Sugar beets sweeten the Pigeon MI growing project

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Sugar beets sweeten the Pigeon MI growing project

When you work for FRB, you talk to the most interesting people from the most fascinating growing projects! I just got off the phone with Burt Keefer from the Pigeon MI growing project in Michigan’s “thumb.” (For those who don’t understand the reference, just look at any map of MI – or the U.S. – to see our state’s mitten shape and our famous thumb.)


The Pigeon growing project is unique in that, in addition to soy and corn, they grow white winter wheat, edible beans like navy beans (for your pork ‘n’ beans!), “black turtle soup” beans (for your black beans and rice), and sugar beets. Michigan’s thumb area is a large producer of sugar beets for the refined sugar industry. Thinking of garden beets, I asked Burt, “What do they do with all the red?” Well, there isn’t any red in sugar beets!  They kind of look like huge turnips, pale and elongated, not round like a red beet.

Sugar beets are harvested mechanically once the weather turns cold, and piled up outside the processing plants for 24/7 processing during the winter months until the task is finished. Even though it’d be so much fun to plan a harvest celebration around the sugar beet harvest, that’s not really a possibility, because when beets are ready they’re READY. You just can’t call up 200 people on a Tuesday in October or November and say, “Come on over to the fields right now … and bring pie!”


The Pigeon growing project is expanding in 2012 from 177 acres of the various crops, to more than 350, 76 of which will be sugar beets. Since we can’t be there personally to witness the harvest, I’m hoping [hint, hint] that someone in Pigeon will take pictures or video footage to share with the rest of us when it happens next year. And maybe [hint, hint] they’ll include something about those mouthwatering edible beans.
Laurie Kaniarz

01/10/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment