YOUNGSTOWN – Swing open the screen door at Sanger Farms and get a glimpse of the future, while reveling in the cool, shady embrace of this ancient barn’s venerable past.
Bags of shiny apples, quarts of red berries and stalks of rhubarb vie for attention. They rest alongside an array of mouth-watering seasonal pies and other treats made with fruit grown right on the farm at 852 Youngstown-Lockport Road, widely appreciated by visitors from near and far for the past several decades.
And now, a large, refrigerated display case brims with a variety of gluten-free baked goods, as well.
How does a white almond cake pop dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crystallized sugar sound? Or a rich chocolate cake pop infused with coffee and encased in milk chocolate?
It started as a means to alleviate some common arthritis and joint pain for owner/baker Sandra Sanger Tuck, but blossomed into an additional line of offerings. It also has given her children a new avenue to help ensure the farm continues for years to come.
Tuck and her husband, Michael, bought the farm from her father, Glenn Sanger, last October. She had been encouraged by things she learned about forgoing wheat flour from daughter Lisa Posa, while Lisa was pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition at New York University.
“My kids have been involved all along,” she said. “I think they’d all like to eventually work here full time and be involved in the family business. They each bring their own individual talents to the table.”
Lisa, 31, just finished her master’s degree. Daughter Shari Posa, 30, has worked six years as a registered representative for Spectrum Wealth Management in Amherst. Her twin, Carly Lauzonis, is a teacher. Rogan Tuck, 20, is a biology major at the University at Buffalo, while Claiton Tuck, 18, studies business management at Niagara University. All still help on the farm when they can.
“My daughters have mostly been bakers, since they were old enough to do it,” she said. “This freed me up to do other things, like the farm work.”
Tuck said she learned to bake from her mother, Helen Sanger, who started the baked goods end of the farm business after she and her husband bought the farm in the early 1970s, because, “She couldn’t let anything go to waste.”
“If fruit started getting too ripe, my Mom would make pies or jams,” Tuck recalled of her mother, who died in 1995.
“My Mom always said we could have pie for breakfast before we’d run off to school. It was better for us than a Pop-Tart – there were no chemicals, no additives. Our family still talks about that now.”
Using fruit and vegetables in season is a rule she passed along to her daughter.
“Apples and peaches are our biggest crops,” she said. “When they’re in season, that’s our boom-time. We have peach and apple everything – pies, muffins, tarts, etc.”
The move to include gluten-free items was so effective, that Tuck and Shari Posa knew they had to share it with everyone else.
“I was never diagnosed, but this worked for me,” Tuck said. “I was starting to feel old and I didn’t want to be like that. This has been really exciting to me.”
And she’s been happy to share more baking duties with her offspring.
“Shari just loves to experiment with baking – she’s a natural,” Tuck said. “Both twins are like that, and their brothers are the taste-testers (although Rogan helps in the kitchen as well).”
Shari found she had a growing list of friends who were gluten intolerant who sampled her new treats to rave reviews. But she said she didn’t expect her treats to be sought after by her non-gluten intolerant friends, as well.
“Everyone likes a little delectable – some little yummy,” she said. “Summer is a good time (to launch this), when we’re busiest. We hope this takes off.”
The enhanced baked goods section is just one sign of this family’s willingness to head in new directions in agri-tourism with this 50-plus-acre farm, while honoring its rich past.
“I think this is really needed,” said Shari. “We need people to come out and show their kids where their food comes from. The younger generation has no idea. Even my generation has no idea. We are losing this (knowledge) so quickly.
“I think it’s really important to support local farms – if they were lost, it would be tragic,” she added.
“I like growing things, healthy eating, I like how people are getting back to the basics by using minimal sprays on plants,” Tuck said. “People want their food straight from the earth, without processing.
“We want to go bigger with herbs, with our U-pick,” she said. “We have U-pick cherries, peaches, pears and apples. We want to get into more recreational activities. We have big plans.
“We have a fun place here,” Tuck said of the farm she’s called home since age 11.
“We want families to come and see where their food comes from and see Youngstown. They’ll love this farm, because I love it.”
Sanger Farms is open year-round and may be reached at 745-7297 or at www.sangerfarm.com.