Sanger fruit stand plants itself on fresh grounds

Sunflower Farm Stand, former Centerville Fruit Station, takes root at southwest corner of Reed Avenue and Highway 180

Sunflower Farm Stand, formerly known as Centerville Fruit Station, is pictured alongside a sunflower maze, at right, in its new site on the southwest corner of Reed Avenue and Highway 180 just outside Minkler. The stand has been open for business for six weeks. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published July 1, 2023  • 
2:00 pm

SANGER – A popular Sanger area fruit stand that made a name in nearby Centerville has a fresh start attracting fans to its new location to enjoy a wide variety of organic fruit and a scenic sunflower maze.

Sunflower Farm Stand – which built a reputation as Centerville Fruit Station for 14 years along old Highway 180 – has just completed its sixth week of operation at the southwest corner of 180 and Reed Avenue, next to the traffic light. The stand sells a variety of organic fruit including peaches, plums, pluots, blueberries, strawberries, cherries and watermelon.

Angela Strambi, owner of the stand along with husband Michael Strambi and brother-sister in-laws Joe and Vickie Herkell, said the business got a new lease on life earlier this year when Michael purchased the prime piece of real estate next to the 180-Reed T intersection.

“During the pandemic, we thought, ‘(we don’t know) if it’s in the cards for us’,” she said. “But we also thought, ‘we’re going to give it one more chance’.”

The stand’s history and reputation dating back to locations in Centerville, along Academy Avenue north of Sanger and even back to off Frankwood Avenue on the family farm in the late 1990s has helped boost its popularity at the new location. Michael Strambi is a third-generation farmer, and his grandfather moved to the Valley from Italy to establish the family roots.

A sunflower maze along with an organic garden are pictured just to the north of the Sunflower Farm Stand on June 30. The fruit stand and maze at the southwest corner of Highway 180 and Reed Avenue has been operating for six weeks. (Jon Earnest)

An attraction at the stand that’s quickly grown in popularity is the half-acre maze of sunflowers just north of the stand. Vickie Herkell said that the maze contains 27 different varieties of sunflowers.

“Once they start blooming, they last about six weeks. After they’re done blooming, we planted a second smaller area,” she said. The maze has become a favorite stop for fruit buyers, and is a popular site for photos. An organic garden is situated next to the sunflower maze.

“We want to make this place a destination, where people can come in and enjoy what we are all about here in the Valley,” Herkell said. “We’re so fortunate to be able to grow all of this wonderful fruit. We get a lot of tourists that have never tasted a nectarine, and they’re just blown away.”

Kuldip Thusu of Dinuba gathers some yellow sweet cherries to purchase at the Sunflower Farm Stand just outside Minkler on June 30. Thusu, a Dinuba City Council member who has served as mayor, said he and his family love yellow cherries, particularly tart, and was visiting (Jon Earnest)

Kuldip Thusu, Dinuba City Council member and a past mayor, made his first visit at the new site and checked out the fruit in stock. He said he and his family particularly love yellow cherries, with his personal favorite being the tart variety.

Some of the many selections of homemade jams are on sale inside at the Sunflower Farm Stand. In addition to fresh organic fruit, a variety of dried nuts and fruits are available for customers to purchase. (Jon Earnest)

In addition to all the fruit selections, visitors also can purchase jarred jams and a variety of food items inside the adjoining building.

“We have local honey and snacks, featuring local nuts and dried fruit,” Herkell said. She also showed local images shot by her husband, a retired professional photographer. The digital images he has photographed have been made into framed works of art.

“There’s something about this being a contagious place to come to, it really is,” Angela Strambi said. “People just love spending time out here. I’ve had the ladies come out and just watch the hummingbirds. They’re just amazed at the garden and the flowers.”

New batches of fresh organic fruit are available daily through about 6 p.m., and the stand should be fully stocked with fruit into fall.

Jon Earnest