I originally posted this on my old blog. It’s obviously from 2003. This is how I made the money to get to Alaska. I had driven for beet harvest once before and my family had driven for Langen Bros. for many, many years. So, thought I would transport this post over to my new blog. I lost a few of my pictures but these should give you a general idea.
Beet Harvest, 2003, Kennedy, Minnesota
Beet harvest in this area is VERY big business. The roads are full of beet trucks 24 hours a day, beets are spilled out at railroad crossings and any bumps in the road, and most local folk try to stay off the roads unless necessary for the 2-3 weeks of beet harvest.
There are a total of 5 plants in this valley. They turn the beets into sugar, like sugar cane. Each plant has several piler sites. Between the 5 plants, when they move sugar beets in the Red River Valley, they move more of a single product in the shortest amount of time of any product in the world.
9,573,000 TONS of beets, 5 plants, 34 piler sites. Quite the operation!Beets must be harvested within a certain temperature range. If it gets too hot we do not pile them as they would spoil, if it gets too cold, frost gets in the beets and you have to shut down. This is the only time you get a day (or half a shift) off during beet harvest. Once the beets are in the pile, they are allowed to freeze. Then there is a fleet of semis that haul them into the processing plants all winter long.
This is my 10 speed tri-axle with an L10 Cummins engine. You put the third axle down when you are on the road with a load to help stabilize it. You put it up while being loaded in the field. Loaded, this truck was averaging 65,000 lbs.
Drive up on the piler and the piler operator raises that back metal flap thing. Then you watch the directional lights controlled by the guy up in the tower and raise your load until the guy signals you to stop, raise, stop until you have dumped your load. Beets are carried on a conveyor belt to the top of the pile. Then you pull up and around, back up underneath the boom and it gives you back the dirt that was in your load. This you take back to the field and dump it there. The piler piles the beets into a beet mountain, seen in the background. The whole piler raises and moves forwards as more beets are piled up. There were 3 pilers at this site with 2 sides to each. Sometimes you could get in and out in 5 minutes (if you are good) and sometimes it would take hours as the lines would get long. Normally this happens when a piler breaks down and is a good time to have your lunch or clean your windows.
A new lifter operator loaded one of our semis too heavy on one side causing this truck to tip over when the box was raised. Everyone was alright though the trailer was totaled and the truck twisted a bit.
The white sheets clipped to my dashboard are my weight tickets. You weight in and it is recorded on a bar coded card that you hand them. Then you weigh out after being emptied. Each load you get a ticket and this is how they tell who brought in what.
In between shift changes the drivers service and fuel the trucks. This includes checking the oil, refueling, and washing the windshield and any other glass that needs it. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are eaten in the cab while waiting to get up on the piler. Sometimes the piler is running very smoothly and you don’t have the opportunity to stop and eat.
Watching the sunrise while waiting in line.
Back in the field to do it all over again. Waiting at the end of the row for the harvester and truck to get up and turn around at which point I will fall in behind them. When the truck is full the harvester driver will pause the flow of beets while I drive up and take his place.