From The Nutritionist

Lindsay Watts, RDN

What Does It Take to Grow 1 Million Tons of Tomatoes?





Juicy, sweet tomatoes lined our railing, ripening in the strong sun with dirt still caked on them from the garden. The earthy, sweet smell of fresh tomatoes surrounded the sunny deck at my parent’s home every summer, thanks to their sizable garden. Once they looked good and ripe, I would bring them inside and wash them for my mom to cut up or can for the winter. My family put a lot of sweat and hard work into their garden, but even so, we had years when the harvest was too small to process. Knowing how difficult it can be to grow even a few plants, I wondered what it takes to grow and process the billions of pounds of tomatoes our food system uses each year. I turned to Campbell’s chief tomato officer, Dr. Daniel Sonke to learn how our farmers grow high quality tomatoes for millions.


Thoughtful Planning

“As it has for centuries, farming runs on an annual cycle,” explains Dr. Sonke, who grew up on a farm himself. Tomato harvest ends in October and by November, we start planning for the next year’s crops. Campbell’s agriculture team predicts sales of products like Tomato Soup, Pace® Salsa, V8® Vegetable Juice, and Prego® Sauces and determines how much tomato ingredients we will need. Our team then secures seeds that will yield sweet, high quality tomatoes and are appropriate for various weather and soil conditions.

Once we have our seeds and varieties, we meet with each one of our 50 family farmers to contract our crops. These farmers commit to producing a crop for Campbell on a specific harvesting schedule. The farmers determine how many plants they need and when they need to go into the ground to meet our harvest schedule. Many of our growing partners have worked with Campbell for generations.


Sustainable Growing Practices

Farmers large and small have a responsibility to use sustainable growing practices. Sustainability is important for the planet and the future of our food. “Resources such as water are increasingly stressed by population demands. Sustainable practices reduce this stress to ensure future generations have access to them.” Campbell tomato farmers carefully track their pesticide usage and report on how much they apply, how often, and the last date of application. Campbell uses this information to ensure our tomatoes meet our strict growing policies. In fact, I learned from Dr. Sonke that Campbell’s policies around pesticide usage are more restrictive than even the California’s Environmental Protection Agency, which are already the strictest in our country.

Most of our tomatoes are grown in California, so responsible use of water is very important. Sixty-nine percent of our tomato acres now use drip irrigation to water the crop. Instead of watering the entire tomato field surface, drip irrigation provides just the right amount of water directly to the roots. This method uses less water to grow healthy, delicious tomatoes.


Good Relationships from Seed to Shelf

Good growing practices and thoughtful planning are fundamental to our food system, but strong relationships are the secret ingredient to success. Our seed companies need us to purchase their seeds, we need our farmers to grow our crops, our processing plants need a steady supply of tomatoes and a reliable workforce, and our retailers rely on us to deliver high quality foods that their customers demand. Every step in this process requires collaboration and strong, working relationships. Campbell’s success depends on the success of our suppliers, farmers, and workers. “Fostering good relationships goes a long way. It is what helps us meet supply needs even during tough crop seasons” explains Dr. Sonke.

I will not be growing tomatoes by the ton anytime soon, but I did learn how I can improve on my own little garden:

  1. Pick the Perfect Spot: Tomatoes like the sunshine, so I moved my plants to get full sunlight this year.
  2. Garden Sustainably: We installed a rain barrel to collect rain water that can be used each week for my tomato plants.
  3. Be Nice to Your Neighbor: You never know the next time your garden will be nibbled down by a bunny or invasive bug. Share your harvest with friends and family and hope that they will do the same for you!

Happy harvesting,

Lindsay



Dr. 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 (D.P.M.) 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. In 2016, he became Director of Sustainable Agriculture, with global responsibility for agriculture sustainability at Campbell. In this role, he works with vegetable farmers and other ingredient suppliers to track, encourage and enable sustainability progress. He also serves as a resource for the company on agricultural issues.



Lindsay’s Bio

Lindsay is a nutrition communications analyst at the Campbell Soup Company where she coordinates health professional and consumer communications. She also works with internal and external partners on retail health and wellness programs. Prior to her role at Campbell, Lindsay worked as an in-store retail dietitian. She received her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from West Chester University and completed her dietetic internship with Pennsylvania State University. Currently, Lindsay is studying for her masters of science in Health Communications and Marketing with Boston University.

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En Papillote Technique

1. Prepare the parchment paper
Get a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper.

2. Select the ingredients
This is a very quick-cooking approach, so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. The accompanying ingredients, like julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness. Fresh herbs will go a long way in providing flavor.

3. Assemble the packet
Lay the oiled, heart-shaped paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and half of the herbs. Toss them around for an even coat. Place enough for one portion on half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish, leaving about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture.

4. Seal the packet
To seal, fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables (so it resembles a teardrop). Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge toward the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Continue along the length of the parchment, folding each section twice. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.

5. Bake your dinner
Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked, remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.

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Spicy Flounder and Clams with Summer Vegetables

Prep Time: Less than 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-14 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely cut julienne
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cross cut thinly
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, yellow, finely cut julienne
  • 6 each cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. parsley, fresh, minced
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 6 oz. fillet, flounder (2 fillets, 3oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice
  • 3/4 lb. clams, in the shell

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, half of the parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to combine.
  3. Lightly oil two large heart shaped pieces of parchment paper.
  4. With the parchment paper on a sheet tray, place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of one half of each heart leaving about a 2" border.
  5. Lightly season each fillet with salt and pepper. Fold or roll the fillet to create a uniform thickness and place on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the fish with the remaining herbs and the Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice.
  7. Place half of the clams around each portion of vegetables and fish.
  8. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop.
  9. Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal.
  10. Continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge.
  11. When you get to the point of the heart twist and fold to finish the seal.
  12. Bake the packets for 10-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
  13. Remove from the oven and serve by cutting an "X" in the top and folding back the edges.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories 180, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 450mg, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 16g.