Nello's teams with Whitted Bowers Farm to produce first certified biodynamic tomato sauce in U.S. | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Nello's teams with Whitted Bowers Farm to produce first certified biodynamic tomato sauce in U.S. 

From left to right Rob Bowers, Byrne Huddleston, Cheri Whitted Bowers and Neal McTighe walk through the Whitted Bowers certified organic and biodynamic farm in Cedar Grove. The Whitted Bowers farm will produce tomatoes for Nello's Sauce.

Photo by Alex Boerner

From left to right Rob Bowers, Byrne Huddleston, Cheri Whitted Bowers and Neal McTighe walk through the Whitted Bowers certified organic and biodynamic farm in Cedar Grove. The Whitted Bowers farm will produce tomatoes for Nello's Sauce.

The imminent arrival of local tomatoes has long served as a sad reminder of the limits of Neal McTighe's entrepreneurial dreams.

The maker of Nello's Sauce, a line of premium tomato sauces produced and bottled just north of Raleigh, sources his tomatoes from California, where they grow abundantly year round. The volume he needs—currently about 20,000 pounds each month—and North Carolina's relatively short growing season made his goal of using locally grown fruit unrealistic.

Until now. Just weeks after announcing that Whole Foods was expanding regional distribution of Nello's Sauce to 140 stores from Texas to New Jersey—doubling the amount of tomatoes he processes each month—McTighe reveals the chain awarded him a loan to introduce a new product with specific local ingredients.

"It is truly groundbreaking," McTighe says. "It's the first in their business's history to support biodynamic agriculture. The real kicker is that this will be the first biodynamic, U.S.-grown, U.S.-made, tomato sauce ever. And we're doing it right here in North Carolina." Other sauces labeled organic and biodynamic contain non-U.S.-grown ingredients or were produced outside of America, most likely in Italy, McTighe says.

Nello's Biodynamic Marina will debut this summer with both USDA Organic and Demeter Biodynamic certifications. The limited edition sauce, labeled Summer 2015 Harvest, will be sold exclusively at Whole Foods. It will be made from the yield of 6,000 heirloom tomato plants (plus basil and garlic) grown for the express purpose at Whitted Bowers Farm in Cedar Grove. Sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and tomato paste have been sourced from other certified organic providers.

"I am willing to claim this will be the cleanest jarred tomato sauce ever produced in America," says McTighe, referencing the rigorous seed-to-shelf standards with which Nello's has to comply.

In fact, the standards are so tough that McTighe delayed announcing the new sauce several times while awaiting final approval from Demeter USA, the nonprofit American chapter of Demeter International, the world's only certifier of biodynamic farms and products.

Established in 2005, the 52-acre Whitted Bowers Farm has been certified by Demeter since 2009. Co-owner Rob Bowers explains that the term biodynamic includes a range of protocols that improve the quality of farm land with fertilizer-free herbal and compost-based remedies. This not only protects soil from being drained of nutrients during the growing process but also discourages development of plant diseases that can destroy crops and devastate animal health. Given agreeable weather, he says the result of such mindful farming is "more and better output."

The stars also play a significant role at the farm, just as they did in generations past, when growers consulted the constellations for bountiful harvests. "It's the axis of biodynamic farming that raises the most eyebrows," Bowers concedes, "but paying attention to the alignment of the moon and close planets works.

"My grandmother once told me, 'Everyone knows you're not supposed to plant potatoes when the moon is in Pisces,'" recalls Bowers, who provides produce to numerous fine-dining restaurants and sells at the Carrboro Farmers Market. "There is a lot of folk wisdom, but it's evolved to the point that we know by the hour what to do. I don't know if it's causal, but there is a construct that works."

The farm's website prominently features the current phase of the moon to assist others who aspire to farm this way.

Since growing produce this way is expensive, the 18-ounce jars of Nello's Biodynamic Sauce will sell for either $7.99 or $8.99, depending on final production costs. The 14-ounce and 25-ounce jars of the current line sell for about $4.99 and $7.99, respectively.

Given the relatively small production, McTighe cautions that Nello's Biodynamic Marinara may sell out quickly.

"We didn't want to go too big this year because we're all a little nervous about introducing an entirely new product to the market," he says. "There is a lot riding on this, but we hope to grow quickly in future years."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Biodynamic duo."

  • Nello's Sauce introduces a new product with specific local ingredients


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Food Feature

Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

I can only imagine how tiring this trip would be, but what an adventure and novel book tour! Rock on!

by Susie from Indianapolis on A Food Truck Adventure: How Sara Lee’s Bread Became Vivian Howard’s Butter (Food Feature)

Tony c. Where did you get your pamphlets from. I am in Wilmington

by thepaintedlady on Foraging for wild edible mushrooms in North Carolina (Food Feature)

Nancy! This is you ! Thanks for the many many many ...down home meals you shared with me !! Since …

by LM on As the Nation Feasted on Southern Food Fads, We Held Down Our Diverse Roots (Food Feature)

Using a stand mixer, whisk for about 10 minutes or until Swiss meringue is firm and bowl feels cool. best …

by jadegraham on A New Local Cookbook, Southern Breads, Celebrates a Storied Southern Staple (Food Feature)

I love collards. My friends and family tell me I cook the best they've ever eaten. I got that from …

by Kitty Hegemann 1 on Despite Urban Sprawl and Industry, a Durham Family Collard Farm Lives On (Food Feature)


Everything very unprofessional. They just want to charge you an "revolutionary fee" with all the service making pressure on you. …

by feullies on Blue Note Grill (Durham County)

Simply the best caribbean food in town!

by prince on Golden Krust Caribbean Grill & Bakery (Durham County)

Most Read

© 2017 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation