What RVers Need to Know About the Sugar Beet Harvest

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Close up of a sugar beet at sugar beet harvest

Have you ever heard of the Sugar Beet Harvest?

It’s a once-a-year event in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota – and most recently in Michigan.

That’s where all sugar beets are harvested and prepared for processing. This might sound like a simple farm task, but it’s far from easy.

Let’s take a look at just what working the Sugar Beet Harvest entails and whether or not it’s an opportunity for you!

What Is the Sugar Beet Harvest?

Every September and October, the sugar beets in the Montana and Red River Valley area must be harvested. The American Crystal Sugar Company is the company that grows and harvests them.

It also owns and operates the factories that process the sugar beets into sugar and other products like molasses.

Sydney Sugars is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Crystal Sugar Company that also participates in the Sugar Beet Harvest.

Mother Nature dictates just when the harvest can begin, but once work starts, it doesn’t end until all sugar beets have been harvested. From sun-up to sun-down, workers are in the fields, driving tractors or testing samples to help the harvest succeed.

Many of those workers are RVers who have chosen to leave the country’s more scenic or touristy areas to work for a few weeks before heading south for the winter.

How Long Does the Sugar Beet Harvest Last?

The Sugar Beet Harvest varies in length because of the work involved. It’s harvesting, so the weather plays a huge role in the timetable.

The harvest doesn’t begin until the ground reaches a certain temperature, and rain can stall work once the harvest begins.

Generally, workers can expect to stay anywhere from four to six weeks. They work until the job is completed.

RVers Can Work the Sugar Beet Harvest 

Between American Crystal Sugar and Sidney Sugars, the two companies hire over 1,300 workers stationed at 45 sugar beet receiving stations in Montana, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

RVers make up about half of the Sugar Beet Harvest workforce. Because of the seasonal, short-term opportunity, it fits the travel lifestyle of many RVers.

They can work for four or five weeks and leave with a hefty paycheck to enjoy the winter.

How Much Money Can You Make During the Sugar Beet Harvest?

Payment will depend on your length of employment and your position, but employees can make up to $3,700 in two weeks. Supervisors will earn more.

Employees who stay the entire length of the harvest will earn a bonus. There’s also overtime. So there are numerous ways to earn a nice paycheck in a short amount of time.

View of sugar beet harvest

What Is It Like Working the Sugar Beet Harvest?

The money sounds nice, but working the Sugar Beet Harvest isn’t for everyone.

In fact, it’s probably not for most people. The working conditions are tough because you’re spending hours on your feet.

This isn’t the type of workamping position where you settle into a cozy campground with a beautiful view and concrete pad as a camp host.

Not only are you standing much of the time, but you’re also working 12-hour shifts seven days a week. As mentioned, the work doesn’t stop until the harvest is over.

You can also expect some winter weather, which may mean freezing pipes at the campground.

Sometimes the water will be off to prevent this from happening, but it’s another worry to deal with when you’re already exhausted.

Finally, expect to be dirty all of the time. You’re working in a field, not in an office.

Your clothes will be dirty and probably stained, and your hands will be dirty and calloused. You’ll want to eliminate your stink immediately when you return home. 

Pros of Working the Sugar Beet Harvest

The pay is one of the main reasons RVers head north to work the Sugar Beet Harvest, but there are other reasons worth considering this work camping opportunity.

There is no cost to you, you have a chance to meet new people and learn new skills, and the Red River Valley is a beautiful area to visit.

Free Campsite

You don’t have to worry about finding a campsite or paying a monthly fee. This is part of the Sugar Beet Harvest experience. If it’s not a full hookup, a honey wagon service provides it twice a week.

An RV at a campsite a part of sugar beet harvest

Earn a Large Chunk of Money

As already mentioned, you can earn thousands of dollars in a short amount of time.

You certainly work your tail off to earn it, but the harvest doesn’t last that long, so you’ll be on your way to enjoying the sunshine of Florida in just a few weeks. Many RVers use the income to support them through the winter so they can take a break and relax.

Pro Tip: The Sugar Beet Harvest isn’t your only job option while on the road! Here’s Where to Find Legitimate Workamping Jobs.

Meet New People

RVers from all over the world come to work at the Sugar Beet Harvest. It’s a great opportunity to connect with new people and build relationships.

As RVers, you might likely run into each other down the road. You might also see familiar faces if you return to work year after year as many people do. So it’s nice to see fellow travelers there for the same reason you are.

Learn New Skills

You don’t have to arrive at the Sugar Beet Harvest with any skills. You’ll learn through training the specific skills for your job.

But if you have some machinery skills already, you may be asked to operate some of the larger equipment, like a skid steer.

These harvesting skills are unique, so you’ll leave with a new appreciation for growers and farmers and a better understanding of the harvest process.

A women at sugar beet harvest getting beets

The Location

The Sydney, Montana, and Red River Valley areas are beautiful. You may want to take a short drive one morning or one evening before your shift starts to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

This fertile valley used to be the site of the ancient Lake Agassiz until it drained away. Because of the richness of the soil, it’s some of the best farmland in the country.

Cons of Working the Sugar Beet Harvest

But even with the pros mentioned above, there are still cons to working the Sugar Beet Harvest.

The work here can’t be sugar-coated. It’s hard, dirty, and exhausting. Take these factors into consideration before anyone decides to head up north.

Long Hours

The 12-hour shifts are long. You get three or four breaks each shift, but standing on your feet for twelve hours is tough on your body.

You also might have to drive up to 28 miles from your campsite to the station. This commute adds another hour to your already-long work day.

Close up of sugar beet harvest

Cold Temperatures

This is eastern Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota leading into winter. Although the cold won’t be unbearable, you’ll be working outside for 12 hours each day in cold temperatures.

When you leave in the morning or return at night, you could see temperatures dip below freezing. So dressing appropriately is crucial to working the Sugar Beet Harvest.

Keep in Mind: Survive the winter this season with the Best Cold Weather Travel Trailers!

Short Handed Crews

Often, there aren’t enough workers. It’s hard to find employees willing to work long hours under challenging conditions.

This means you may have to work overtime or fill in doing a job you’re not familiar with. Short-handed crews may lead to more pay, but it’s long hours on your feet in cold temperatures.

It’s Physically Demanding

As already mentioned, working the Sugar Beet Harvest is physically demanding.

Not only is it hard on your body just to work for 12 hours or to stand for 12 hours, but you may be lifting heavy equipment or moving heavy boxes.

After the few weeks are over, you’ll feel like you’ve heartily earned that paycheck.

Should You Work the Sugar Beet Harvest?

The Sugar Beet Harvest isn’t for everyone. If you’re not in good physical condition, don’t put in an application. If you don’t like to be dirty, don’t put in an application.

But if you’re willing to work hard and have the physical capabilities to do so, this might be a great opportunity for you to earn a hefty paycheck, meet new people, and learn new skills.

You might become one of those RVers who travel north yearly to get your hands dirty.

Will you be working the Sugar Beet Harvest next Fall?

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