Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sugar, sugar

Sugar beets are about as ugly a crop that you can find but a big part of the region’s economy. They are usually a rotational crop alternating with corn. Harvesting is a three step process. First, the green tops are mowed. Then a beet digger, usually pulled by a tractor, scoops them up and then they are hauled to the processing plant.

Years ago they were dug by hand and tossed onto wagons. Very labor intensive, and back breaking work. The Brush, CO High School still honors the effort with their official team name, “Beetdiggers”.

About 20% of the beet is sucrose which will yield 2-5 teaspoons of pure sugar after processing.

In the 1980’s sugar processing got hammered. A large number of processing plants were owned by the Hunt family. When they went bankrupt speculating in silver, many plants were shuttered never to operate again.

The remaining ones now stockpile beets which will last several months if properly mulched.

Being downwind from a beet processor in operation will clear your sinuses.

A few years ago I needed to take a mental health break from the car biz. My sister knew a man who needed a beet truck driver. I was hired and worked the harvest. Those that know me well know I should never be allowed in anything bigger than a one ton pickup. I have relatives who can back a triple through a needle but that particular gene passed me by. 

A double axle 30’ truck that scaled, loaded, around 48,000 lbs was a reach for me. Fortunately I never hit anyone or anything. Due to a faulty tailgate latch, I did scatter about 15,000 lbs of beets along a five mile path through Evans and Greeley, CO.

Next harvest I was back in the car biz. Surprisingly, the truck owner did contact me to drive again. Even more surprisingly, he remained friends with my sister.

Making my round this harvest season reminds me of that time. Yeah, a Prius is more in line with my skill set.


Old NFO said...

They pretty much put sugar cane plants out of business too... And not everybody 'likes' driving big trucks... :-)

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Didn't know that about sugar cane. If it has wheels or tracks, I'll drive it. Not necessarily well, mind you, but back down? Turn in my man card?