Leepy’s Serves Locavores With Home-Canned Fruits and Vegetables

May 11, 2012

By Charlyn Fargo

Lee Roy Rendelman of Leepy's Country Gourmet Foods

Lee Roy Rendleman’s nickname as a kid was Leepy. When he was 8 or 10 years old, he remembers his dad and grandpa working on a threshing machine and steam engine. When the engine shut down, Rendleman would hop across a couple of mud holes to get supplies.

“First thing I knew, they were calling me leaper, then leap frog and finally ‘leepy.’ It stuck. I’ve been called that ever since,” says Rendleman, 84.

The nickname has given Rendleman direction. After farming for 50 years – raising corn, soybeans and wheat on his Southern Illinois farm – he had to quit when a drought in 1983 took all of his crops. He took it in stride, working out with the banks what he owed, selling some of his farmland, and leaping to a new career as county commissioner and raising produce from his garden to sell at local farmers’ markets.

At a young age, his mother taught him how to can produce from the family garden.

“Canning was a way of life on the farm growing up,” Rendleman says. “We canned enough to keep the family fed through the winter.”

So it was only natural for Rendleman to carry on the tradition. He and his wife, Marla, would can produce from their garden, often having an extra 1,000 jars to give away to friends and family. Their specialty was their pickles, canned from cucumbers raised in their garden. They also grew peppers and tomatoes for salsa.

“One of the boys says to me one day, ‘You know, I believe you could sell this stuff,’ ” Rendleman says. “That rang a bell with me. I went from there.”

Leepy's Country Gourmet Foods - Home Canned Illinois Products

The idea grew into Leepy’s Country Gourmet Foods, a business located next to the Trail of Tears State Forest in Jonesboro, located in Union County, Illinois (along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail). He offers a wide variety of canned products including several varieties of pickles, relishes, salsa, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, applesauce, apple butter, jellies and jams. He raises some of the produce and purchases the rest from area farmers’ markets in Carbondale, Cape Girardeau, Mo., and occasionally St. Louis.

“Our best seller is the medium salsa,” Rendleman says. “We often have to go to two farmers’ markets a week to get all our produce.”

Rendleman converted one of his farm sheds into a kitchen. His grandson, Zachary, 25, joined the business after returning from multiple tours of duty in Iraq for the U.S. Air Force.

“He came back and decided to help Pa Pa while he went to school,” Rendleman says. “I’m so glad.”

Where To Buy
Leepy’s products are sold through regional dealers, farmers’ markets, some of the Southern Illinois wineries and direct from his farm in Jonesboro. He also sells through his website, www.leepysgourmetfoods.com, or by phone at (866) 680-0958.

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Comments

  1. Rae says:

    Hello Sir, I was at Farmer’s Market this past Thur(Aug 23). A friend told me about your pickled okra. I love pickled okra! She said it was better than store bought and [reasonably priced.] Which she was right. However, the jar I bought[big] jar, some of the okra… well shall we say…they’re not all the way done if you will. The bigger ones are hard & stiff & hard to bite, like they’re still raw or something. I couldnt eat them. I even had my husband try one & he said something’s not right with these & threw it away. What can I do? I dont want money back. You might remember me because you said that I looked familar & I said sometimes I fill in for ‘Okra’ & we joked around. I had my grandson with me he was asking you about sweet pickles. There was a lady standing there joking with us. I was joking that I filled in for Oprah before she lost weight. Do you remember????

  2. krishnacolours says:

    Found your site while searching for recipe of pickles. Read the post and I’m now impressed. Please share more about you and your product. Waiting for a nice post in future.

  3. Gwen Edwards says:

    Leepy’s bread and butter pickles are my favorite! They are just like my grandmother used to make. I also enjoy the pepper jelly. I serve it poured over a brick of cream cheese with crackers or chips. The salsa is excellent!