By Sue Roesler, The Prairie Star
“We’ve collected some 550,000 tons of beets so far,” said Duane Peters, agriculturist at Sidney Sugars, on Oct 12. “We’ve had some stops and starts with rain and then frost.”
Peters said the last root pull indicated it would be a 31.5-ton crop, down from last year’s 33.4 ton, but still higher than they expected after a dry spring and a lot of irrigation.
Sugar content is running in the upper 17 percent range, from 17.6-17.7, about the same or higher than last year.
Harvest started early in the Yellowstone Valley this year, with pre-pile beginning Sept. 14. By the end of the second week in October, Sidney Sugars was halfway done with beet harvest.
Harvest is just as grueling a job for workers at the Pleasantview piling station west of Glendive, who keep the farm trucks moving from the scale house to the piler that conveys beets from trucks to booms and dumps them in long piles.
The work is in constant motion from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily until the last of the beets are stored in the piles before they are hauled to the Sidney Sugars plant in Sidney.
“It’s busy here all day, but I absolutely love my job,” said Rob Stibb, foreman and operator at the Pleasantview station. “We’re seeing about 50-60 trucks an hour come through the piling station, and we don’t want to have to keep the farmers waiting in line any longer than they have to.”
Beet truck drivers pull up to the scale house and are weighed on the scale. They are handed a tare sheet from the workers inside the house. They head to one of two lines at the piling station. Workers move them up to the hopper, and use hand signals to let the farmers know when to back up to the hopper and start dumping beets.
“The workers make sure dumping doesn’t go so fast that the beets run over the hopper,” Stibb said.
The beet piles are about 18 feet high, and never go higher. Instead, the machines are pulled back as the piles fill up.
Beets ride on the conveyors in the booms and are distributed to the pile when they reach the top of the conveyor as the boom moves along the pile.
Stibb’s wife, Cindy, is also working at the piling station, and her job is watching the booms.
In the brisk, cold wind, she is dressed in heavy clothing, coat, hat and boots. Cindy watches the boom distribute the beets along the storage pile, making sure the boom does not come in contact with the pile and become damaged.
A damaged boom can stop work at the station.
After dumping, farmers return to the scale house, where the trucks are weighed again.
“The tare weigh out subtracts the dirt from the beets, so farmers are paid for the beets minus the dirt,” Stibb said.
Stibb loves agriculture, having grown up on a farm that raised pigs in Wisconsin.
He and Cindy travel around the country in an RV working different seasonal jobs. The couple had just come from Alaska, where they worked at a campground and enjoyed seeing beautiful Alaska in their free time.
“We had a great time in Alaska, fishing for halibut, salmon on our time off,” he added.
They both love to travel and see the country. Sometimes, they work for Amazon for two months out of the year in one of their shipping centers in Kansas, Nevada or Tennessee.
Stibb will work in the stocking areas, finding the goods people request, and Cindy works in the shipping area, preparing packages for mailing out.
“We’ve worked all kinds of part-time jobs all over the country, but my favorite job is right here, working for Sidney Sugars,” Stibb said.
The reason he loves it so much are the farmers themselves.
“We’ll talk a bit about farming. I guess the farmers in the area asked if I was coming back to the station at one of their winter farmer meetings. That is how much they wanted me back. And that means a lot to me,” Stibb said.
For the last four years, Sidney Sugars has asked him back for sugarbeet harvest.
“I love working here, and we’ll do this every year, as long as they want us,” Stibb said.
Stibb has been trained and works as a mechanic and can fix virtually any machine. He arrived early this year to set up the machines.
“We’ll check every machine, the gear boxes, check for cracks in the machinery, check welds, belts and make sure everything runs smoothly before we open up the piling stations,” Stibb said.
As he was talking, a farmer in an Ollerman Farms truck was waving at Stibb, calling hello as he waited in line. Stibb smiled and waved back.
“Farmers are so friendly. There is camaraderie amongst all us farmers. And it makes the job so worthwhile, knowing they depend on me to keep the machines running,” he added.
In fact, a couple of days before, a boom broke, and Stibb had to quickly order the parts and install it.
“We sent it to Glendive to remake the shaft. The guy remade it and brought it out and we got it running eight hours later,” Stibb said, adding that the truckers had to wait longer that day to unload their beets. The line grew to 25-30 trucks.
“We’re back up and running now,” he said.
Wind is another major reason for stopping the piling station from accepting beets. If it is more than 25 mph, the wind can damage the booms, which are 70-90 feet in the air, causing metal fatigue, and eventually breaking the boom.
When that happens, the whole station shuts down.
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened at the piling station?
“That happened yesterday,” Stibb said with a smile. “The ladies at the Powder River Piling Station heard a rattlesnake rattling underneath the scale house, and Duane Peters had to go down and get rid of it for them.”
While Stibb isn’t afraid of snakes, he was glad Peters was there to go get it.
Sugar Beet News |
via AgUpdate http://www.agupdate.com
October 30, 2017 at 08:55AM