Monday, September 29, 2008

Minnesota Sugar Beet Harvest

It’s twenty one minutes past seven, and I am standing around the time clock in the scale house.  I’m at the sugar beet piling facility where I will be working a massive number of hours in the coming weeks.  I’m milling around with the older RV traveling set who are staying in the same campground as I am in Hillsboro. Just across the state line.  I was invited to carpool with everyone else, and we got here at 7:45 this morning.  It’s been a long day.  The work is very easy, but the long hours and wind can take a toll.  My feet aren’t used to standing in their own sweat for so long.  Money is being made.
The work consists of pushing buttons, waving trucks in the right direction, and some light shoveling.  It’s easy.  If you’ve never seen a sugar beet, it looks like a cross between something you pull out of the ground in Super Mario 2, and horse turds.  They grow in thick soil that is more clay than dirt.  The dirt is all over the place.  You can pick up a clump and mold it like Play-doh. It sticks to the soles of your shoes, and demands constant scraping on the side of the piler.
The goal of the team of people I am working with is to pile sugar beets.  There is a large piece of machinery called a piler, and trucks pull up on either side and dump their load of sugar beets into a hatch.  The beets get converyor-belted, some of the dirt is knocked off in the process, then there is another section of conveyor belt, called a ‘boom,’ which drops the beets on a pile that is twenty feet high.  The boom swings very slowly in a large arc, dispensing the beets evenly and forming a massive pile.  We work on a huge slab of concrete that resembles a tarmac.  The piler inches back every so often, as load after load of beets gets dropped continuously.  I take some samples, direct some trucks, shovel some dirt, and watch this pile keep getting bigger.  The aerial photographs from years past are remarkable.  The end.

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