By: Ben Zaleski
Going into my Harvest Hangout, I did not know what to expect. I never have been this close to production agriculture. Yes growing up, I was only two short blocks from the nearest field, but I was never this close. Close enough, that I would be riding along while Jeremy Polega harvests his sugar beets. This was an all-new experience for me, yet I was excited to be able to witness one of Michigan’s most unique crops be harvested.
Such a Sweet Opportunity
When most people buy sugar at the store they may think that their sugar is cane sugar, but that it was grown in a much warmer climate than Michigan. In reality, a large portion of sugar found on Michigan grocery store shelves is made from Michigan sugar. The crop that allows for this sweet opportunity is the sugar beet. Grown primarily in the thumb of Michigan, this crop is a staple of agriculture in the area. Many farmers dedicate endless days and nights to ensuring their sugar beets are grown to perfection and ready to be harvested in late October. From there the beets are transported and eventually end up at the Michigan Sugar factory located in Sebewaing, Michigan. This is where the beet is turned into the sugar you can find in your pantry.
Lets Beet the Stigma
Although the Harvest Hangout was focused on sugar beets, I was able to have meaningful conversations with Jeremy Polega. Jeremy is the Huron County Farm Bureau Board President, and we were able to discuss the future of agriculture. He talked about not having much youth involvement on the county level in the association. This is contributing to the stigma that the agricultural industry is dominated by an older population. Yet that is not true, by having huge involvement in the school level whether it be in high school with FFA, or collegiate level with Farm Bureau. The agricultural industry is booming and is having younger and younger people join the workforce each day. This makes it more and more important for these people to AgVocate for the industry and show the world that we are stronger than ever. With that this Harvest Hangout was a great opportunity to learn about the sweet commodity of sugar beets, and also learn a little bit about how we can help beet the stigma! (Puns intended)
Learn more about growing sugar in Michigan by clicking here!