Ever been curious about how nomads living in vans make money? I’ll let you in on a secret…they’re not all digital nomads. Some work seasonal jobs like making money harvesting beets at the Sugar Beet Harvest.
The Sugar Beet Harvest is an annual short-term job where nomads can arrive, work long hours, and make money harvesting beets fast. Shifts are long, the weather is all over the map, and it is a great way to work seasonally!
If you live in a van or are looking to live in a van, this is a great opportunity to make some money and keep traveling. Also, if you’re in the process of becoming a digital nomad, it’s a helpful income boost while you figure it out!
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Harvesting Beets: Sugar Beet Harvest Workamping 101
During the fall every year, there is a Sugar Beet Harvest. The main harvest takes place in North Dakota and Minnesota along the river that divides the states.
The main company running the Sugar Beet Harvest is American Crystal Sugar.
Because they need a huge influx of working from the end of September into October, they hire nomads living in vans, trailers, and RVs. They use a company called Express who hires workampers (n. work and camper).
During the Harvest, they provide you with a full hook-up campsite with a shower house and laundry.
Making Money Harvesting Beets: The Job (It’s Not What You Think)
Contrary to popular belief, you are not picking beets! No, you are not working an agricultural job in the field.
The main position that offered is called a “Helper/Sampler Taker.”
Instead of a field, you’ll work at a job site near a sugar factory where beets are piled. A pile of beets can stretch ¼ mile long and 30 ft high.
The beets get put into piles with a very large industrial machine called a piler.
Big trucks full of beets will come to the piler and dump their load into the machine.
The sugar beet farmers get paid based on the sugar content in the beets (not by the pure weight). Thus, beets need to get sampled from various loads to determine this pay ratio.
The helper/sampler position is essentially the ground crew at the piler. You’ll direct trucks around the piler and take a sample if the trucker has a sample ticket.
It’s very confusing until you see it in person. That’s why I am going to do a daily blog about making money harvesting beets as a workamper below!
Getting to North Dakota
Workampers get to the beet harvest from all over the United States. Nomads use the opportunity to make a shift in where they are spending time.
Express will guide you through the application process. When the time comes, they will assign you a campground and arrival date.
Once you arrive at your campground, you’ll go through orientation and training.
Then, you wait.
Since the piling can only occur in certain weather conditions, you’ll get 4 hours of “stay pay” from a set date until the harvest begins. This year, that date was September 30th.
Read the daily updates below to see how everything goes!
Daily Updates Harvesting Beets
Karma and I are on the DAY SHIFT this year. Click on the day links below to see how each day went. We’ll drop what we learned each day as well.
- Day 0 – Orientation & Training: The Waiting Game
- Day 1 – Wet, Muddy, + Hurry Up and Wait
- Day 2 – Slicker than Snot!
- Day 3 – You need to call the Hotline…
- Day 4 – Whereby Trucks Get Stuck
- Day 5 – The Beets Are Too Hot!
- Day 6 – What’s Special About Deep Freeze Piles
- Day 7 – Don’t Get Close to Trucks!
- Day 8 – The Long Deep Clean
- Day 9 – Most of the Truckers are Kind
- Day 10 – The Heart of the Harvest
- Day 11 – Does Anyone Have Clean Underwear?
- Day 12 – Everyone is Tired, But Still Moving
- Day 13 – Looking Down from the Van Deck
- Day 14 – Extra Break Time Today
- Day 15 – Guide to the Beet Piler Machine
- Day 16 – The Piles are ALMOST Complete
- Day 17 – Time to Deep Clean the Piler
- Day 18 – Stretching it Out for a Weekend
- Day 19 – Climbing the MASSIVE Beet Pile
- Day 20 – The End of the Harvest
Save This Page and Come Back to Read the Adventure!
Interested in the Sugar Beet Harvest for 2024? Save this page so you can see day by day how you can make money harvesting beets next year.
After we completed the harvest, I wrote up everything I learned about the Sugar Beet Harvest here. 😊
Want to know something specific about the Sugar Beet Harvest? Feel free to comment on this post or on any of the daily posts and I’ll try to cover your question in the next daily post!