Tag Archives: Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project 2010

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet update

After

A few weeks ago, I had posted the unfortunate news about how my sugar beets went moldy. I throw them in my compost pile and figured I would have to get around to mixing them in or covering them.

Well I went out to the pile and found them all gone. Look at the before and after photo. We are talking about 350 Lbs of beets.

Before

There were deer prints around the pile and I assume they had a good feast of the beets.

Basically, deer love sugar beets. Sugar beets seeds are actually sold to private deer hunting land owners, so they can grow them to bait deer for hunting season.

Last year, I grew my beets at the MBG community garden which has a 10 foot high metal fence around it to keep out the deer. This year, I will be at the county farm park garden which does not have a fence.

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project: 350 Lb of Beets, no sugar yet

OK. I harvested my beets a few months ago and I teamed up with Farmer Danny Miller, to have a combine total of about 350 pounds of sugar beets to process.

I did a small 15 pound test (see video) and had some interesting results. I was able to create a very molasses tasting sugar that was a consistency of wet sand.

The plan was to have a sugar making party, but the spaces that I hoped to be able to use were not available. Throw in an end of semester push and the holidays and I have not touched my beets.

The beets are kept safely outside in freezer temperature, which I am not sure how that will effect the final sugar making result compared to if I processed them into sugar right after harvest.

With that said, I feel that my next test, which will attempt to make white sugar is a bench mark. The issue with sugar beet making for me is the huge harvest and the large scale production effort needed.

At about 10-15% sugar yield per beet weight, and a possible 1-5 pound per beet weight, a home sugar beet grower could find themselves with too many beets and overwhelmed with the prospect of making sugar.

But ideally, if sorting the beets does not significantly reduce sugar content, I feel that making sugar from beets in several small batches of say 25-50 pounds makes more sense for the home sugar maker. That should make around 3-7 pounds of sugar per batch, enough to provide a family sugar needs until the next batch in made. The process can be handled with say two pots going on the back of the stove.

I will be attempting to make and video a small batch this weekend which will include carbonation process to remove impurities and diffusion, which will separate the molasses from the white sugar crystals to produce both liquid molasses and white crystal beet sugar.

Related Posts

Molasses Test

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project: Molasses Test

OK. After growing, harvesting and trying to figure out how to make sugar from sugar beets without having much of a clue, we finally managed to make something sweet.

Check out the video to see what we did.

The result was a earthy, molasses syrup that turned part crystalized and sandy when it cooled. It has a strong flavor and I figure it would be good in some bean dishes and for a molasses kick with sweet quick breads.

Another interesting discovery was sugar water. And I am really excited about the potential.

The process of making beet sugar from sugar beets entails a long cooking time like maple syrup to get to the crystal stage, but I found that it only requires a minimal amount of cooking to create sweet water.

It tastes just like sugar and water and I figured that if someone wanted to make a batch of sweet beverage, they could do it with a lot less fuel use from making crystal sugar and then adding back the water.

For example one could make sweet iced tea with the hot sugar water from and early stage in this process.

Sugar water can be a possible economically viable use of this with small cottage food beverage businesses being about to create a locally produced home grown sugar micro beverage industry.

Thanks

Brian

Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project Update

Ann Arbor Food

Sugar Beet

Howdy folks,

Here is a picture of one of my sugar beets. Actually it is the best one of the bunch. Most are smaller than I would have liked because I got them in late this year, but I still think I will have some beets to make into sugar this year. An Omish farmer at the Westside said that he was growing sugar beets too, so the plan is to buy a sack off of him to use to test the process just in cast our sugar beet harvest craps out. This is really a tester year for next year when I hope to have a quarter acre in production.

Sugar Making Party Oct 24th

I am still looking for a location to host the event, but it will be in the Ann Arbor area. I will post the actually location on my event section of this blog. Plan on having your beets harvested, wash and ready to make into sugar. If you have a large heavy bottom pot (not a canning pot), bring it.

Please email me with any questions.

chefbrian1@yahoo.com

GMO beet yield drops in US; Monsanto raises seed price 22 pct

Readers of this blog will know about The Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project. The idea of the project is to empower home gardeners to grow their own beets and have more power where their food comes from.

I found this article which reports on the current state of GMO-Sugar Beet Production. The news is not good, and affirms the need for an organic/non-GMO practice of growing sugar beets, and sugar beet sugar.

GMO beet yield drops in US; Monsanto raises seed price 22 pct

By Rady Ananda

At the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG) conference held in Cambridge, UK July 19-21, US growers, where 95% of beets are genetically modified, admitted that GMO beets showed reduced yields and cost more to produce than last year.

A June 2010 US Department of Agriculture report shows that yields dropped from 26.8 tons per acre in 2008-09 to 25.7 tpa in 2009-10.  Worsening conditions for farmers, the cost of production went up after Monsanto raised seed prices 22%.

William Baldwin, a director at the American Crystal Sugar Company, called the price increase “brutal,” reports AgriMoney.

WABCG, which promotes genetically engineered crops, reported that 130 delegates from over 20 nations attended its tenth conference.

Monsanto denied all negative comments about its product, reports AgriMoney.

Monsanto’s GM beets came under fire last year when a Northern California district court ruled that the USDA had unlawfully deregulated Monsanto’s sugarbeets, which are genetically engineered to withstand its herbicide Roundup.

Despite that the court found that Roundup Ready sugar beets “may cross-pollinate with non-genetically engineered sugar beets and related Swiss chard and table beets,” and “may significantly affect the environment,” in March, Judge Jeffrey White allowed planting to go forward while the federal government prepares an Environmental Impact Statement.

The court will hear arguments in August on whether to ban the GM beets.

Related articles:

http://www.agrimoney.com/news/monsanto-hits-back-at-claims-over-biotech-beet–2038.html

The Beet Goes ON

Sources:

AgriMoney, “Monsanto hits back at claims over biotech beet,” 28 Jul 2010.  http://www.agrimoney.com/news/monsanto-hits-back-at-claims-over-biotech-beet–2038.html

Rady Ananda, “USDA opens public comments on Monsanto’s H1-7 GM beet,” 19 Jun 2010.http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/usda-opens-public-comments-on-monsanto%e2%80%99s-h1-7-gm-beet/

Center for Food Safety, “Court Rules in GMO Sugar Beet Case,” 16 Mar 2010 http://truefoodnow.org/2010/03/16/court-rules-in-gmo-sugar-beet-case/

USDA Beet Yields, Table 14:http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Sugar/Data.htm

World Association of Beet and Cane Growers, “Final Statement: 10th World Sugar Conference,” n.d. http://www.wabcg10.com/content-62

Inchworm Microgreens: Lessons learned in my First Year

Ann Arbor Food

The picture above shows several nice trays of microgreens growing. But there seemed to be some new challenge and lesson every week of my first season as a microgreen farmer.

-Poor germination
-poor drainage in trays until I cut more holes in the bottom
-Buying the wrong seed
-dealing with rain
-dealing with heat, and frying a few batched of trays with the plastic lid covers
-varieties that flopped like lentil, chic pea, and corn shoots
-trying a supposedly fail proof indoor system that failed
-Then there were the chipmunk attacks
-And even when I had a bumper crop, a rainy day at the market resulted in slow sales

Ann Arbor Food

I set up a fence to protect my microgreen trays from deer and wood chucks, but I never thought about chipmunks. They can get in anywhere, and they love sunflower seeds. The real problem is that they like to dig around in the trays, and once they uncover the seeds, the seeds dry up and die. They ruined a weeks worth of trays.

I set up this system of a brick frame with some hardware clothe on top, and bricks on top. If you are more of handy person than me, you could build a wood frame. Once the seeds sprout to about an inch they are safe because the chipmunks only seem to like the seeds, and not the sprouts.

Ann Arbor Food

This system is also great for sprouting seed starts outside. Stadium Hardware sells hardware clothe by the foot/yard.

Ann Arbor Food

Sugar Beet Starts

Ann Arbor Food

The Beet Goes On: Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project 2010

Some may recall my posts about Michigan Sugar Beets. They were about being excited about living in a region that produced its own sugar (beet sugar), but also about being concerned that, that same sugar was grown using GMO sugar beets. I realized that sugar making from beets was a Michigan food wise tradition. Home gardeners used to grow their own sugar beets, and process them into sugar on a small scale like home canning. I figure we local enthusiasts, and home gardeners could take back the tradition.

And thats where the Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project 2010 comes in.

I am growing a large garden of sugar beets this year, and will process them into sugar.

I am also calling for other gardeners, local food enthusiasts, home canners, and food activists to take up the call and grow their own sugar beets too. I will be offering sugar beet seed, and sugar beet plant starts at my Inchworm Microgreens Farm stand at the Westside Farmers Market this summer, starting on June 3, on Thursdays from 3:00-7:00PM. The idea is to restart a home sugar making tradition in Washtenaw County.

So how much sugar can you expect to get?

I have read various estimates, but having never done it before, so I am not sure. The rule seems to be about one ounce of sugar per pound of beets, or 6.25%. But the industry standard is 15%.  Each beet will weigh 3-5 pounds. After processing, a small plot of say 5 x 5, or 25 beets, you yield about 5-10 pounds of white sugar, with a good amount of leftover molasses. I figure I use about 10 pounds of sugar a year for a family of four with canning and home baking.

The leftover beets can be composted or be used as farm animal feed for some very happy goats, and pigs.

How to I participate in the Ann Arbor Sugar Project?

Pick up some beet starts, or order some seed from me and plant them in your garden. To official be apart of the Ann Arbor Sugar Project, participants are asked to weigh their final beets crop, report the square footage used, and of course the final yield of white sugar, and molasses. The result will then be tallied.

I have enough seed to plant an acre, which we will be able to plant if enough of us join the project.

How much sugar will we have if we grow an acre, and achieve the industry desired yield of 40 tons per acre? Yes, 40 tons per acre.

At 15% sugar, our humble one acre can produce 12,000LBs of non-gmo, organically grown (could not find organic seed) white sugar. Of course we need to process all of those beets, and find farmers with animals to feed 40 tons of processed sugar beet.

How do I make sugar from sugar beets?

Here is a great video on the process.

Please contact me with any question.