Saturday, October 29, 2016

2016 Sugar Beet Harvest

Below is a good YouTube video of what goes on during a Sugar Beet Harvest.
(Posted on YouTube by Jody Scholl 2012)

I arrived in Fargo, ND on Sept 26th to check in.  The harvest didn't officially start until Nov 1st. (Starting date seemed almost ritualistic.) Once they start the plan is to run 24/7 until finish.  They figure the usual run is 14  days.  They run two 12 hour shifts around the clock until done.  They only stop for bad weather.  They stop if it is too warm (above 60 degrees). They stop if it is too cold (don't know what that is.  It was 28 degrees one night).  They stop if it rains.  Once we started we stopped for three days for weather.  After several days in a row you began to pray for rain.  But not on the weekend.  In a 12 hour day you receive regular pay for the first eight hours.  The last four hours is time and a half.  On Saturday you receive time and a half for the entire 12 hours.  On Sunday you receive double time for the entire 12 hours.  You can make over $500 just on the weekend.  I only worked 16 days.  Got in two weekends.

Many people had pets.  Many day and night workers looked after each others animals on their off shift. We stayed at Lindenwood Park Campground ( A very nice city park.  The campground officially closes Oct 15th.  It is kept open afterwards for the sugar beet workers.  It included water and electric.  There were no sewer hookups.  There was a dump station.  However, they provided pump out service for the beet workers, (probably because of the long work hours).  

They also informed us of MET, Inc. (Motivation, Education & Training)  A program for migrant and seasonal farm workers.  We were considered qualified if we made at least $800 doing farm work.  MET, Inc provides paid training and education to farm workers in a variety of fields farm and non farm related including welding, trucking driving and other areas.  So you can camp free, get paid and get an education to boot.


Helper/Sample Taker

Piler Operator

How big is a sugar beet?
The beet piller at night.

A moon lit night at the piller.
Sunrise over the pile. A welcome sight for night workers.

A Little About Sugar Beets
(All the information below is taken from American Crystal Sugar website)

Sugar Processing
Running the longest sugar beet processing operations anywhere in the world takes precision planning, high level technology, and an intense double focus on safety and quality. For approximately 280 days our factories operate 24/7 churning out 150 pounds of beet sugar every second. In total, we make about 3 billion pounds of sugar and 800,000 tons of agri-products every processing season.

Sugar Beet Harvest and Storage
American Crystal members typically begin sugar beet harvesting on a limited basis called “prepile harvest” at the beginning of September. The prepile harvest allows the sugar factories to begin processing, while allowing the majority of the sugar beet crop to continue maturing. Historically, American Crystal begins its full stockpile harvest around October 1. Once stockpile harvest begins, operations run 24 hours per day until the full harvestable sugar beet acreage is lifted from field.

Making Beet Sugar
American Crystal’s sugar processing takes place in specially designed processing facilities. At each factory, sugar beets are washed and sliced into thin strips called cossettes. The cossettes go through a large tank called a diffuser where raw beet sugar juice is extracted. The cossettes are gently lifted from the bottom to the top of the diffuser as hot water washes over them absorbing the beetsugar. After the sugar-laden raw juice is drawn off, the beet pulp is left behind. This beet pulp is processed separately and formed into pellets for livestock feed and other products (See the Agri-Products section of the Web site).

Sugar Beet Agri-Products

Retail Sugar Products

And as always stay safe and...

Happy travels,


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