The growing bonds between farmers and food makers

By Randall Mang

It is a relationship that has already spanned two family generations and nearly six decades. But Ontario farmer Dan Sopuch’s connection with Campbell Company of Canada is going strong.

As one of several local growers whose carrots are used in Campbell’s soups and broths, Sopuch’s relationship is reflective of Campbell Canada’s deep roots in rural Ontario, where it set up shop in Etobicoke more than 80 years ago.

“When we started production in 1931, we were surrounded by fields,” says Campbell spokesperson Melanie Rockliff, noting that today, about 70 per cent of the ingredients used to make Campbell’s products in Canada come from farms within a 100-kilometre radius of the plant.

It is a story that is well told among Canadian food makers and growers. Canadian food manufacturers purchase some 35 per cent of Canadian farm production, and use it to produce food products exported to more than 190 countries annually. The close relationship between growers and manufacturers has also yielded a spate of innovations.

For example, Campbell Canada’s daily supply of white and cremini mushrooms shipped by Leamington and Wellington farms (2.5 million pounds annually) includes a novel vitamin D enhanced variety. Used in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, growers achieve the high vitamin D content by simply exposing the mushrooms to UV light, amplifying the sun’s natural effect.

In Ontario, Campbell also buys 1.5 million pounds of celery, 13 million pounds of potatoes and 12 million pounds of carrots from farms in Shelburne, Chatham and Queensville as well as Holland Marsh, a community of some 125 growers including the Sopuch family and their 150-acre farm. 

Dan Sopuch grew up working on the family farm, which his father started in 1947. “My dad’s first celery contract with Campbell was in 1957. In 1962, we got our first contract to supply carrots.”

Today, about 30 acres of the family farm are dedicated to growing carrots for Campbell. To meet Campbell’s goal of receiving fresh carrots year-round, Sopuch combined his ability to grow quality, storable carrots with an investment in cold storage facilities. The combination enables him to keep his harvest optimally chilled and farm fresh for months, until the carrots are used to make the hearty soups.

Sopuch uses other high-tech gear on his farm too, including a harvester that cuts celery into four-inch sticks and separates the leaves. “The processor receives celery with less unusable product, which increases productivity in the (manufacturing) plant,” says Sopuch.

Susan Abel, vice president, safety & compliance, at Food & Consumer Products of Canada, says, “Canadian farmers are amongst the world’s most technologically savvy. Through carefully developed partnerships with farmers, food and beverage manufacturers produce safe, high quality and affordable food that Canadians deserve and rely on every day.” 

Dan Sopuch among the nearby growers that supply Campbell Canada’s Ontario facility.   PHOTO: ISUPPLIED 

Dan Sopuch among the nearby growers that supply Campbell Canada’s Ontario facility. PHOTO: ISUPPLIED