The sugar that sweetens your breakfast cereal or favorite candy might just come from a muddy field in the Mon-Dak region.
The Yellowstone River Valley is home to about 110 growers who are part of Sidney Sugars.
Jim Olson takes us on a tour to see how the company turns 32,000 acres of beets into a million tons of sugar.
They call this sugar valley.
(Kathryn Cayko, Sidney Sugars Agriculturist) for Sugar Valley growing district
And Kathryn Cayko considers the sugar beet farmers who work here, her family.
(Kathryn Cayko, Sidney Sugars Agriculturist) “All the growers are very special to me. We try and work together all year – especially during harvest.”
Right now, harvest is a bit messy – because of some rain and snow. It means farmers have to employ an extra tractor to pull the semi through the field as it’s filled up with muddy sugar beets.
(Tim Karst, Sugar Beet Farmer) “Kind of normal it seems like. Never fails during beet season.”
But Tim Karst isn’t complaining. He’s in the middle of lifting a great crop.
(Tim Karst, Sugar Beet Farmer) “The yield’s really been good so far. Real happy with it.”
After the beets are plucked from the turf, they come here- to the Sugar Valley dumping station – a stopping off point on their way here – to the Sidney Sugars plant in Sidney, Montana.
(Lincoln Reisig, Sidney Sugars) “This is where the trucks dump the beets.”
Trucks have been arriving for a few weeks now – dumping their loads of beets into the mini-river that washes them into the processing plant – where their journey from field to table takes a big step forward – starting with getting sliced into thin pieces.
(Lincoln Reisig, Sidney Sugars) “We use hot water at this point to diffuse the sugar out.”
The process continues to extract the sugar from the plants – and to crystalize it – until it ends up here – where it’s loaded, sometimes into 50 or 100 pound bags, but more frequently into one ton bags. What they call super sacks.
(Lincoln Reisig, Sidney Sugars) “It’s a lot easier to handle a 2,000 pound bag than it is a bunch of 50s. You get 50 pounders, 100 pounders, people lift them by hand. These super sacks always go by forklift, it makes moving it easier and cleaner.”
These sacks are headed for Compact Industries – a Kraft company. Here are bags for a company that makes pancake mix and other products. Safe to say, the sugar produced here goes far and wide.
(Lincoln Reisig, Sidney Sugars) 3445 “Out market’s mainly Chicago to the west.”
(David Garland, Sidney Sugars General Manager) 0500 “This year we’re expecting to harvest over one million tons.”
In the corporate offices, the general manager and agricultural manager are excited about a very good year that’s shaping up.
(Duane Peters, Sidney Sugars Agricultural Manager) 0040 “We’re forecasting 32.5 tons to the acre. That’s slightly above average. We’re very happy with that number.”
And they’re happy to have another sugar beet harvest well underway. Jim Olson, KX News.
The Sidney Sugars harvest is about 70% complete and should wrap up in about ten days.