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Earlier-than-normal sugar beet harvest begins in southern Alberta

Click to play video: 'Earlier-than-normal sugar beet harvest begins in southern Alberta' Earlier-than-normal sugar beet harvest begins in southern Alberta
2020 might mark the earliest harvest for sugar beet growers in decades. As Quinn Campbell explains, the early winter last year has spurred growers on to get crops off as quickly as they can – Sep 4, 2020

Sugar beet harvest is starting a little early in southern Alberta this year.

“It’s been probably been five or six years for me since I’ve seen this good a crop,” said beet grower Gary Tokariuk. He is also the president of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Association.

Last year farmers in the region saw devastating results to their beet crops due to early snow and cold temperatures.

Read more: Southern Alberta sugar beet farmers unable to harvest nearly half of 2019 crop

Tokariuk said 2019 was the worst his family had seen since they started growing beets.

“Last year was the first year in those 71 years we never got the crop harvested. I left two-thirds of my crop in the ground.

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“It’s not fun when you work all year long and you don’t get to see the rewards of your work.”

Melody Garner-Skiba is the executive director with the Alberta Sugar Beet growers. She said typically beets are taken off in October, but this year “mini” harvests have been planned to get the sugar factory in Taber, Alta., up and running.

Read more: Extended winter runoff setting back seeding for southern Alberta farmers

“We see the harvest window is shortening and that is something we all need to be mindful of. Where weather events in middle to end of October were common, we’re now seeing those, just like last year, pushed up,” said Garner-Skiba.

“I think our ability to start looking at how we harvest, our methodology and timing is really important as we look at that shortening harvest window.”

Sugar beet receiving stations located in Burdett, Taber, Vauxhall, Picture Butte, Enchant, Coaldale and Tempest are opening at varying times over the next 26 days.

The higher-than-average expected yields means farmers and the factory will be busy.

“We know that if we want 100 per cent Canadian sugar to stay in the market place we’ve got to be able to get it out of the ground.

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“One of the ways to do that is when Lantic contracted us these extra 2,000 acres we said: ‘OK we are going to step up, our farmers are going to step up, and we are going to deliver earlier,'” added Garner-Skiba.

Read more: Rogers Sugar to pay $34 million in special dividends for years of free cash flow

Just over 30,000 acres of sugar beets will be harvested this fall in southern Alberta, grown by just shy of 200 farm families.

Main harvest will be in full swing by the beginning of October, keeping farmers busy well into the fall.

“You work hard all year long,” Tokariuk said. “And then you find out how your hard work paid off.”

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