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Completing our 2020 tomato goals: The latest milestone in our sustainability journey


Our sustainability journey began over 150 years ago with our very first product, the beefsteak tomato. Our tomatoes have always been grown with care and packaged in cans that can be recycled over and over again.

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Campbell President John Dorrance and his wife Ethel would host annual meetings for farmers at their home in Cinnaminson, New Jersey—which also served as the company’s research farm. Campbell agricultural experts and farmers would share new growing techniques, and discuss topics like crop rotation, water savings, seed selection, and how to maximize yields.

Annual meeting of farmers at the Dorrance's home in Cinnaminson, NJ, ca. 1920_
An annual meeting for farmers on our research farm in Cinnaminson, N.J.

We started using California tomatoes in 1947 and began working with family-owned farms in the region. Today, our tomato farmers have worked with us for an average of 30 years—and some for as long as 70 years.

So, when we first developed goals for our Sustainable Agriculture program in 2012, it made sense to start with our most iconic crop.

Identifying three tomato sustainability goals & our 2020 results

In order to reduce the environmental impacts from our tomatoes, we decided to create goals. As part of the process, we interviewed farmers, our customers (retailers and food service companies) and sustainability experts. Then we identified three ambitious goals:

Using drip irrigation to accomplish our goals

To help accomplish these goals, our Agricultural Operations team identified one particularly promising technology: drip irrigation. Compared to traditional methods of watering crops, drip irrigation systems enable growers to apply water and fertilizer more efficiently—at exactly the right location (the plant’s roots), at the right time and in the right amounts. Research from the University of California, Davis—our longtime partner—also showed that the method could increase yields and drive down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Based on this science, we encouraged the farmers who grow our tomatoes to adopt drip irrigation where economically feasible, along with other best practices such as nutrient planning and integrated pest management.

Our approach included connecting farmers with educational materials and helping them to apply for grants to fund drip irrigation systems. We also leveraged annual data to provide farmers with individualized report cards, allowing them to assess and benchmark their performance.

Over time, our tomato farmers’ utilization of drip irrigation increased, from 20% of Campbell acres in 2008 to 75% in 2020. As a result, from 2012 to 2020, we reduced GHG emissions by 26% and water use by 23%, surpassing our targets for both goals.

We did not meet our fertilizer reduction goal due to changes in growing conditions; however, we still made solid progress, with a 6% reduction of nitrogen use from 2012 to 2020. Our next tomato sustainability program will include fertilizer management as a continued area of focus. It will build on what we learned from our 2020 tomato goals, as well as on current practices like the analysis of plant tissue samples throughout the growing season to assess crop needs.

Tomato sustainability

83 %

of our tomatoes were sourced from farmers engaged in our sustainable agriculture program.

Tomato sustainability

8 hours

Campbell tomatoes are generally processed within 8 hours of being harvested, helping lock in nutrients and ensuring the tomatoes are preserved at peak ripeness.

What’s next for our agriculture team

As we celebrate exceeding two of our 2020 tomato goals, we’re also making plans for our next tomato sustainability program. We’re taking this year to review our past experiences, and to hold conversations with our tomato growers and conservation experts, to identify our next set of opportunities and goals. Building on our strong foundation, we will continue work to improve efficiency of water and fertilizer use every year.

Additionally, some of our farmers have already made biodiversity improvements in their fields or added organic matter in their soil through composting or cover crops (a plant grown to slow erosion, improve soil health and manage weeds). Using these lessons, we plan to scale the adoption of effective methods as we increase our focus on soil health.

Since the early 1900s, we’ve worked with farmers on sustainable growing practices. We remain committed to building a more resilient food system and connecting people through food they love.

Our Impact

Learn more about Corporate Responsibility at Campbell.

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