President of Envision the Berry, Carl Cooper Jr. works very hard at making New Iberia neighborhoods more self-sufficient and health conscious. As manager of Da Berry Fresh Market, he has positioned it not only as a springboard to a healthier life, but as a home base for residents to talk, learn, study and be open minded on subjects that have been avoided.
You started the Iberia Market; why was that an important initiative for you? I wanted to create an economic structure in the community. I was going to Lafayette to get whole, fresh foods. I saw a need for a new consciousness for health, so I did much studying and research before opening the market. We have our own garden in the back. Additionally, we sell jams, jellies, seasoning, fresh herbs… I purchased another acre and a half behind the market and extended the garden, and I’m working towards eventually owning the market.
Talk about your involvement with the Community Supported Agriculture program? Through that program we have the Iberia Community Garden on Hopkins Street. The garden is intended to get residents to get out and help in the garden and leave with produce. For every hour of work someone puts in the garden, they get a pound of vegetables in return. I volunteered there for six months before starting the market.
You don’t just offer produce at the market; you’re feeding residents knowledge with your mini library? I’m a big advocate of reading and self-education and I wanted to give that opportunity to community members at the market. Since 2017, people of all ages and descents have checked out children’s books, DIY books, diet, nutrition and cookbooks and books on African history.
What are some upcoming projects? I’m in the process of acquiring the building next door to Da Berry Market and opening a kitchen, using ingredients sourced from the back garden. It will also be a place to have coffee and pastries. We’ll expand the mini library to this building. And eventually, I’ll offer entertainment.
You started the Da Berry Bikes program. How does it work? I get used bikes for children and adults that need repair and I fix them and give them to whoever wants one. They don’t stay long. If I’m not giving out bikes, I’m giving out parts or helping someone fix their bike.
The Things About Carl
Hidden Talent: Learning to play guitar
Something that few people know: Is a futuristic revolutionary for humanity
Favorite Musician: Fela Kuti
Recommended Read: “Shifting Your Paradigm for Optimum Health and Longevity”