The Nord farm is located near Wolverton, Minn. It was acquired during the early 1950s by Jeff’s dad, Richard, and three generations have lived and farmed there since.
This story begins at the Jeff and Diane Nord lake home, where it was discussed earlier in the summer that circum- stances might afford certain individuals the opportunity to help with this year’s sugarbeet harvest. Actually, the real story be- gins back in 1978, when a then 12-year-old “city kid” spent the first of three summers on a farm in North Dakota run by his uncle Marvin and cousin Ray Askegaard. The tales told from beet harvests past were always tall and sowed the seeds of desire to one day experience it for himself. That desire has gone unfulfilled for 35 years — until now!
Editor’s Note: Well, there were some aspects of the 2013 Red River Valley sugarbeet harvest that weren’t entirely sweet. First, part of it turned into a “mud fest” in some locales, as rain delays and wet field conditions tested patience and en- ergy levels. Second, numerous yields — and sugar contents — were lower, compared to the exceptional 2012 crop (though still impressive overall, given conditions). And third, just as the harvest wrapped up, it was announced that this year’s beet payment would be substantially less than that of a year ago, due largely to the oversupplied U.S. sugar market.
Still, the region’s growers persevered to again produce the best beet crop possible — and got it out of the ground and into the pile. In the end, very few Red River Valley acres were not dug. So in that respect, yes, it was indeed “a sweet harvest.”
As in other U.S. and Canadian sugarbeet regions, the beet harvest in the Red River Valley is very much a team effort. Along with their year-round employees, growers need and hire a trove of seasonal workers to drive defoliator tractors, beet cart tractors and, of course, the fleets of trucks that deliver freshly harvested beets to the nearest factory yard or outlying piling site. These drivers come from all walks of life, with many of them taking a couple weeks off from their regular jobs just to work the beet harvest.
Todd Bogart was one of those temporary “sugar tramps” in 2013. Bogart lives in the Twin Cities suburb of Rosemount and works as a sales executive. This past fall, he traveled into the southern Red River Valley to drive beet cart on the Nord farm near Wolverton, Minn. As with all those who work the beet harvest — rookies and veterans alike — it proved to be a memorable experience for him. Unlike most other harvest hands, however, Todd also seized the opportunity to snap lots of photos, journal the experience — and preserve it all in the form of a Shutterfly® photo book titled “A Sweet Harvest 2013.”
Here are several excerpts from Todd Bogart’s chronicle of his first beet harvest experience in Minnesota’s Wilkin County.
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Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower