Location: Stockton, California 37°55’N 121°58’ W
At Heinz we know that irresistible taste starts with great soil. The higher the quality of top-soil, the more nutrients the tomato plant has access to, whilst creating stronger root systems. But some of our farms in California had a problem. The soil post- harvest was becoming weak and lacking nutrients, so we knew we had some challenges, but also an opportunity, to improve the growth of strong and healthy tomato crops to make our delicious tomato ketchup. We approached our farmers with a farming technique called cover cropping to help strengthen the soil and build back its nutrients by planting crops such as grasses intermittently between tomato harvests. Like us humans, soil loves variety! Soil can be thought of as a living and breathing, so when you plant different varieties of crops that are not harvested, it feeds the soil with organic matter that decomposes over time. Providing the soil with a super-nutritious, microbial community that makes it stronger.
All of this is important as healthy, strong soil means healthy crops and healthy root systems. And just as importantly, this translates into lots of rich, thick tomatoes to deliver the ketchup consumers know and love. Back in 2017, the average organic matter of the soils in California was 0.94%. With the introduction of cover cropping, this has increased by over 100% over a 6-year period. In addition, with the water-holding capacity of the soil has increased, allowing crops to remain hydrated. With the great work and care that our farmers have undertaken in California to take care of the soil, their tomato crops are also now more robust and healthier too, meaning sustainable agricultural practices are a win-win for our growers and the planet!