YOUNGSTOWN – Sandra Sanger Tuck remembers when her mother, the late Helen Sanger, stopped carrying her homemade pies out to the roadside stand at Sanger Farms decades ago. Instead, she started inviting patrons into the family farm’s barn for her popular delectables.
“My mom always had this vision,” Tuck said. “She said if you have a good product, people will find you. She always had this idea of agritourism. She loved when tourists and fishermen came in. She loved Youngstown and wanted to show everyone the area.”
The third generation at Sanger Farms is now exploring new avenues of agritourism, with Tuck, her husband, Mike, and their children expanding on Helen’s vision.
Long known for its delicious butter tarts, pies and cookies, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, the family recently opened the Back Barn Café at the farm, 852 Lockport St., Youngstown. This cozy spot offers breakfast and lunch selections, ice cream, slices of pie served a la mode, hot coffee, and a slushie machine that only uses fresh fruit grown on the farm, with no preservatives.
The slushie flavor these days is cherry, using “all fresh cherries, no syrups. It’s sweet and tart, and you can’t beat the natural taste,” said Sandra and Mike’s son, Claitan. “The flavors will be seasonal, and apple cider slushies will be big.”
Sandra’s parents, Glenn and Helen, purchased the farm in the early 1970s, and Mike and Sandra bought it from Glenn in September 2013. The 62-acre farm now boasts about 35 acres of cherry, peach and apple orchards, as well as a full working kitchen and roomy shop to sell its aromatic baked goods, fresh fruits and vegetables.
This past winter, Mike and Claitan turned the barn’s former apple sorting area into the café, complete with a peaked ceiling created with boards from defunct apple totes, many emblazoned with the name “Sanger.” Tables, likewise, are crafted with apple tote tops and bases from recycled, late 1800s barn beams. In another clever move, patrons are placed on comfortable tractor seat chairs.
“Claitan did most of the work here,” Mike said of his son, who turns 21 next month. “The slushie machine was something that’s been in the back of my mind for the past couple of years, and it’s been attracting a regular clientele.”
A sandwich board out front announces the day’s specials, while new picnic tables and hiking trails ring a pond in back. The Tucks got busy in recent months clearing dead trees and brush, and creating paths for visitors to hike and spots where they can linger.
The farm offers U-pick cherries, peaches and apples, with hayrides to and from the orchards to complete the farm experience.
Sandra’s uncle, Ed Hastings, and Claitan and Mike also did extensive work creating an apple sorting room this past winter. The room features large windows for visitors to watch the process.
Sanger Farms is making noticeable forays into the world of agritourism.
“And there is a lot more to come,” Claitan said.
“Agritourism is huge,” he explained. “We’re always looking for the tourists, but we always want our locals, too, to be sustainable, especially in winter. We’re trying to keep a good balance.”
He said the family grows almost all of the produce it sells in its barn shop, “and we trade with other local farmers if we don’t grow it here.”
He added that the lack of rain may have made the fruit crops a little smaller, “but they’re also sweeter.”
“We’ll start the U-pick peaches in mid-August and then the apples will come shortly after that,” he said, adding that the farm grows close to a dozen varieties of apples.
The family also sells its produce at the Lewiston harvest and peach festivals in the fall.
“Two years ago, we sold just shy of 500 half-bushels of peaches at the Peach Festival,” Claitan noted.
The Tucks’ older son, Rogan, nearly 23, will start on his master’s degree in biological sciences at the University at Buffalo this month. He joins his mother as one of the family’s primary bakers. His sisters – Carly Lauzonis, who is an elementary school teacher; Shari Posa, who works for HSBC; and Lisa Vanderhider, a nutritionist who is home with a new baby – also regularly pitch in on the farm.
The family is eager to point out that the farm is open year-round. It sells cold-storage fruit and vegetables, as well as baked goods, throughout the winter and early spring. Family members get particularly busy with Thanksgiving and Christmas orders.
Claitan said they are currently gearing up for the farm’s busiest time – the period when peaches wind down and apples start to pick up.
“People like to come out for their fall fix,” Sandra concurred. “They might come from Buffalo, for example, and they’d like something to eat or drink, and spend a little more time. Now, they can hang out here and have a picnic.”
“They can enjoy everything we have to offer,” Claitan added.
Sanger Farms is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. For more information, call 745-7297 or visitat http://www.sangerfarmsandbakery.com or its Facebook page.