The “Unbeetable” Experience

We arrived at Red River State Recreation Area, East Grand Forks, MN on September 23rd to begin our “unbeetable” experience as temporary employees through Express Employment hiring for American Crystal Sugar Company.

Our orientation interview was scheduled for Monday with training schedules during the week.  Robin will be working Shift 1 – 12:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. in the Quality Lab testing sugar content, purity and tare of the beets harvested in order to pay the farmers.  Bruce will be operating a skidsteer working 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. placing pipes that the beets will be piled on to circulate cold air to keep the beets in a deep freeze until ready to process into sugar.  Work was scheduled to begin on the weekend so first order of business was to socialize at the Blue Moose with our friends we haven’t seen in months!

The Red River Recreation Area is conveniently located to a movie theater, plenty of restaurants, Cabela’s, and downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota is within walking distance across the river.  The Blue Moose, Sickies Garage, Up North Pizza and the American Legion were some of our gathering places to socialize and meet new friends.

A fantastic four generation owned family candy shop originating in 1885 in downtown Grand Forks known as Widman’s. It is “Home of the Chocolate Covered Potato Chip known as the Chippers!”


Now to the beet harvest, we have 11,888,324.00 tons of beets to harvest during this season.  Temperatures must range somewhere in between 32-60 degrees and fairly nice weather to harvest beets.  This year the harvest has been delayed several days due to the weather!

Beets are harvested in September and October.  First the foliage is removed from the beet prior to lifting.  Immediately after defoliating, the sugar beets are lifted out of the ground by a lifter-loader harvester, most of the soil is removed, then they are loaded into trucks driving along side the harvester.  Trucks take the beets to the piling stations or the factory for storing or processing.

Sugar Beet Field
Truck hauling sugar beets to piling station
Piling Station
Piling Station-laying pipe for ventilation
Pipes for ventilation

During the piling process, sample bags are taken and delivered to the lab for analysis of sugar content, purity and tare.  Bags are unloaded at the dock, they lift and unload the equivalent of two elephants a day!  The samples are weighed before they go through a wash and drying process, then weighed again to determine how much tare (dirt) came with the sample.  Then they are mashed and come up on the brea belt, LBD machine, samples are analysed for sugar content and purity.

This is the process that we are involved in making beet sugar for American Crystal Sugar Company.  As of now we have completed about 40% of the harvest and are waiting for the snow to melt to finish what we came here to do!  For more information visit their website American Crystal Sugar