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Omaha Magazine

From Deep Roots to Farm-to-Table Dinners

May 23, 2023 03:29PM ● By Chris Hatch
Nelson Produce dining feature Omaha Magazine June 2023

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Nelson Produce Farm - Dining Feature [4 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
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As you might expect from a place with produce in the name, Nelson Produce Farm is about their roots. 

Sometimes, they’re focused on the relatively shallow ones—those first 12 inches of growth that reach into the soil like a firm Midwestern handshake—tendrils gripping the ground with familiar affection. Those are the roots that allow the Nelson family to expand their burgeoning watermelon business, and around 400 acres of mixed produce.

But, perhaps most importantly, Pam and Ty Nelson, and their four daughters, emphasize a different kind of nourishment—lifelines between farm and community that are visible above ground, present in the form of their produce stands and connections between the family and their community. This manifests in a variety of communal events, including their renowned farm-to-table meals served on-site. 

The evolution from pure agriculturalists to community benefactors initially took root in Pam Nelson’s desire to celebrate the commonalities found in urban, rural, and every mode of life in between.

“In 2019 we made the decision to open our farm to the public as a way to better represent our product as well as have more control of our market and connect people to farm life,” Pam said. “I have always had a dream of creating a destination market where people can come and shop quality, fresh home-grown produce, enjoy a day on the farm, and have lunch or coffee with friends and family.”

“The vision of our farm is to bridge the gap from urban to rural, educating our community on how food is grown, as well as create a place that encourages families to connect and create memories around simpler times,” added Michelle Hagen, marketing director. “From the start, just five years ago, we have expanded the farm to include festivals around each of the main crops we grow, farm camp, our Little Farmers educational area, field trips, pizza pie nights, seasonal events, and our personal favorite—farm-to-table dinners.”

Running just one weekend a month from June to October, it didn’t take long for these al fresco dinners to explode in popularity and book up quickly.

“Farm-to-table was created through my love of creating spaces for people to step into a dream of a dinner party,” Pam explained. “We highlight new and classic ways of presenting fresh fruits, vegetables, and high-quality meats around a large table to make the perfect setting for making a memory.” 

With offerings as diverse as farm-raised cornucopias of fruits and vegetables, Nelson Produce Farm has cultivated fraternity and openness among their guests.

“We wanted to create a space where people feel like they are stepping into a farm to table they have seen in a magazine or on their Pinterest boards,” Hagen said. “But also, a space that helps us open the door for conversations with our community about what is really happening in farming and the products they receive from our farm.” 

“Ty and I love getting to visit with guests during our dinners and answering questions and sharing with them how farming has changed and how we are learning and growing as farmers and business partners,” Pam echoed.  

When it comes to freshness, the farm-to-table dinners are represented by the barn windows, a quick gesture toward each roughly equivalent to where the items on the table had been grown. There is little mystery here—each block of the food pyramid has been quarried from the ground just below their guests’ feet.

“For our dinners, we work to incorporate as much fresh in-season produce as we can from our farm as well as surrounding local farms,” Pam explained. “We work alongside a handpicked group of local chefs to create a menu that matches the theme of each dinner. Our menus are not finalized until about two to three weeks before each dinner to ensure we are using the freshest ingredients from our farm, which often includes our home- raised beef.”

Besides their numerous on-site events—which have come to include watermelon festivals, dog days, firework shows, and Halloween celebrations—the farm-to-table dinners have quickly become a local staple; an event that many people mark in bold, circuitous lettering that exclaims: ‘If you know, you know!’

“We sell our farm-to-table tickets exclusively to our email list first and this year we completely sold out tickets just from our email list,” Hagen said. “Farm-to-table dinners have become a well-known part of the farm.”

“Farm-to-table dinners are something we look forward to every year. We even have friends traveling from Utah to come and experience the magic this year,” relayed regular farm-to-table attendee, Jen Keller. A local resident and frequent farm-goer, she is one of many who revere Nelson Produce Farm as a special place. “The farm-to-table dinners the Nelsons and their team put on are unlike anything else you can experience here in the Omaha area. We love visiting the farm with our family, but there is just something extra special about a date night on the farm.”

The past five years have seen Nelson Produce Farm become something more than their unassuming name might indicate. This isn’t a place that merely provides delicious, layered sustenance to the locals—it’s more than the sum of its produce. 

It has become a second home for many, a classroom for young Nebraskans, and a dynamic, thriving communal heartbeat for many more besides. It is a place where the year 1989 meets 2023; where dirt-splotched farmers pose for Instagram pictures. It’s where everyone is smiling the kind of silly, wide grins from finding themselves, perhaps by happy accident, somewhere special with those they love. In short, the soil is as alive as the people who visit it, and that feeling can only be described as ‘farm-to-table.’

Above or below—shallow as the roots of their delicious watermelons, or as deep as the connection between a family and the place that they care for—one thing is for certain: the roots of Nelson Produce Farm feed both the stomachs and the spirits of those lucky enough to find a seat at the table. 

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This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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