First Time Working the Beet Harvest – Orientation

Monday, September 19,2016

By design we arrived at the Bagnell RV Park  very early, because we wanted to be able to change our spot if it was a first come, first serve situation.  We lost an hour to time zone crossing the border and now we’re settled into Mountain Time for the duration.  The campground is pretty small and being an “in town” RV park, it’s hemmed in on all sides by roads and businesses.  Our site did have 50 amp (a big concern for us while the furnace is broken) and also backs up to a road.  It definitely has a trailer park feel with many permanent units people are living in and a general rundown appearance.  Honestly it didn’t bother me because I had pretty low expectations, but the folks a couple of spots down in a very high end Class A seemed a little agitated.  We are supposed to have cable (currently not working although I was told a repair man would be coming today and he showed up less than an hour later and now we have 50 channels), supposed to have WiFi (we can’t get it to connect, but that may be on our end), and we have a lovely view of the giant trash cans across from us. Seriously though, we are here to work and sleep, so the only things that concerned me were a neighbor with a permanent structure and a barking dog, and the road noise. There are rumble strips on the road very near us and since people refuse to slow down that noise will probably be a permanent fixture and anything that interferes with sleep will probably be a big deal.  On the plus side, there is both a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut within walking distance, and there is a very nice full size grocery store in town.  We also have 4 bars of ATT 4G.    The camp host (associated with the beet harvest operation) was very nice and was slightly apologetic, but again, we weren’t expecting much, so I went out of my way to thank her for her help.  It’s not her fault.  We were thrilled the RV park has mailboxes and accepts packages, so with a $25 refundable deposit we got a box and a key. Folks have been wanting to send us stuff for a while, and I have a couple birthday presents coming my way!  Our information packet says we have a paperwork meeting at a nearby hotel tomorrow at 1pm. So that’s what we will do, and get some information about what shift we will be working, and what our jobs will be. Our next door neighbor Juan is really nice and he has done the beet harvest four previous seasons, so that is encouraging.  He says we will have fun.  I hope so.  – Tracy

Lots of beet fields

Lots of beet fields

The campground

The campground

Our front view

Our front view

Our back view. Despite the rumble strips cars go flying down this road right outside our windows

Our back view. Despite the rumble strips cars go flying down this road right outside our windows

After getting set up we took a little tour of the town to try and acclimate ourselves.  It didn’t take long.  It’s a typical small town farming community, and it’s also the county seat, so it did have a Main street and a couple of other business areas.  We stopped in a store called Shopko Hometown  (which is like a mini Kmart) and found my Corelle dishes pattern on sale for 40% off!!! We originally only bought 6 of everything and occasionally when we have larger dinners I don’t have enough plates.  Plus, they had a serving platter in the pattern which I had never seen.  Score!!  We also decided to go ahead and buy a new Igloo ice machine.  Ours has not been working well for awhile (we have owned it three years) and they had one on clearance for $139 which was actually cheaper than what we had seen online. We found the bank, grocery store, a Mexican restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, hardware store, car parts store, and they even have a local Ford dealership which is great, because we need another oil change. We went into the car parts store and bought some cheap seat covers for $24.99.  Everyone says you get very dirty doing this job, so no point in messing up our upholstery.  We also stopped at M3 Meats.  We love local butchers, but this was more of a processing center and they don’t have a storefront.  The clerk came from Alaska though, and when she found out we had just come from there she went in and checked their freezer.  We bought some great looking local Montana ribeye for $12.99 a pound.  Can’t wait to try it out.  Just to be clear, this isn’t really a butcher shop, but they do sell meat if they have it, and are planning to expand and add a small storefront in the next couple of months. I really liked the whole vibe of the town.  Everyone we met was very friendly and it had the small town feel of where I grew up.  – Tracy

The residential streets are nice

The residential streets are nice

Our temporary seat covers

Our temporary seat covers

Picked up 4 of these beauties. Hope they taste as good as they look

Picked up 4 of these beauties. Hope they taste as good as they look

The nice strip mall in town

The nice strip mall in town.  The main street is a little rundown

My new ice machine

My new ice machine

And the serving platter I have been looking for forever!!

And the serving platter I have been looking for forever!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Well the first night sleeping with the road noise was ok.  With fans on, I only heard a truck once, but again this was at night the road was much busier during the day.  This probably wasn’t an issue for most folks because their bedrooms are in the front, but ours is in the back so keeping an eye on it.  It may turn out to be a complete non-issue because we will be so tired, and otherwise I like our site because it is wide, so for right now we are going to stay where we are.  Will see what happens.

Our orientation was at 1pm at the hotel next door.  They had rented two small rooms and one had chairs and a TV and the other a couple of desks.  The room was full with 17 people and they walked us through filling out the paperwork.  It was pretty extensive and afterwards we went into the other room 4 at a time and presentation our ID’s for more paperwork. Then we watched a training video and walked through a short quiz.  We were told we would be paid at the end of the harvest for a two hour orientation but it ended up taking 3 hours.  Not sure if the pay will be adjusted or not.  We also found out that the lowest level helper this year would be making a base rate of $13.35 (32 cents more than last year) and for other jobs the base rate was $14.27 or higher.  Unfortunately we were still not told what our jobs or shift would be, but we were told that our site would be Sugar Valley. We were allowed to request day or night shift and we were told our foreman would take our preference and our job preference into account.  Whether or not that is the case, we will see.  I know the folks who come back for a second year all get to pick their jobs, shifts, and locations and I would imagine we will all take what is left.

What surprised me the most was the age range of the people in the room.  Over half were in their 20’s or early 30’s and the oldest of the rest of us was what looked to be a pretty healthy 70.  The kids were fun.  Some had RV’s but most lived in worker housing (bunk style trailers) provided by the harvest. Most of the people here knew someone well who had done this before, so we heard some secondhand information, but until it’s all official I am not sure I trust it.  We did find out that our trucks would be parked close to the sites and we could bring food, extra clothing, etc and it would be accessible to us during the shift.  Overall for me it was fine.  It did run a little long, but it was a large group and I actually thought the safety video was pretty good, from a content standpoint at least.  Looking forward to getting to the training on Thursday and seeing how that goes. Oh and I know I am saying we will see how it goes lot, but honestly there isn’t much point in speculating.  In my mind at least we have done as much as we can to prepare getting all worked up isn’t going to help.  – Tracy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016  

We had nothing scheduled for today and briefly talked about visiting the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is an hour away, but it was both cold and rainy.  Instead we both worked on housekeeping items that had built up.  I did spend several hours on learning Adobe photo shop for my recipe book and Lee spent some time on the phone with the nonprofit he used to work for, helping them with their annual report.  We didn’t mind the extra downtime at all, but I can see why some folks might be annoyed with the downtime.  Since we have a free place to stay and things to get done, it is fine by us.  It actually have been hard to come straight from Alaska and jump right in, so we are grateful for at least the first couple of days.  Tomorrow we have training at 9am and hopefully will find out our shift.


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12 thoughts on “First Time Working the Beet Harvest – Orientation

  1. What town and state are you in? You listed the RV park, but not the city or state. Maybe I missed it. I am following you on your adventures and I love your blog.

  2. Good idea on the seat covers! Our friends who have worked this job went to the thrift store and bought all new clothes and coats for work and at the end of the season, just threw them away. Looking forward to reading about your experience!

    • We are taking all of our oldest stuff and using them then replacing with new. Since we tend to wear the same things over and over had plenty that needed replaced. I also bought some jeans at a $5 for bag sale at a flea market in Alaska, but the boots I didn’t have and ended up buying new at Walmart. Glad I did because they said shoes are tough to come by and no canvas tennis shoes allowed.

  3. I like the new day to day format, though remember I’m a reader of the other format too! Looking forward to reading more…big HUG, sweet friends!

  4. Good Luck on the new job. Sounds like you will be pretty busy. You just might’ve so tired you will sleep thru anything!! How is the surrounding area, are there mountains and trees? We have been toMontana but up to glacier and flathead lake.

    • It’s all farmland and pretty flat in the immediate area. The more rocky area is the national park nearby but here it’s all fields and cows. That’s what I grew up with so I find it oddly comforting.

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