The story of the Ute Pass Young Entrepreneur’s booth at the Woodland Park Farmers Market starts with a spark — a real one flying from the hammer of Asher Camire at the Woodland Park Farmers Market.
Asher, at age 13, is the youngest registered and legal blacksmith in the U.S. He became fascinated watching a blacksmith at a fair in Denver and decided to learn the trade. He started with books, then hours of YouTube videos and finally lessons with a local blacksmith. After many hours of hard work, including more classes and practice, his instructor suggested he take a test to become a registered and licensed Journeyman Blacksmith. It took a few tries, but he finally succeeded and now has his diploma.
Asher not only sells his small items such as hooks at the farmers market, but also accepts commissions.
He is one of many young people selling their wares at the weekly summer market.
What is now the Young Entrepreneurs Program started in 1992 with one young boy who decided to dig up the “Johnny Jump-Ups” (delicate viola tricolor flowers) in his mother’s yard and sell them to make some spending money, said Judy Crummett, market manager.
Between word-of-mouth referrals, articles and online posts the number of interested young people grew. The youth vendors were taught how to put up and take down tents, identify themselves with wooden signs made by Young Entrepreneurs Rocky Mountain Woodcraft, calculate sales tax, fashion displays. They learned farmers market basics and how to interact with customers.
The Miller family, who started Rocky Mountain Woodcraft, are a story within this story. Caleb Miller, now 24, started when he was 11 selling signs at the market. He was followed by sister Autumn Miller, now 23, who at age 13 roasted green coffee beans at home and sold her delicious brew. Eliza Miller, now 19, started at age 11 with face painting and then henna designs. She also participated in how-to presentations at Columbine Elementary School. Still at the market are Ian (14), Canyon (13), Serene(11), Nekoda (9), and Jaydaria (7), selling signs, lamps, Rice Krispies treats and candles, with the help of their mom, Teri, and dad, Kevin.
Today many Woodland Park High School students are vendors and also come to the market to publicize or fundraise for school activities. The Junior Woodland Players staff a booth to promote and fundraise for their shows, and both Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts have conducted fundraisers and recruiting days.
The Ute Pass Young Entrepreneurs booth is a Colorado state-funded School to Work Alliance Program-run booth and the brainchild of Patty Woods, who works with students at Cripple Creek, Manitou Springs and Woodland Park high schools. SWAP provides “In-school work-based learning,” which focuses on building soft skills such as customer service, financial experience and workplace-readiness necessary to become employed in the workforce.
The two in-school programs are the Electronic Recycling Program and The Studio. The Studio is the place where most of their merchandise for the Farmers Market booth is created. The funds generated from booth sales go back into the programs to provide more opportunities for the students to grow their life skills and independence.
An important part of the program is financial sponsorship, which this year has been donated by Allyson Cantrell of Coldwell Banker 1st Choice Realty. Cantrell said she loves to see young people develop the foundation that enables them to learn how to take the risks entailed in starting a business and make a positive contribution to society.
The nonprofit, volunteer-run Woodland Park Farmers Market will wind up its season on Friday, Sept. 27. It’s held 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays, June through September, at Memorial Park, Center Street and Henrietta Avenue. Info: wpfarmersmarket.com
Starting in November and continuing through May is a winter market at Ute Pass Cultural Center, 210 E. Midland Ave., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month.