|Ely Farms expanding distribution|
by James Hanson
by James Hanson
A 1998 FFA project for Neal Ely of Sutton has continued to grow into the successful business near Grafton.
Ely Farms is the home of two delicacies, pickled asparagus and pickled peppers, made from a family recipe.
Ely is a loan officer at the Astra Bank in Sutton, but his work doesn’t stop at the end of that shift.
Using his degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and training received from the Enhancing Developing and Growing Entrepreneurs (EDGE) program in Aurora, Ely is always looking for ways to make the business prosper and grow.
an when I had the idea to plant fresh asparagus and sell locally for my FFA project," he said. "My mom had this recipe for pickled asparagus and we did it for friends and family at first. Everyone really liked it and kept telling us how we should produce and sell it."
So, Ely sat down with his parents to try and develop and sell the product. They thought it was a good idea and said they would help get it started, but that it would be Neal’s baby.
"I always thought it would just be something I did in high school and never thought it would turn into this," Ely admitted.
At some point, he said he realized he could have a future business to run after high school and college. Ely Farms began selling in 2001 and their products are now featured in a lot of grocery stores and specialty stores throughout much of Nebraska, including the Aurora Mall.
In recent years, the product has been marketed into other states including South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Ohio, Montana and Wyoming, though 90 percent of the market is still in Nebraska.
Ely said that he has worked hard to expand the distribution base, though he attributed much of the growth to connections from one store to another.
"Different distributors become interested in the product after hearing about it from another distributor or grocer," he said. "My friends and family have also really helped me get my product out there and on the shelves."