POLAND -- People who regularly travel on Youngstown-Poland Road probably do not think twice about the horse farm nestled among the suburban homes and businesses on the busy road.
After all, the farm has been there forever. The homes and businesses are the relative newcomers. The Zedaker family settled there in 1864, and until about five years ago the farm was known as Zedaker's.
It is now An-Jon Acres, a takeoff on the names of its current owners, Ann and John Zedaker.
"In 1864, my great-grandfather moved out here from an area on the south side of Youngstown near what is now Zedaker Street. There was a house and a barn here on 100 acres," Zedaker said.
The Zedakers live in the house and still use the barn, but most of the acreage has been sold and developed. The original homestead was bordered by Youngstown-Poland Road, Lyons Boulevard, Manor Avenue and Fifth Street.
The property was used to farm hay, wheat and corn and raise dairy cattle. "My great-grandfather and grandfather farmed the land, and they used some horses to run a hauling company," Zedaker explained.
His father eventually took over the farm. "My dad had arthritis, so he was not able to work the farm like his father and grandfather did. In 1948 he began the horse farm," Zedaker said.
He added, "My friends would come over, and we would ride the horses, so my dad put out a cigar box asking for donations to help pay for feed. He got a good response and realized that the farm had business potential."
Riding lessons, pony rides
Zedaker gave his first riding lesson at the age of 11. In addition to the lessons and boarding, Zedaker's mother sold pony rides. "The rides lasted until 1984, when my mother retired," he said.
Zedaker graduated from Youngstown University in 1959. "After I graduated, I worked in the family business until 1969. I then went into the insurance business," he said.
The Zedakers met in 1968 when Mrs. Zedaker began taking riding lessons. They were married in 1969.
In the 1970s, Zedaker's siblings and other family members began selling parcels of the property. Knollwood Avenue, Country Lane and Shetland Lane were developed as a result of the sell-off.
"In 1977, Ann and I bought what would have been the continuation of Country Lane through to Youngstown-Poland Road," Zedaker said.
In the past few years, the couple remodeled the barns and added an indoor arena so that they can give lessons year-round. The number of students has increased from 25 to 65.
The Zedakers own 12 horses, and they board eight.
"Our specialty is to take a student from ground zero and train them to a point where they can compete in shows. We give them a good foundation," Zedaker said.
Earlier this year he retired from the insurance business. "I'm working more hours a day now that I'm retired," said Zedaker, laughing.