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What’s that smell?

February 5, 2010

On certain days in Scottsbluff, when the wind is right, a peculiar odor wafts through the air. I don’t think it’s a particularly pleasant smell, but it’s not offensive either.

I had a hard time placing the aroma. Cooked beans? Simmering potato? Ever-so-slightly-burnt peanut-butter cookie?

No — sugar beet!

I snapped a pic of the "dirt clods" with my cell phone.

When I was in town for my house-hunting trip back in October, I kept seeing all these peculiar two-trailer semi-trucks rolling through town, carrying what appeared to be dirt clods. While crossing the street on foot, I found a “dirt clod” that had fallen from one of the trucks. Aha! They were sugar beets!

.

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Mmmmmm . . . sugar beets

According to a UNL article, the Nebraska panhandle (where Scottsbluff is located) produces 90% of Nebraska’s sugar beets and grows enough of the sugary bulbs to rank Nebraska #6 in the nation in sugar beet production. So that’s why they call this area “Sugar Valley”!

The beets are planted in the spring, harvested in the fall, and stored in big, frozen piles outdoors until the processing plant can accommodate them. The Western Sugar Cooperative runs the plant here in town, located just off of Sugar Factory Road. I missed the factory tour back in December, but the Cooperative has a cool interactive walk-through of how a sugar beet processing plant works.

Aaaand, for those of you who watched Sesame Street in the 1970s, this closing note.

 

Ever bought GW sugar? It may have been grown and processed in my new home town.

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw except photo of sugar beets (credit sundstrom at sxc) and photos of GW sugar (credit Western Sugar Cooperative)

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