by Andrea Chu, Sustainable Agriculture Analyst
Water is our most vital resource and on World Water Day, I’m happy to share one of the ways Campbell is working to minimize water risks for our company and our hometown communities.
Recently, I got to see firsthand the great results of a ten-year long collaboration with local partners to improve the watershed in one of our hometowns of Napoleon, Ohio.
We’ve called Napoleon, Ohio home for more than 60 years. Our plant there is our largest and cooks up more than 619 million cans of soup a year, 678 million cans and bottles of V8 vegetable juice and 136 million jars of Prego pasta and Pace sauces. The plant is nestled right alongside the Maumee River, which flows through 18 counties in northwestern Ohio and northeastern Indiana. The Maumee feeds into Lake Erie and the Maumee Watershed is the biggest of the Great Lakes. Campbell and many communities rely on that river.
However, Lake Erie and the Maumee watershed have faced decades of water quality threats with recurring algal blooms and dead zones—killing wildlife and making clean water for communities a challenge. Farmland makes up two-thirds of the watershed and nutrient runoff from agriculture is the leading cause of water quality issues.
The Maumee River is an essential resource for our operations. Which is why in 2008, when the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency alerted Campbell that water in the river had high concentrations of nitrates, we worked with the broader community to address the root cause. We continue to work closely with the Ohio EPA on this issue.
Since then, we’ve given nearly $540,000 to water quality improvement projects on farms across six counties within the watershed and helped to prevent 454 tons of nitrates from entering the Maumee River. In partnership with Conservation Action Project, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, we’ve been able to support 130 farmers in implementing three practices that are effective in minimizing nutrient runoff from croplands: cover crops, controlled drainage and wetland establishment.
Cover cropping – the practice of planting fields between harvests instead of leaving the field bare – not only prevents soil erosion, but also holds nutrients in the soil until the next season’s crop can use it instead of allowing it to flow into nearby waterways when it rains.
Through this collective action, 60 farmers have adopted cover crops on more than 3,000 acres in the Maumee watershed.
Controlled drainage is a practice that uses a water control structure to manage how quickly and when the water flows off the field. Studies have shown that controlled drainage can remove between 40-60% of nitrogen present in runoff if used at large scale and across northwestern Ohio. County Soil and Water Conservation Districts have installed controlled drainage systems on close to 3,800 acres with 72 farmers.
Of the three practices, wetlands establishment is one of the biggest and costliest undertakings as it requires farmers to take land out of production, but with cost-share from Campbell, two landowners have converted 20 acres into wetlands. These wetlands provide erosion control, water filtration and flood control, as well as habitat for fish and wildlife. Since establishing his wetland, farmer Tony Singer frequently takes walks out there, where he’s seen turtles, ducks, and trout.
This story from Ohio is just one of the ways Campbell is working to protect our waterways and safeguard the natural resources we share with our neighbors.