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Water as a Heritage

By: Dr. Dan Sonke, Director of Sustainable Agriculture at Campbell.

 

Water and agriculture are part of my heritage. I grew up on an almond orchard in California. Not only did we depend on water for our almonds to grow, but my father worked a day job for one of California’s oldest irrigation districts. You could say it’s in my blood.

As Campbell’s Director of Sustainable Agriculture, I work with farmers to promote sustainable practices on the farm. Engagement with farmers is central to Campbell’s commitment to Real Food and Transparency.

California Water Action Collaborative

Two years ago, when California was in the midst of a multi-year drought, Campbell and other food and beverage companies along with non-profit organizations came together to form what is now known as the California Water Action Collaborative or CWAC. And, yes, our group has decided to embrace the fact that our acronym sounds like the noise made by waterfowl (CWAC)!

CWAC is a coalition of 21 organizations actively working to improve water security in California for people, business, agriculture and nature. Campbell is proud to be at the table to work together to find solutions.

Just last week, CWAC came together in the Central Valley of California to visit an almond orchard owned by Nick Blom, not far from my family’s own orchard, to learn about a new technique that could benefit Nick and his community for years to come. Working with CWAC, his local irrigation district, the University of California, and other partners, Nick is taking storm water and applying it to his orchard in the winter for the explicit purpose of recharging groundwater. This way, the water is stored underground so that during the next drought, there is a “savings bank” that farms and cities can use.

Campbell and Sustainable Agriculture 

At Campbell, we have been working with our tomato farmers to use water responsibly. For example, we’ve been working to reduce the amount of water used for producing tomatoes in California and began collecting data five years ago to document and drive progress. In 2012, drip irrigation, which improves water efficiency and optimizes fertilizer use, was used on 38% of our tomato farmers’ acres. Since then, more than 65% of the tomato acres have adopted drip irrigation. As a result, water applied has decreased by almost 22% (per pound of tomato).

The innovation sharing through CWAC helps inform how Campbell engages with its California tomato farmers to move from water efficiency to resiliency for farms and communities. What Nick is doing on his farm creates a pathway for farmers to “put water in the bank” and I’m excited to see this practice replicated to accelerate water conservation. After all, water is a resource on which we all depend, whether urban or rural, farmer or environmentalist. It’s a part of everyone’s heritage.

For more on Campbell’s sustainability efforts, see our CSR report.

CWAC members visit with Nick Blom, Sustainable Conservation staff, Almond Board of California staff, and researchers from the University of California, Davis and Berkeley Laboratories. Photos courtesy of Alex Karolyi, Sustainable Conservation.
CWAC members visit with Nick Blom, Sustainable Conservation staff, Almond Board of California staff, and researchers from the University of California, Davis and Berkeley Laboratories. Photo courtesy of Alex Karolyi, Sustainable Conservation.

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