Phew! I am so glad we have an extra farmhand here this week. Flat Aggie is visiting us to learn about our farm in west central Minnesota. I’ll let Flat Aggie take over to tell you all about his adventures on our farm.
Hi kids, Flat Aggie here! This week I am on a sugar beet farm near Wendell, Minnesota. The farm I am visiting is on the edge of what was once Lake Agassiz, they now call this region the Red River Valley. When Lake Agassiz was formed it left behind heavy clay soil, suitable for growing crops. Most farms here grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and/or sugar beets.
I spent the majority of my week helping with sugar beet harvest. Sugar beets are planted in April and are usually harvested in the month of October. These beets are different than red beets that you might eat at lunch or dinner. Sugar beets are larger and are white in color. The sugar beet farmers I was visiting are shareholders in a cooperative. The cooperative decides when harvest will start and when the beets can be harvested to ensure that they will keep in storage until they are processed. Once harvest has started many farmers harvest all day and all night to get the sugar beets out of the ground in a timely manner. It makes me tired just thinking about it!
The harvesting process can be lengthy depending on the weather and it takes multiple steps to get the sugar beets to their end destination. The first step is to remove the tops from the beets. A tractor pulls an implement that has paddles that spin very fast to remove the foliage from the tops off of the beets. Depending on the region this implement may be called a topper, a roto beeter, or a defoliator, but they are all the same piece of equipment.
Once the foliage has been removed from the beets a machine comes and lifts the beets out of the ground by pinching them. After the beets have been lifted out of the ground a series of rollers helps remove excess dirt before they are conveyed into a truck.
I couldn't believe the size of some of the beets. Here is a picture of me with one:
And here is a picture of one that is out of the ground:
Can you believe it?!
After the beets are in the truck we hauled them to a piling station. They will remain here until they are hauled to the factory to be processed into white table sugar or brown sugar. Samples are taken for each grower throughout harvest to determine purity, sugar content and tare. Some of the beets are stored outside in these piles until March. The best part of the day might have been the home cooked meal that was delivered to the field. I was STUFFED!
I'm Lisa, a farm wife, mom and old lady at heart (or my husband tells me so). Agriculture, quilting, and baking were my first loves and now I get to enjoy them with my family!