Before visitors put on hardhats and headsets for a behind-the-scenes tour at Michigan Sugar, they’re introduced to the industry with a short film featuring local growers.
Rita Herford and her family are among the voices in the film that tell Michigan’s proud history of growing sugar beets.
The industry started here at the dawn of the 20th Century and has helped generations of farm families make a living.
Today, Michigan Sugar pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy each year. The cooperative is owned by farmers like Herford and her family. It’s a point of pride when she walks into the local grocery store.
“I love being able to go to the grocery store and look on the shelf and say ‘Hey, that could have come straight from my farm,’” she said. “It’s just awesome to know I had a part in that.”
Herford’s family has grown sugar beets for generations. Her father died when she was five years old and her mother stepped in to take over the family farm. She later remarried and teamed with her new husband in a move that has allowed Herford and her brothers to continue the family tradition at Gentner-Bischer Farms.
“Sugar beets have always been around,” she said. “It’s our staple crop. It’s just part of who you are.”