A Faith-Based, Vet-Owned Business Brings Fresh, Holistically Raised Products to Omaha Locals
Ellsworth Crossing, a “farm to fork” market, serves as a hub for over 70 farmers and producers under one roof. Owners, Tony and Amber Ellsworth, firmly believe in supporting local agriculture, and their store exemplifies this belief. The diverse customer base consists of both residents and visitors from far and wide, drawn to the store’s commitment to quality, natural flavor, and holistic practices.
Customers come not only for top-quality Nebraska farm-fresh products such as bison hump roasts, wagyu, Scottish highlander beef, pork butt, local greens, and dairy, but also for the knowledge and education provided by the Ellsworth family.
The inception of Ellsworth Crossing was directly correlated with Tony’s personal health. After a visiting a functional medicine doctor, thanks to Amber’s prompting, Tony learned that his health was heading in the wrong direction, unfortunately, not unlike most Americans today. Blood tests showed that his heart, liver, and kidneys were all in the wrong category, and on top of that, he was pre-diabetic. The doctor advised that he make adjustments, starting with the food he ate. As a starting point, the doctor recommended he eat organic to address the causes of his underlying conditions at the root.
Tony’s background in farming led him to Plum Creek Farms, a well-known chicken supplier to Omaha and Lincoln’s high-end restaurants. The farm raises free-range, hormone-free chickens. Following his doctor’s advice, Tony and Amber became customers and started their own journey towards clean eating and optimal health.
At first, Tony wasn’t convinced that he could improve his health simply through what he was eating. However, after a year of dedication, he saw remarkable improvements in his health, debunking his skepticism. His heart, liver, and kidneys were remarkably healthier, and he was no longer pre-diabetic. The couple decided to start sourcing their food directly from farmers and established a relationship with Plum Creek Farms.
Plum Creek Farms opened a store during the pandemic to continue selling their products, as shutdowns severely suppressed the restaurant industry, affecting the farm’s profits and distribution. Consequently, Amber was looking for a part-time job, and the owner of Plum Creek Farm’s offered her a management position at the store.
The Ellsworth’s relationship with Plum Creek Farms proved to be more fruitful than expected on multiple accounts. As the effects of the pandemic on the restaurant industry tapered in 2021, Tony and Amber were presented with the opportunity to purchase the store from Plum Creek Farm’s owners. With the support of organizations like the Center for Rural Affairs, the Ellsworth’s acquired funding and embarked on their journey, changing the store’s name to Ellsworth Crossing, and doubling their size in just two years.
Ellsworth Crossing’s business philosophy centers on being a faith-based, vet-owned enterprise. Their foundation, “Jehovah Jireh,” reflects their belief in God as the ultimate provider. Their commitment to agriculture, sustainable practices, and functional medicine is driven by their desire to help others lead healthier lives. They actively educate their customers about clean eating, the importance of quality nutrients, and the positive impact of holistic farming practices. Tony and Amber organize meet-your-farmer days, allowing customers to interact directly with the farmers and producers, fostering transparency and trust.
“I don’t keep the farmers behind a wall or veil or anything, I bring them in, and the customers love it,” Tony says. “I think that’s the best way to find your healthy food. You know it’s local and straight from the source. I don’t know anybody else who’s doing that, but that’s what we do.”
At Ellsworth Crossing, holistic eating is a cornerstone of the business philosophy. Tony explains that proper nutrition begins with nutrient-rich soil, which then nourishes the plants and animals. By consuming these plants and animals, individuals receive the essential nutrients their bodies need for optimum health.
“Everything in typical grocery stores is chemically enhanced with hormones and whatnot, and it’s making us sick,” Tony says. “You have very bright big oranges, but without those natural nutrients they lose the flavor. Even your chicken, if you look on the sticker, some are labeled with an extra ingredient called ‘chicken flavoring.’”
Intensive farming practices employed by larger corporations often deplete the soil, leading to the need for chemical enhancements to replace the natural color, flavor, and texture of the food. Ellsworth Crossing seeks to break away from this cycle by promoting the benefits of naturally raised, nutrient-rich food, and it all starts with the soil.
To ensure that the products and produce supplied at Ellsworth Crossing are raised holistically, Tony interviews every farmer about their raising practices, invites them to his store, samples their products, and eventually visits their farms as well.
Tony has fostered relationships with a plethora of local farmers whose practices align with his values. Their products include four different types of Nebraska beef, with both grain and grass-fed options, 100% full blood Wagyu, bison raised on Nebraska plains, free range holistically raised chicken, and top breeds of pork. These products can be found at Ellsworth Crossing, along with dairy products, local honey, farm fresh eggs, a variety of gluten free baked goods, and bunches of delicious microgreens.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of running Ellsworth Crossing is the opportunity to help people on their journey to healthier eating. Tony and Amber take pride in providing customers with access to clean, wholesome food and supporting local farmers who share their commitment to holistic practices. Witnessing the positive impact on customers’ lives, both in terms of health improvements and culinary enjoyment, brings a sense of fulfillment to the couple.
“It’s not uncommon for somebody to say something along the lines of ‘Tony, you broke me’ and what they mean is now they’re tasting nutritious chicken, and it’s plump and it has flavor to it, and now they can’t go back to store-bought chicken,” Tony says.
However, challenges arise in spreading awareness about the store and its offerings. Operating without the multi-million-dollar advertising budgets of larger corporations, Ellsworth Crossing relies on word-of-mouth and social media to reach potential customers. Education plays a crucial role in addressing this challenge.
“If you go to the store and get a dozen eggs, and all the eggs are perfectly bleach-white, no marks on them, all identical in size…something is wrong,” Tony explains. “That looks more like manufacturing, and I tell customers, you can come pick eggs with me one day.”
Tony and his team take every opportunity to educate customers about the benefits of holistic eating, organically raised produce, and benefits of functional medicine.
Maintaining a balance between supply and demand is another challenge faced by Ellsworth Crossing. As a small-scale operation, the store may experience periods when demand exceeds supply.
“There are times when we run out of product, and in terms of customers, that’s a teaching moment,” Tony explains. “I remind people, I’m not manufacturing meat. This isn’t play-doh.”
To address lack of supply, they employ sign-up sheets for special occasions and collaborate closely with farmers to meet anticipated demand. In cases where immediate supply is not available, Ellsworth Crossing works closely with customers, setting realistic expectations and ensuring timely delivery once the products become available.
In addition to running their business, the couple also manages their own farm, located in Springfield, near the Platte River. Their farm is home to chickens, ducks, and hay, with neighboring acres hosting black Angus cattle. Surrounded by Nebraska’s farm country, the couple’s passion for agriculture shines through in their work at Ellsworth Crossing.
Ellsworth Crossing stands as a beacon of hope in an era where the integrity of our food sources is often compromised. By connecting health-conscious consumers with local farmers, Tony and Amber have created a community-driven store that fosters a holistic approach to food and supports sustainable agriculture. Their dedication to education, transparency, and customer service allows them to make a positive impact on the lives of their customers, one meal at a time.