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The phrase “farm-to-fork market” may not be familiar to everyone, but the idea is fairly simple. Farm-to-fork markets offer a means for consumers to buy directly from Nebraska farmers, typically through storefronts, websites, or both.
Ellsworth Crossing, based out of Waterloo, Nebraska, gives customers the option of buying through both.
Owners Tony and Amber Ellsworth began Ellsworth Crossing in September 2021, when they bought an existing business. With financial assistance from the Center for Rural Affairs, the couple was able to take on the business and its clients, as well as buy supplies and inventory.
“I have been a part of many entrepreneurial endeavors, and have always wanted to be in the agri-business sector,” Tony said. “I found the Center through online research, and appreciate the assistance I received from them during the loan process. A lot of information was needed and the staff was incredibly helpful and polite.”
Lori Schrader, Center senior loan specialist, helped guide Tony through the steps of getting a loan.
“Tony was great to work with,” said Lori. “He wasn't afraid to ask questions and was quick to respond to the needs to fulfill his loan requirements. He was determined to make this loan work.”
Tony has continued his relationship with the Center, getting one-on-one counseling to help run the business. And the Center is helping him apply for the Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit.
Together, Tony and Amber run the business and take care of their customers. They also get help from family from time to time.
Ellsworth Crossing offers hundreds of products, including four kinds of beef—Wagyu, Piedmontese, Scottish Highlander, and Angus—that are grass- or grain-finished. The farm-to-fork market also has Plum Creek Chicken, along with pork, farm fresh eggs, dairy, produce, honey, and more.
“We have more than 50 Nebraska farmers under one roof, kind of like a year-round farmers market,” said Tony. “We interview and try samples of our farmers’ products to help ensure they are raised holistically and humanely. We combine functional medicine—you are what you eat—with Nebraska farm fresh.”
Tony and Amber take pride in helping others and providing their customers with everything they need, and then some.
“We are a for-profit, faith-based, veteran-owned business that strives to connect Nebraska farmers directly with the public,” said Tony. “We’re here to help. We’re family-based, and we believe in Nebraska. Our saying is ‘Faith, Family, Farm,’ in that order.”
When it comes to opening and operating a successful business, Tony encourages entrepreneurs to ensure they have a solid foundation from which to grow. He recommends the Center be part of that sturdy platform.
“Do something you have a passion for and feel called to do, as you will be living it out daily,” said Tony. “Working with the Center has been an incredible way for me to get funding to start my business, and I appreciate all the support.”
Are you considering starting your own business, like Tony? To learn more about the Center’s small business financing options, or to apply for a loan, visit cfra.org/lending.