The Unbeetable Sugar Beet Harvest: 3rd time’s a charm!

11/20/2022 Hillsboro, ND
It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything for a number of reasons, the biggest working at the sugar beet harvest in North Dakota. 12 hour shifts don’t leave much time for anything! I was based in Hillsboro for a 3rd year, and it was great running into friends from last year and another from 2020. It was a short harvest and we finished mid October. Once again, I was in a group with the Sisters, Mary, Jessica and Elsa, whom I have been working with in the past. This year, the assistant agriculturist assigned me to days, but I switched to nights because I wanted to work with the Sisters and the night shift workers tend to work more hours. Lisa was the new coordinator and camp host this year. She threw a get together for all of the workampers and it was nice to meet everyone. We got a lot of swag this year, too!
I was assigned to work in piler #4, which is in one of the deep freeze buildings. Yes, I was finally inside where it wasn’t as cold! Jessica was my piler operator and such a sweet heart! The ground crew consisted of myself, Earl and Donna, a couple who recently started the RV life in a converted 16′ trailer. Earl was hilarious and kept us laughing with his goofy sense of humor. They all took very good care of me.
We were really busy for the first 9 days, and people were leaving, but this is typical for the beet harvest. The weather dropped into the teens at night and the yard was shut down for 3 days because it was too cold to harvest. The van was so drafty and super cold too, so I booked a hotel room for a night in Grand Forks to get a good rest and a nice shower.
After that, things slowed down a bit and hours changed a little, and toward the end a lot of workers were released and there were only 12 of us to finish up. Those final shifts are always the roughest when only a handful of trucks would come in. We had 1/2 hour breaks that helped a lot and when it got too cold, we were allowed to stay in our vehicles. We did get two good weekends in that pays time and a half and double time on Sundays. We also got stay pay for those days we didn’t work. The money made up for the weather!
I had Sam and Hunter over for Margaritas, and they had some great mushroom tales and boondocking experiences to share. They were so fun to be around! Then Jessica invited me to stay the night with her family and we shared a lot of stories, and I learned so much about their culture. I also met up with Elsa again, and went to her home to meet her husband and mother-in-law. What a great family they are! I miss them already!
The sugar beet harvest is not for everyone. It’s physically demanding and both shifts can be long, especially nights. Of course, everyone was asking if I was coming back next year, and it’s so hard to say at this point. But, I’ve met some great people and have strong connections with the company, and it will be hard to say no next year. The point is that I am finally vetted and have seniority. We’ll see what happens when my journey to the west coast comes true. LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

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