The Bader family farm in Nebraska is dedicated to producing primo peppers from seed to shelf

Words by Levi Larson
Photos courtesy of Volcanic Peppers

The internet was aflame with snark after 2016 presidential candidate Gary Johnson asked MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” panelist Mike Barnicle, “What is Aleppo?”  But Johnson could take the heat. After the incident, he accepted a bottle of  aleppo pepper sauce from Volcanic Peppers, a Nebraska-based chile pepper producing company that’s proving you can pair politics and peppers—all from the Midwest.

Volcanic Peppers is owned and operated by Timothy Bader and his family, with around 6,000 pepper plants grown on their farm in Bellevue, Nebraska. This in-house operation sees their products from seed to shelf, producing fresh chile peppers such as habanero, cayenne, sweet and ultra hot peppers.

Timothy Bader, Volcanic Peppers’ founding father, started growing peppers with his daughter as a hobby. “I didn’t have any big plans,” he said. The brand actually got its start in 2009, when Bader played with the idea of being his own boss.   

“With a love for spicy [things], I thought, ‘Why not make something with heat?’” Timothy said.  Soon, he’d turn up the temperature on a new business.

Three years later, Volcanic Peppers caught its big break. The ultra hot pepper, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, was crowned the World’s Hottest Chili Pepper in 2012, making the Bader family farm one of the very few (and sought after) homes of the champion veggie—and the only retailer to sell the pepper in a ground-up form.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Timothy said. “I remember being excited when I got two orders in one week!”

But those days are long behind the company, says Stephen Bader, Timothy’s son and the head of marketing and outreach for the brand.“[Now] it is all we can do to keep up with demand,” Stephen said.

With a love for spicy [things], I thought, ‘Why not make something with heat?’”

-Timothy Bader

Though the company has grown on an international scale, exporting peppers to Canada and Australia, it’s their strong Midwestern presence that keeps the company grounded.

Nebraskan Volcanic Peppers customer Duster Ellis explained that the health benefits are what attracted him to the company.  Every pepper grown on the Bader farm is pesticide-free, gluten-free, vegan and low in sodium. “They don’t make stuff like this anymore, because there are so many preservatives and additives in things,” Ellis said.sauce

Volcanic Sauces can be sweet like the Autumn Blaze Sauce—a seasonal blend of honey, pumpkin and chipotle—or live up to their eruptious name. For example, the LAVA Death by Douglah Hot Sauce offers a brief taste of cherries and pineapple with a flaming kick of the 7-Pot Douglah pepper, one of the hottest in the bunch.

The Baders also create spice blends for a milder few who don’t like hot sauce. Spices like Reaper Dust, made with the Carolina Reaper (Guinness Book of World Records’ current record holder for hottest pepper) are designed to add heat in the kitchen, while products like the Volcanic Dust Level 0.5 offer a more tame touch to dishes.

From mild tongue tingles to burn-your-mouth-off-must-have-milk strong, Stephen says “There’s something for everybody.”