LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ken Horn continued his Hometown Tours series with a stop in Blumfield Township Friday for an inside look at Michigan’s sugar industry.
Owner Gary Reif and Horn met in one of the many fields owned by Reif Farms and started the tour by introducing Horn to the various equipment that would be used during the harvest.
“Each one of these tours is unique in many ways,” said Horn, R-Frankenmuth. “As I was driving toward the location, I could see big dust clouds, several semi-trucks coming and going and a field full of massive harvesting equipment. I knew this would be a fantastic ‘Pure Michigan’ experience.”
After a brief introduction to the harvesting methods and equipment, the operation moved into full swing. Horn boarded the harvester and they were off.
“Riding in the harvester was probably my favorite part,” Horn said. “The equipment is massive; there is no other way to describe it. When I first arrived, Gary gave me a brief history lesson and mentioned he started out as a kid harvesting beets one row at a time. Now he’s using a piece of equipment the size of a small house to do several rows at a time. The advances in equipment and technology are amazing.”
As the harvester moves through the field, the built-in holding area fills up with beets. Tractors with large trailers then pull alongside the harvester and the beets are unloaded into the trailers.
The tractors then drive the trailers full of beets over to the line of semi-trucks waiting for a load. Once the semis are loaded, they make their way to Michigan Sugar Company’s scales to unload and receive a voucher based on the weight of the load.
“After we finished harvesting, Gary loaded up the semi and we made our way down the street to weigh the beets we harvested,” Horn said. “As you pull into the Blumfield scale, all you can see around you are enormous, evenly distributed piles of beets.”
Once they arrived at the scales and Reif was able to unload the harvested beets, scale manager Dave Ganton gave Horn a brief tour and explanation of the process they use to organize, store and ship the beets to the various factories in the region. Horn even had the opportunity to run some of the unloading equipment as other farmers dropped off their harvest.
“The quantity of beets they receive during the fall harvest really shows the strong presence Michigan has in the sugar industry. We were only there for an hour or so, and in that time around 100 trucks came and went,” Horn said. “The most fascinating part to me was that all of these beets stay in Michigan throughout the extraction process. Some go to Caro, Croswell or Sebewaing, but most go to Bay City for processing.”
Blumfield Township completes the sixth stop on Horn’s Hometown Tours series.
“I’d like to thank everyone who made this tour possible and successful,” Horn said. “I want to personally thank Gary for having me out to the farm, and Dave for allowing us to take a brief tour of the Michigan Sugar Company’s facilities. I owe both of them for sharing such great information about this ‘Pure Michigan’ industry.”
For video of this and previous tours, click here.
Horn’s Hometown Tours feature various communities in the 32nd District. If you are interested in having Horn visit, please contact his office at (517) 373-1760, toll-free at (855) 347-8032 or by email at SenKHorn@senate.michigan.gov.
Editor’s note: A print-quality copy of each photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorKenHorn.com. Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.
PHOTO 1 CAPTION: State Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, poses for a picture in the back of a semi loaded with sugar beets.
PHOTO 2 CAPTION: State Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, stands with Gary Reif, owner of Reif Farms, as Reif gives him a lesson on the anatomy of a sugar beet.
PHOTO 3 CAPTION: State Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, unloads the day’s harvest at Michigan Sugar Company’s Blumfield scale.