Colorado Guy

Sugar Beets Farm - Harvesting Sugar Beets

Photos of a Minnesota Sugar Beet Farm During Harvest Time - October 9-11, 2008

Sugar Beet Rotary Beater Sugar Beet I have been working on a Minnesota sugar beet farm for nearly two weeks. Why am I here? Well, it all worked out with my schedule, work and God's timing to work for my friend Mark, a farmer. It is harvest time in Minnesota's farm country! In many ways, this visit is very connected to my bike trip across America. (Ahhhh ... my personal adventure story seems to continue long after the final day of riding.)

I have been working daily shifts from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are thousands of acres of sugar beets, soy beans and corn to be harvested, but I have mostly worked with the sugar beets. The adjacent photo is the tractor I have been driving throughout much of the time. It is formally called a rotary beater, but it is more commonly termed a "roto-beater" or "topper" for short. It is fairly easy work, but the most difficult aspect is waking up regularly at 1:30 a.m. to start my work day. I want to apologize to all of you who have received phone calls and text messages at insane times like 2:45 a.m. or 4:10 a.m to see if you were awake! It can get lonesome riding in tractor under the stars, although it's very peaceful too.


Sugar Beet Sugar Beets Similar to carrots and radishes, sugar beets grow below the ground with a green leafy end.

Adjacent are two photos of one respective sugar beet and a cluster of sugar beets.

Sugar Beet Topper Me standing next to my sugar beet topper. I know, I know, I am way too sexy for this tractor! :)
A photo of the gears and acceleration controls inside my tractor.
Sugar Beet Field

Sugar Beet Topper

I drive the topper over the sugar beets. Most of the time, there is no need to steer because the tractor's wheels go in a straight line among the grooves of the sugar beets.
Sugar Beet Rotobeater Behind me, the red mechanism knocks off the green leaves from the sugar beets ...
Sugar Beets

Sugar Beet Field

Sugar Beet Sugar Beet

... The tops of the sugar beets remain exposed and are ready to be lifted.

The top photo is a close up of three sugar beets in a line. The second photo contrasts the sugar beets with and without their leafage.

Two Bottom Photos: These show what a sugar beet looks like. The inside of a sugar beet has a white pulp texture. If you stick your tongue to one, you will likely taste something very sweet ... like sugar. Sugar beets, along with sugar cane (grown in tropical areas), are the two plants that provide sugar for human consumption.

My pages related to Minnesota and the area:

  • Minnesota Farm
  • Minnesota High Point
  • Roger Maris Museum (Fargo, ND)
  • Clay County High Point
  • Rabbit Among Sugar Beets

    I have spent a plethora of hours on this tractor in the past two weeks. On two occasions, a rabbit was shocked and distressed that I was slowly chopping its home.

    During the second incident, I managed to take some pictures. This particular rabbit (top) was frightened; it undoubtedly would have been pummeled if it did not get out of the way. The rabbit ran into another sugar beet field that would be safe for another day or two.

    One morning, an amazing sunrise made much of the horizon various shades of bright pink out that way. I did not have my camera with me, and so I was forced to take it all in with my eyes and memory. It was a pretty one! This photo holds a similar view and was taken for memory's sake.
    Sugar Beet Lifter As I drove my topper, coming behind me was Joel in another tractor. His tractor pulled a "lifter" - a machine that extracts the leafless sugar beets from the ground.
    Sugar Beet Harvesting

    Sugar Beet Harvesting

    Sugar Beet Harvesting

    There are at least two large dump trucks working around the clock during sugar beet harvest time. Trucks drive beside the lifter and accept the spilling sugar beets into its large box. On one particular run, I ran out toward the lifter and truck to photograph them working together.

    The truckers transport the sugar beets to a local sugar beet plant near Moorhead. With all the acreage Mark farms on, it requires seven to ten full 24 hour periods to harvest all of his sugar beets.

    And this is only Mark's sugar beets. He also harvests soy beans and corn during the autumn months.

    Sugar Beet Truck

    Sugar Beet Truck

    Two photos of the huge trucks. These trucks, holding all those sugar beets, usually weigh approximately 60,000 to 65,000 pounds each. That is 30+ tons per truck load! Yikes ... talk about overweightness!
    John Deere 9300 Tractor A nice photo of Ross Menholt standing next to a huge John Deere 9300 tractor.
    Large Sugar Beet Large Sugar Beet Special thanks to Mark (right) for giving me such a great work/getaway experience in Minnesota. Mark held up an unusually large sugar beet that is being used as an ornament at the entrance of his home. That sugar beet is so large! on Facebook

    YouTube Video - Harvesting Sugar Beets

    A compilation of footage.

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