From Seed to Sugar: A Vertically-Integrated Model for Small-Scale Turbinado Sugar Production from Organic GMO-Free Beets

2011 Annual Report for FNE11-703

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $10,681.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Erik Andrus
Boundbrook Farm

From Seed to Sugar: A Vertically-Integrated Model for Small-Scale Turbinado Sugar Production from Organic GMO-Free Beets


This project will explore a model of cropping and processing high-energy beets to create crystal sugar on the farm. Crystal sugar is a food product that the northeastern agricultural sector currently does not produce, and our hope is to open a area of cropping and processing to add the the diversity and economic vitality of farms in the region.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Our project plan has changed in timing but not in substance. It is composed of three phases. In the first, now rescheduled to begin in spring 2012, we will crop one acre of non-GMO beets in order to generally assess several varieties for yield and quality. Second, in fall 2012, we will process as large as possible a quantity of the crop into sugar, using primarily a centrifugal juicer and a maple sugar arch. Lastly, in the winter of 2012-2013, we will present our finished sugar products for sampling and survey respondents for their impressions of our beet sugar products. For our outreach component we will document our results and present them at regional venues in the spring and summer of 2013.


We have already laid some groundwork for the project in acquiring several hard-to-come-by seed varieties in 2011. The spring planting season was uncommonly wet, and though we did manage to plant our acre in late May, the seedbed was washed out the following week by heavy rains. Sustained rains for the next 2 weeks rotted most of the seed in the field. Upon consultation with our technical advisor we decided replant the following year, delaying all phases of the project one year.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

As yet there are no significant outcomes to report, with one possible exception. Our experience reveals a possible weakness that this particular crop may have in our region to a greater extent than in western sugar beet cropping areas. Sugar beets are dependent on early planting (late April to mid-May) and are not harvested until late in the fall. But clearly if field conditions do not favor early germination the entire season can be put at risk. Farmers can recover by replanting with an alternate crop, as we did. This is, in our view, and argument for considering the possible advantages of sugar beets only in the context of a diversified, flexible approach.


Ginger Nickerson
GAP Outreach Coordinator
UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture
106 High Point Center, Suite 300
Colchester, VT 05446
Office Phone: 8026565490