Seasonal Workers Feel 'Stuck' Waiting on Harvest

Published online: Oct 15, 2019 News Kenneth Chase
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Source: Grand Forks Herald

It's been a month since they arrived, and many workers who have temporarily moved into the Red River Valley for American Crystal's beet harvest haven't even worked a full week.

Workers who have come from around the U.S. are stuck in a waiting game after persistent wet weather across the region caused major delays for the sugar beet harvest.

The workers normally camp out in Crookston's Central Park, but wet weather has forced them to move their campers to higher ground.

"This is brutal, this weather," said Jacob Karras, a skid steer driver from South Dakota. "It kind of went from summer straight into winter ... I've worked two 12-hour shifts and part of another day. Other than that (I've had) just a little bit of training for a couple of hours."

About two dozen workers at the park came from places like California and Georgia to work the harvest. Campers in Crookston said the beet harvest took them about two weeks last season, but with the rain and snow, the ground has been too wet to get trucks and equipment into the fields.

The wet weather is a big problem for the workers, with some campers saying they feel stuck because they don't have enough money to make it back home.

Heavy rain and early snow has presented a major obstacle to growers and workers this season, with the American Crystal Sugar Company reporting in a Monday, Oct. 14, news release that only 33 percent of the crop has been harvested.

However, Crookston is a little less wet than other areas and could be the first region to start up the harvest again. Karras guessed it could happen late this week or early next week.