Door County Magazine Article

our story


Even as a youngster, JoAnne Penny enjoyed cooking. Growing up on a Door County farm, she recalls doing “the cooking because I was too small for the field work and heavy chores.” What began as “helping hands” on the family farm has resulted in a venture into the world of commercial food preparation and marketing.
Although the trip from kitchen to store shelf has been far from easy, JoAnne considers the journey well worth the effort. Following years of experimentation, “S.E. Asian Spicy Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce,” JoAnne’s original recipe, is now on market shelves throughout northeastern Wisconsin.
The creation of JoAnne’s sauce has been a journey that began at home where “canning produce required technical precision.” As a teenager, JoAnne worked as a cook for an international family where she was “required to cook different kinds of foods and I really enjoyed the challenge.”
Majoring in archeology and anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, JoAnne eventually worked on “digs” around the world. “I was interested in people,” she said, “how they lived, what they ate, their nutritional values.”
It was a two-year assignment in Thailand, however, that proved a turning point for JoAnne. “Living in Asia opened doors for me; the flavors are so exotic. When my husband and I returned to the United States, I got a job with Rodale Press working in the test kitchen. It was the best job I ever had.” It proved a “launching” experience for the budding business woman.
Experimenting with ingredients, JoAnne began creating the sauces she had savored in Thailand, and immediately met with success. “My brother owns AC Tap (in Baileys Harbor) and used the sauces there. Everyone liked my sweet and sour sauce and wanted to buy it,” relates the entrepreneur. “So I decided to see if I could make the sauce commercially. I think it was always in the back of my mind.”
Moving into the world of professional food production, however, required tenacity, perseverance, and bit of luck. “I was driving and happened to see a sign for the Farm Market Kitchen in Algoma. I thought the recipe would ‘can’ easily--the ingredients really are safe--and have a good shelf life. So I talked to Mary Pat Carlson, the Market’s director, and she thought it could be done. She was really excited about the sauce and that’s when I got really excited,” JoAnne smiles.
Moving into a Farm Market Kitchen “space,” the mother of two college students tied on an apron and went to work, sometimes cooking until late into the night. “There are lots of rules to follow,” JoAnne relates. “The laboratory has to check the product, state inspectors have to watch me make the sauce, and I had to get a processor’s license. After I passed everything, I finally got the ‘go ahead.’”
With assistance from her staff—husband Jim, daughter Jasmine, brother Steve Mueller, and sister Joyce Warner—JoAnne currently markets her sauce in locations throughout Door, Brown, and Kewaunee counties.
With “S.E. Asian Spicy Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce” safely delivered, JoAnne is busy creating new products, including a peanut sauce, sweet and sour cherry ginger sauce, and a salad dressing. “They’re in various stages of development,” said JoAnne. Moving forward, she hopes to market her product online.
“This is not for the faint of heart,” she emphasizes, “its lots of baby steps and lots of hard work. But working with the Farm Market Kitchen, I was able to get started with very little money.”
The black and gold label on the jar of JoAnne’s sauce features a setting sun, barn and windmill. “We worked so late on the farm that the sun was setting as we finished for the day. The sun and its rays seemed the appropriate symbols for my label,” concluded JoAnne.
For specific store locations for Penny Lane Farm LLC sauces, contact Jo Anne at Her cooking class “Thai Cooking” at the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay, on August 11, with feature JoAnne’s favorite recipes. Information on class details are available by calling 920.854.6699 or online,

Door County Magazine, Fall 07, volume 11, Issue 3, pp.6-7