By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Every Saturday during the 2013 farmer’s market season in Payson, Ariz., 7-year-old Brooklyn Klein diligently set up her pint-sized fruit stand in between her grandma’s jam stand and a homemade peanut butter vendor, arranging her wares in bowls, bags and Chinese takeout boxes. When the market opened for business, she already had customers lined up, waiting to buy fruit from their favorite little seller.
Brooklyn had her eyes on the prize: shoes for children in need. Her church, Expedition Church, was hosting a shoe drive for Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®, and Brooklyn was inspired to do her part to support the project. She had operated a small lemonade stand at the market the year before to raise money to send Christmas gifts to children overseas, so she wanted to try something new.
“We have a peach tree and a plum tree in our backyard,” said Katie Klein, Brooklyn’s mother. “We decided to pick from that and sell it.”
Their backyard trees have low-hanging branches that Brooklyn can reach from a little step stool. She would work together with her mom, her dad, Joe, and her little sister, Ellie, on Friday nights or early Saturday morning before the market to pick between 60 and 70 pounds of fruit to sell.
Brooklyn’s secret to picking the best fruit? “It’s the ones that come off the tree really easily.” As they picked, she and her family carefully lined up the fruit in stackable trays to keep it from getting bruised and mushy.
Katie and Joe run the Payson farmers market and would arrive at 6 a.m. to open it up and prepare for the day. Rows of canopy tents soon lined a parking lot where 39 vendors set up to sell fresh produce, eggs, snacks and locally made products like goat cheese and peanut butter.
Brooklyn and Ellie would come later with their babysitter in time for Brooklyn to set up her stand before the market opened at 8 a.m. She displayed a Shoes for Orphan Souls poster at her fruit stand and was happy to tell people all about why children needed new shoes. When customers at the farmers market learned about Brooklyn’s reasons for setting up shop, they quickly offered their support.
“Other people were saying, ‘Come pick our peaches’ or ‘My grandmother has a plum tree in her backyard and she can’t keep up with it anymore.’ So we began picking in others’ yards, too,” Klein said.
They’d spend Friday evenings picking fruit as a family, with Joe lifting Brooklyn up to the high branches to get the best plums, or Katie climbing a ladder and passing fruit down to the kids.
Brooklyn sold fruit for 15 weeks and raised a little over $700 – enough to buy 51 pairs of new shoes for her church shoe drive, plus a contribution of $51 to help ship the shoes to Texas. She said she loved selling fruit to earn money for Shoes for Orphan Souls so much that she plans to do it again when the farmers market reopens this May.
Brooklyn said she’ll be adding new products to her own stand to help raise even more money – key chains and bracelets she makes out of tiny, colorful rubber bands with her Rainbow Loom.
“I look up designs on YouTube,” she explained. “I have all these like key chains, like leaves, snowflakes, and I had a little bow bracelet that I made.”
Katie said Brooklyn looks forward to the farmers market all year and can’t stop talking about it. Last year, about 1,200 people visited the market each Saturday and Brooklyn typically sold out within an hour and a half.
“Everybody just loved that that’s what she was doing,” Klein said. “She charged $3 or $4 a bowl, depending on the type of fruit, but instead of paying $3 or $4, people would give $10 or 20. They loved seeing a kid doing something for somebody other than themselves. People would wait for her to open up her little part of the market to buy from her – she built up a loyal customer base really quick!”
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