Daniel Sonke, DPM
The reasons to celebrate tomatoes are numerous! Who doesn’t love the thought of a warm bowl of tomato soup on a cold winter night, or a ripe tomato and fresh mozzarella salad in the summer? Delicious anytime, tomatoes are nutrient-dense and come in over 7,500 varieties. At Campbell Soup Company, the story of the tomato is particularly special. This October, celebrate National Tomato Month by learning about the rich history of the tomato, Campbell’s sustainable tomato farming practices, and of course, by enjoying some Campbell’s® Tomato condensed soup and yummy dishes from Campbell’s Kitchen®!
A Mystery Unsolved
The origin of the tomato remains a mystery. The tomato was most likely cultivated in either Mexico or Peru, then carried to Europe by Spanish explorers before making its way around the world.1,2 In the early 1800s, the “Jersey tomato” came to be, when tomatoes were first introduced to the aptly named Garden State. By the mid-1800s, tomato farming grew tremendously in an effort to keep up with the demand of the tomato market and canning industry.3 In 1869, the business that would one day become the Campbell Soup Company was started.
The first can of Campbell’s ready-to-eat soup was introduced in 1895, and in 1897, the primary line of condensed soups was released. One of the first flavors was oxtail, along with tomato, chicken, vegetable, and consommé.3 Over the years, Campbell’s® Tomato condensed soup became a top 10 shelf-stable food item sold in United States’ grocery stores. Campbell is a growing global food company offering “real food that matters for life’s moments,” and continues to offer great tasting products paired with commitment to customer preferences and sustainability.
A Family Affair
An integral part of the company is its support of sustainable agriculture. Since the mid-1900s, when tomato processing was brought to California, family-owned farms have been growing Campbell’s high quality tomatoes. Some family farms have been growing with Campbell for 65 years, and are in their third generation of farmers, and 80% of Campbell’s growers have been partners for at least 25 years.4 In 2013, the average distance from partnering field to processing plant in Dixon or Stockton, CA, was just 37 miles! This is remarkable, as these partnering farms deliver over 850,000 tons of tomatoes to Campbell per year.4 I asked Dr. Daniel Sonke, manager of the Agriculture Sustainability Program at Campbell, to share his expertise on tomato farming. The Agriculture Sustainability Program, spearheaded by Dr. Sonke, was launched in 2012, with a focus on five priority areas: water use, greenhouse gases, fertilizer use, soil quality, and pesticides.4 Campbell promotes drip
Savvy about Sustainability
Through these combined efforts, Campbell has displayed efficient use of water during crop production, has received several awards for reduced pesticide use, and has managed to enhance biodiversity on farms.4 The bulk of Campbell’s responsible agriculture efforts is focused on the cultivation of tomatoes.4 With the popularity of the tomato and its high market demand, it is important that tomato farming maintains a focus on sustainable, environmentally-smart agricultural methods. Americans now consume a per-person average of 22 pounds of tomatoes per year, and the tomato follows directly behind the potato as one of the most frequently consumed vegetables in the world.1 Amazingly, the tomato is an ingredient in varying amounts in hundreds of Campbell products as diverse as Campbell’s® Tomato condensed soup to Xplosive Pizza Goldfish® crackers!4
To continue the celebration of the tomato at home, incorporate Campbell’s® Tomato soup as a secret ingredient into some delicious recipes that Campbell’s Kitchen® has prepared for you, including a Grilled Bruschetta Chicken, Glazed Carrot Raisin Cupcakes, and Coconut Tomato Red Curry. Get more tasty tomato ideas here.
This October, it’s easy to see why the tomato, with its mysterious origin, is something to celebrate! With these simple recipes, your family can enjoy tomatoes all year long.
Natalie is a second-year graduate student at Drexel University, completing a Didactic Program in Dietetics and working towards becoming a Registered Dietitian. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Elizabethtown College in 2007. Natalie has several years of experience in food service and healthcare recruiting. She is active in the community, and has volunteered with nutrition organizations in Philadelphia including food pantries, a farm stand, and hunger relief organizations. She has served as a contributing writer for a nutrition promotion website, and is excited to take on a new opportunity in K-12 nutrition education during the 2014-2015 school year.
Dr. Daniel Sonke’s Bio:
Dan Sonke grew up working on his family's almond farm near Ripon, California. An expert on environmental issues in agriculture, Dan has previously served as Assistant Integrated Pest Management Coordinator for the University of Florida, Director of Science for Protected Harvest, and Senior Scientist for SureHarvest, Inc. His Doctorate in Plant Medicine (DPM) is a cutting edge professional degree in crop health management from the University of Florida. He has developed sustainable agriculture programs for fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and nuts, including the California Almond Sustainability Program. In a reverse twist on the soup-to-nuts approach, he was hired in 2011 by Campbell Soup Company as Manager of Agriculture Sustainability Program to develop the company’s approach to sustainability in agriculture.
- Bergougnoux, V. (2014). The history of tomato: From domestication to biopharming. Biotechnology Advances, 32(1): 170-189.
- Jenkins, J. A. (1948). The Origin of the Cultivated Tomato. Economic Botany, 2(4): 379-392. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4251913
- Smith, A. (2004). Campbell Soup Company. In Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of New Jersey. Pages 807-808.
- Intro to Campbell Agriculture Sustainability. (2014) Slideset from Dr. Daniel Sonke.
- D. Sonke, interview, August 7, 2014.
- Campbell’s 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.campbellcsr.com/Opportunities/NutritionAwarness.html