GRAND FORKS — Miserable, wet weather across the region this fall hasn't just caused rivers to swell with water, it has also forced the sugar beet harvest to grind to a halt, leaving many migrant workers stuck doing nothing.
About 150 harvest workers came together Thursday, Oct. 17, for a sloppy joe lunch at HOPE Church in Grand Forks. Many of them have been in the area for a month and haven't been able to work most of the time. They come from backgrounds ranging from the television industry to the medical field and military.
"We were going to try and work, but things didn't work out and (the rain) keeps continuing," said Cindy Banta, a work camper from Southern California.
Heavy rain and snow put a damper on this year's harvest, with the American Crystal Sugar company reporting that the beet harvest is only about 35% complete.
A group of work campers that usually stays in East Grand Forks, Minn., was pushed out by water earlier this week, and now about 30 RVs are camped in front of the old K-Mart building at the Grand Cities Mall.
"Since we got displaced from the campground everybody's been really nice (and) helping us," said John Ward, a work camper from North Carolina who used to serve in the Navy. "Being in the military we had camaraderie with all our shipmates. And we had the same camaraderie (in) get-togethers with all our fellow workers here."
The group camping out near K-Mart has worked the last six beet harvests together and they have gone from state to state doing odd jobs.
"We've traveled through 33 states, worked in six national parks (and) next year we're going to be going to Bar Harbor, Maine," said Loel Banta, a worker from California.
Thursday's lunch was paid for by the American Crystal Sugar Company as a way to thank them for sticking with the company after a month.
But the campers say the memories they're making with friends make the wait worthwhile.
"We've met so many nice people and everybody's so wonderful here," said Cindy Banta.