Beet growers begin delivery of crop to Bay County's Michigan Sugar Co.

Published online: Sep 18, 2013
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MONITOR TOWNSHIP, Mich.-Trucks carrying tons of sugarbeets started rolling into Michigan Sugar Co. facilities early Tuesday, Sept. 17, delivering the first of the 2013 season's crop.

"We'll start slicing the beets and making sugar tomorrow," said Paul Pfenninger, vice president of agriculture for Michigan Sugar, during a tour of the "piling grounds" at the company's Monitor Township facility.

Pfenninger said 15 growers are scheduled to drop off about 5,000 tons of their crop at the Monitor Township facility Tuesday.

"Tomorrow we do the same thing, we just have a different group of growers," he said, noting that all four of the company's beet storage sites now are open.

This year's early delivery start date was pushed back a few times in an effort to increase tonnage and sugar content.

"It (the sugarbeet crop) will grow until we harvest it," Pfenninger said. "We were hoping for a little rain."

There is an incentive for growers who deliver early. Regular delivery begins in mid- to late-October.

Pfenninger said he's anticipating about 25 tons per acre this season, resulting in a total of about 4 million tons, down from last year's 29 tons per acre.

"That was the best crop year ever. That was a record-setting year," he said, noting that last year's total yield was 4.75 million tons.

The trucks are weighed upon arrival, then unloaded, weighed again as they leave, Pfenninger explained. A 25- to 30-pound sample is taken during the dumping process. That sample is cleaned to remove all of the dirt and weighed again to determine how much of a grower's load is crop and how much of the load is dirt. The sample beets are then processed to measure sugar content.

"(The) grower is paid on tonnage and sugar content," Pfenninger said.

Growers receive their first payments in December. They are paid again in April and October of the following year.

Seasonal workers operate the pilers that remove the beets from the trucks, clean them and pile them up.

Aaron Brug, 28, of Bay City was among them at the Monitor Township location Tuesday.

"This is my third year, and this is my first day," he said, wearing a hard hat and safety vest. "(I'm working on the) piling grounds, as usual. Shoveling, cleaning up, directing the trucks, doing whatever I can to make this place work more efficiently."

Brug said a seasonal job at Michigan Sugar is a good option.

"There's hardly any work in Bay City," Brug said. "You hear the same story everywhere else, too."

Pfenninger said Michigan Sugar still is accepting applications from prospective seasonal employees.

Applications are available at all four Michigan Sugar sites, located in Bay City, Caro, Sebewaing and Croswell. Pay starts at $9.10 an hour.