Tag Archives: Michigan Sugar Beets

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.

Homemade Michigan Beet Sugar: Reviving a Tradition

Picture of sugar beet farmer in michigan from 1939

A previous post talked about how most of the sugar beets grown in Michigan come from GMO sugar beets. I am not a big fan of GMO foods and thought it unfortunate that the access to non-GMO white beet sugar, a proud Michigan staple, is not available. Being a local food guy, I thought that there has to be a way to get my hands on beet sugar or make it myself.

Then I found this video on how to make sugar from sugar beets.

The process is a little involved, but I think it is doable and not much more involved then canning tomatoes or making jam. Maybe along with canning, pickling and jam making, a grass root movement can be started to bring back home beet sugar making.

Most home gardens in Michigan used to include a spot to grow sugar beets for sugar. I do not use much white sugar. I used about one five pound bag of big chief this year for a family of four, along with Michigan maple syrup and honey. Looking at the demo, I figure that a single beet could provide a few ounces of white sugar, and even more left over molasses sugar. I estimate that a small patch of a few dozen sugar beets could produce enough sugar for the year, about a pound of white sugar per a half to a dozen beets. I admit that I am getting ahead of myself having neither grown sugar beets or made white sugar from them, but I am up to the challenge. Maybe by this time next year, I will be planning my Thanksgiving desserts that includes my organically home grown, and made white beet sugar.

More info on Michigan Sugar Beets from MSU