Clay County farmer marks 70 years of harvesting beets in ND

Clay County farmer marks 70 years of harvesting beets in ND

GEORGETOWN, Minn. — In 1948, at age 18, Herb Dahlsad got his first taste of the sugar beet harvest while helping a neighbor near his family’s farmstead here.

Now 88, he’s marking year 70 of the tradition, as he helps his son, Rodney Dahlsad, 60, bring in this year’s crop.

Turns out, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I don’t know, I’ve got to do something,” the elder Dahlsad said, standing in his son’s farmyard on a cool, sunny October morning.

Herb Dahlsad thought he was ready to give it all up in 1992 when he retired from farming and he and wife Irene moved from their farmstead to a house in Moorhead. But mowing the grass and hoeing weeds from their flower garden in town just didn’t seem to be enough for him. “You get a little restless,” he said.

So, every fall, wearing his trademark denim coveralls, Dahlsad operates the sugar beet lifter in the field while his son drives a truck alongside, collecting the beets.

He has no trouble working a 12-hour shift, sometimes by spotlight in the middle of the night.

“He doesn’t sit still,” the younger Dahlsad said with a laugh.

War interrupts farming

Herb Dahlsad was born outside Georgetown, about 15 miles north of Moorhead, on the farmstead that now belongs to his son.

The family raised multiple crops, but didn’t get into sugar beets until 1951.

Before that, Dahlsad worked for several years helping his neighbor with the beet harvest. At times, topping beets in the field by hand.

When his own family got involved in sugar beets, he was able to take part in just one harvest before Uncle Sam and the Korean War came calling.

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and worked stateside, as an aircraft mechanic at a flight training base in Texas.

When he got out of the service in 1955, he went back to farming. At that point, he was on his own, starting out with 17 acres.

Staying active

Back in the day, Dahlsad recalls a 6-ton truckload being a large one, compared to the average 23-ton load now.

He remembers when there were no piling stations in the area, so sugar beets had to be shipped by rail to a station in the Twin Cities.

Now, American Crystal Sugar piling stations are located up and down the Red River Valley, including one a half mile from his son’s farmstead.

When Dahlsad retired, he turned his sugar beet acreage over to his son, who now farms 130 acres of beets, along with wheat and soybeans.


Both say there’s no reason he can’t continue helping out on the farm, into his 90s.

“They say if you stay active you’re gonna live longer, so I’m trying to do the best I can,” Herb Dahlsad said.

His son thinks a love of farming has helped his dad stay healthy and active.

“I guess when you’ve done it all your life, it’s something that stays with you,” he said.