Cain: Plainfield woman’s ‘ice cream truck’ for tomatoes keeps rolling
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain On Businessfirstname.lastname@example.org June 30, 2013 9:21PM
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:32AM
Amy’s Organics caught my eye on Facebook recently when owner Amy Ernst posted a query seeking a source for non-genetically modified corn. The Plainfield woman’s dedication to hunting down local sources for natural veggies intrigued me.
During an interview on her porch, Ernst told me her business venture began with a medical journey. Ernst, 44, was a stay-at-home mom raising her two young daughters six years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her sister and cousin also were diagnosed with the same disease, even though their moms had never had it.
“I started thinking, ‘Why would this be?’” Ernst said. “I think it’s the junk we’re putting in our food.”
So Ernst, who underwent a double mastectomy, decided to start eating and feeding her family organic food. She planted a backyard garden, and one day in the spring of 2011, she was in the garden with her daughter when she heard an ice cream truck coming down the street. Ernst said she told her daughter she wished the ice cream truck would sell fresh tomatoes instead. That’s when a light bulb went off in her head.
She told her husband, Chuck, about her idea to deliver organic food to people’s homes and he urged her to pursue it and recommended she buy a Ford Transit as her delivery vehicle.
Two months after she got the idea, she launched Amy’s Organics. After getting all the necessary permits and passing health department inspections, she started delivering organic produce, grassfed meat, pastured eggs, chemical-free soaps and locally produced honey to area subdivisions in mid-July 2011. She also makes stops at Plainfield Village Hall and the Plainfield YMCA.
Before Amy’s Organics and motherhood, Ernst worked as a rehabilitative psychologist in Chicago helping gang members heal from head wounds usually caused by gunshots. But she loves her new endeavor and believes it was meant to be.
Once her girls are grown, Ernst said she plans to put in more hours to try to earn a profit. For now she’s breaking even monetarily, but reaping huge rewards in life. She loves meeting people who grow and consume organic food.
“I think the business part is secondary, and I think the social aspect is first,” she said. “Moms talk about recipes and what they made for dinner last night. It’s just a very social gathering.”
And she sees the movement getting more and more popular.
“Farm fresh eggs are crazy right now,” she said. “Once you taste an egg fresh off the farm, you can’t go back to grocery store eggs.”
She also sells fresh tomatoes, when they are in season later in the summer, sugar snap peas, lettuce, garlic scapes (the top part of a garlic plant), cucumbers, kale, local honey, raw-milk cheese and more.
She makes 13 stops a week during the summer and takes part in the Plainfield and Lockport farmers’ markets. She also delivers hams at Christmas and Easter and turkeys at Thanksgiving. The meat is free of antibiotics and hormones.
She thinks her daughters, Mimi, 15, and Maddie, 13, wouldn’t mind if she brought home a bag of Doritos now and then, but it isn’t going to happen, Ernst said. She even packed a cooler filled with organic fare for the family’s recent trip to Colorado.
“I don’t cook anything out of a box anymore,” she said.
As for the breast cancer, “I get an MRI every year and I’m clean, and my sister is, too,” she said. But her cousin succumbed to the disease five years ago.
Ernst said she’s committed to staying healthy and keeping her “ice cream truck” for tomatoes rolling for as long as she can.
“I love it, and I’m really glad I did it.”
For more information on Ernst’s offerings and her schedule, go to www.amysorganics.org.