American Crystal Sugar Company
Hillsboro Processing Plant
GPS: 47.434612, -97.062921
The sugar beet has a conical, white, fleshy root (a taproot) with a flat crown. The plant consists of a root and a rosette of leaves. Sugar is formed by photosynthesis in the leaves and is then stored in the root.
A sugar beet weighs between two and five pounds. The foliage has a rich, brilliant green color and grows to a height of about 14 inches. The leaves are numerous and broad and grow in a tuft from the beet crown, which is usually level with or just above the ground surface.
The beet root contains 75% water, about 20% sugar, and 5% pulp. The exact sugar contents can vary between 12% and 21% sugar, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions.
Sugar is the primary value of sugar beet as a cash crop. The pulp, insoluble in water and mainly composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and pectin, is used in animal feed. Sugar beet by-products, such as pulp and molasses, add another 10% to the value of the harvest.
Sugar beets grow exclusively in the temperate zone, in contrast to sugar cane, which grows exclusively in the tropical and subtropical zones. The sugar beet is a root crop that flourishes in temperate climates where the growing season is about five months long. Farms are found in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.
Beets are planted in late March/early April and harvested in late September and October. When fully grown, a sugar beet is about a foot long, weighs two to five pounds, and is about 18% sucrose. They are processed at 23 factories located near the fields because beets are a perishable vegetable. Factories generally operate around the clock, seven days a week, from October through April. Beet sugar represents about 54% of domestically-produced sugar. There is no difference between beet and cane sugar.
Some beet sugar brands you might recognize are Crystal Sugar, Holly Sugar, Western Sugar, Big Chief Sugar, Pioneer Sugar, White Satin, and Spreckels Sugar.
In addition to processing pure beet sugar, sugar factories also produce a by-product known as dried beet pulp. The pulp is the dried fiber residue left after most of the sugar has been extracted from the sliced beets. Dried beet pulp can be produced and shipped in many forms: plain dried, molasses dried (which contains approximately 25 percent molasses) and pelleted.
This excellent feed is valued by dairy farmers to stimulate the cow’s milk flow and is widely used to feed cattle and sheep destined for market. In recent years, substantial quantities of pelleted dried beet pulp have been exported to Japan and Europe to assist their development of feeding programs and, in turn, help our country's balance of payments.
Another important by-product is beet molasses, produced in quantities ranging from 4 % to 5% by weight of the beet and containing about 50 percent sugars. Beet molasses is used for the production of yeast, chemicals, and even pharmaceuticals, as well as the production of mixed cattle feeds. It is one of the best mediums for liquid cattle feed.
Posts about the Sugar Beet Harvest
FIRST DAY IN NORTH DAKOTA
Hillsboro, North Dakota, we have arrived
GETTING READY FOR WORK
Some paperwork to get us started
ON THE JOB TRAINING
A trip to the Hillsboro factory for some OJT
TEN DAYS OF WORK
Notes and pictures on our ten days of work
A quick summary of the annual campaign of sugar beet processing
THE SUGAR BEET
Bigger than a coconut, smaller than a football. Here is the story on the sugar beet
I was very impressed with the big machine we worked on. I thought you might like to learn more.
THE SUGAR BEET PILE
How big is a pile that contains 90,000 tons? Here are some pictures and figures
DOWN AND DIRTY: GIVING BACK THE TARE DIRT
Harvesting root crops produces dirt. How to handle and dispose of it is an interesting side story
A LOOK AT THE SUGAR INDUSTRY
A $20 billion industry with 142,000 jobs in 22 states. Take a look at the Sugar Beet Industry
AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUGAR COMPANY
Get a closer look at the company providing this workamping opportunity.
EXPRESS EMPLOYMENT PROFESSIONALS
If you are a workamper interested in short term hard work for big bucks, here’s the link