This story was first published Oct. 25, 2014, under the headline, “Sugar beets to sugar bag: Everything you never knew about what goes on inside Nampa’s Amalgamated plant, including why it smells.”
Paul Rasgorshek walked over rows of sugar beets, their stalks and thick leaves already lopped and picked up by machinery, leaving white nubs shining like white dollar coins as the beets awaited harvesting.
It was Oct. 16, a few days into the beet harvest at Rasgorshek Farms about 10 miles southwest of Nampa. Rasgorshek, like the rest of the beet farmers in the Treasure Valley, was working against the calendar to get his beets out of the ground and delivered by Thanksgiving.
The day before, his crews had to stop harvesting at 3 p.m. to prevent the beets from warming higher than the 55-degree maximum permitted by the buyer of all Idaho sugar beets, Amalgamated Sugar Co. This day was a little cooler, and Rasgorshek hoped his crews could work a longer day, running machinery that slices off the tops and harvesting the beets. Cloudy skies help.
“Most people don’t like inversions, but we love them,” Rasgorshek said. “It keeps them cold. With the big crops we had this year and last year, we’ll throw beets away if we aren’t careful.”
Sugar beets are big business in Idaho, where about 4,000 workers are directly involved in growing and harvesting beets and 1,500 work in processing. About 450 growers are members of the Snake River Sugar Co., the co-op that owns Amalgamated. The company buys all of the sugar beets harvested in Idaho, Washington and Oregon,