand, Vegas Style. This market isn’t about the produce or organic goods — instead, the goal is to put Black culture at its center.

“We want to demonstrate and put Black businesses on display,” he said. “Show that we are out here, we are serving the community, and come out and support.”

The one farmer you will find here is Akeem Castro, who grows okra, herbs, and three types of kale at Uncle Keem’s Regenerative Backyard Farm. Castro is handing out free planting seeds to encourage urban farming and to…

“Show people that you don’t have to wear a straw hat,” Castro explained. “You can grow food right in your backyard or on your porch. So, that’s really our goal.”  

Sierra Bowman founded the market in Henderson and sells her plant-based baked goods and pizzas alongside dozens of other vendors. Initially, some on social media reacted to a Black farmers market with skepticism, calling the event divisive. But Bowman says the intent is to spotlight Black-owned businesses while also welcoming everyone to learn more.

“There’s this misconception that we’re trying to separate ourselves when all we’re trying to do is come together,” she said. “I thought that by bringing this to the Las Vegas community, we can open up the floor for dialogue.”

Each week has had a theme using “Black” — B.L.A.C.K. — as an acronym. This Saturday’s final event will focus on “Knowledge” and how that leads to empowerment.

With a DJ, food trucks and folks breaking out into the “Cha Cha Slide,” this observance of Black History Month feels more like a community celebration. Vendors display creations from the African diaspora, including waist beads and art made from Kente cloth.

Cowabunga Bay waterpark, where the market takes place, even hosts a hiring booth onsite for hundreds of openings.

Originally from Georgia and frequently moving around as a military spouse, Bowman is familiar with popup events like this in other cities. As she’s expanded her businesses in Vegas, she noticed a lack of Black cultural events in the area.

“I spoke to a woman who came to the first event,” Bowman said. “She said she’s lived in Henderson for 23 years and they’ve never had anything of this caliber.”

As Black History Month wraps up, Bowman is hoping to take her farmers market national.

Lucretia Cunningham is a former contributing reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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