Ren Sirles

ALTO PASS, IL (KFVS) - Ren Sirles of Rendleman Orchards in Alto Pass says he is proud to do what he does.

"We have been farming here now for a hundred and thirty seven years," said Ren Sirles.

Ren Sirles who co-owns Rendleman Orchards with his wife Betty and son Wayne still oversee every step of the harvest and raising of the crops.

Ren got his taste of farming at the very young age of seven. That's when he started working full time on the harvest.

"We used to raise cattle and hogs and milk cows, chickens just like a typical farm would almost be self-sustaining," Sirles said.  "Then we went to specialty crops mainly apples and peaches at the time. And that was all done by mules and small tractors."

Ren's grandfather Grover Rendleman started the farm back in 1873.

What sets their farm apart from a traditional farm is they raise specialty crops on very hilly ground.

"In this area if you buy a piece of ground, if you can farm one acre out of two it is a very good piece of ground to farm on," Sirles said. "But with ours we concentrate a lot of production in a very small acres."

The tractors have replaced the mules in the fields.

They've added squash, zucchini and cucumbers to their peach and apple crops.

"That is one of the reasons why we went to vegetables it does diversify us," Sirles said. "Compared to the fruit trees which you have one shot and one shot only."

Ren says there is one thing though that has not changed on the farm in over a century.

"The harvesting is still done exactly as it's been done a hundred years ago," he said. "It's still a man picking or a woman picking with two hands putting the product in a bucket to be brought in to be packed."

There is one other thing that sets farming on Rendleman Orchards apart from a traditional farm.

"The biggest difference between this farming and I would say row crop farming is we do have to work the year round," he said.  "In the winter we have to prune our trees. In the spring we come in and start raising our crops, all the way up into the summer. Then we harvest of course. We harvest all the way to the end of October. And then we start the cycle again."

It's a cycle of farming Ren has kept going for nearly 70 years.  He's now preparing the next generation of Sirles to keep the farm alive in the future.

"We have to worry just as much about our fruit going to the store as the people from China."

"The chain stores are very large and they're looking global."

"I don't know exactly where it's going," he said. "I know it is getting more difficult to understand the marketing situation to be able to move your product."

Rendleman Orchards has figured out how to do that for more than 130 years.

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