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
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 email@example.com. 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, www.savoryspoon.com.
Door County Magazine,
Fall 07, volume 11, Issue 3, pp.6-7