Farm people around Gilman, IL, are regulars at a charming place called The Gathering. It's not a coffee shop or bar; it's a gift store that sells corn- and soy-based products. The local community is “tickled” that the store carries what farmers raise, says farmer and part owner Cathy Perzee.

The year-old shop offers soybean candles and lotions, and corn-based products such as household and hand cleaners. Perzee, who farms 650 acres of corn and soybeans with her husband, Gary, near Gilman, ran across soy candles last January during a gift shop buying trip.

“There were lotions and candles and all sorts of things. I said to the people in the booth, ‘You have no idea how excited I am about finding this.’ ”

She's also excited — and proud — that the products are of good quality. “The candles burn wonderfully; they burn clear to the bottom and there's no residue. And the lotion! I paint a lot, and in between washing out brushes and things, I don't have to reapply the lotion. It really stays with my hands,” she says.

Some of the products Perzee and her co-owners sell come from Redwood Candle Co., Redwood Falls, MN. Jill Anderson, its owner, started experimenting with soy candles in 1998 when she found they burned cleaner than paraffin wax.

Soy candles are nearly soot-free and burn longer than paraffin ones, she adds.

Anderson's nearly patented candlemaking process, which used the oil from more than 500,000 bushels of soybeans this year, has been quite a success.

Even so, she is widening her niche to include personal care products, like lotions.

“When we worked with the soybean oil, we noticed that our hands would get soft, so why not make lotion? We have three different kinds now.” This coming January, she'll introduce a new product: a shower cream.

For more on The Gathering, log on to www.thegatheringshop.com. To find a store that carries Redwood Candle Co. products, go to www.redwoodcandle.com.

Although soy is popular as a gift item, don't forget corn.

A Web site by Henneberry Marketing, El Paso, IL, offers gift packages that combine corn and soy by-products into items such as bath and shower gels, lotions, hand sanitizers and other soaps. Order from www.newuseproducts.com or call 888-251-1366.

Other companies from which you can order farm-grown items to support your industry include:

Candles, Body Products

Harvest Lights — soy container candles, hair products, cleaners, creams, other body products; from Indiana Soybean Growers Association. Order at www.soyworld.com/Candles.html or call 800-735-0195.

Jenni Originals — pillar candles and bath products from a Los Angeles, CA, boutique with “a loyal following of celebirty candle converts,” such as Renee Zellweger and Brooke Shields. Check out the Web site at www.jennioriginals.com; to order, call 877-955-3664.

Botanical Roots — container and pillar soy candles, from Olin, IA. To order, log onto www.botanicalroots.com or call 877-203-4774.

Candleworks — pillar candles and soybean wax to make your own candles, from Cedar Rapids, IA. To order, log on to www.candleworks.org or call 319-363-1664.

Soybean and Corn Stores — candles, crayons, hand cleaners, lotions, distributed by Huron, SD, farmers. Check out www.soybeanstore.com or call 605-352-0303.

BeansWax Candle Co. — pillar and container candles from a Maple Grove, MN, company. Check out www.beanswax.com or call 612-813-1800.

Books

Amazing Soy — written by Dani Jacobi, a spokesperson for the United Soybean Board, offering a complete guide to buying and cooking soy, plus 250 recipes. Find in local bookstores or on sites such as www.amazon.com.

The Soy Zone — written by Barry Sears, follows the Zone diet using soy as an alternative to high-carbohydrates, offering over 100 recipes. Find in local bookstore or on sites such as www.amazon.com.

Food

R&R Cookies — organic soy cookies using low-fat soy flour, from certified organic farmers in Sigourney, IA. Log on to www.organic-soy-cookies.com or call 877-853-7665.

Lee Seed Co. — soynuts plain, spiced or covered with chocolate, yogurt or rainbow flavorings, produced by the Lee family, Inwood, IA. To order, check out www.soynuts.com. New from the Lees: candles in kettles. Order at www.kettlekandles.com. For credit card orders, call 800-736-6530.

Toys/Art Supplies

Magic Nuudles — these multi-colored cornstarch-based building blocks look and feel similar to Styrofoam, but are completely safe and biodegradable. Order at www.wetnset.com/online-store/scstore or call 877-938-6738.

Prang Crayons — these crayons use soy in place of petroleum, from Dixon Ticonderoga, maker of the No. 2 pencil. Available at most retail stores.