Amalgamated makes sugar from Idaho farmers at Nampa plant

Amalgamated Sugar Co.’s Nampa plant takes sugar beets from Idaho farmers and converts it to packaged sugar for food businesses and consumers, and to other sugar-related products, including molasses.

Amalgamated Sugar Co.’s Nampa plant takes sugar beets from Idaho farmers and converts it to packaged sugar for food businesses and consumers, and to other sugar-related products, including molasses.

Idaho Statesman

This story was first published Oct. 25, 2014, under the headline, “Sugar beets to sugar bag: Everything you never knew about what goes on inside Nampa’s Amalgamated plant, including why it smells.”

Paul Rasgorshek walked over rows of sugar beets, their stalks and thick leaves already lopped and picked up by machinery, leaving white nubs shining like white dollar coins as the beets awaited harvesting.

It was Oct. 16, a few days into the beet harvest at Rasgorshek Farms about 10 miles southwest of Nampa. Rasgorshek, like the rest of the beet farmers in the Treasure Valley, was working against the calendar to get his beets out of the ground and delivered by Thanksgiving.

The day before, his crews had to stop harvesting at 3 p.m. to prevent the beets from warming higher than the 55-degree maximum permitted by the buyer of all Idaho sugar beets, Amalgamated Sugar Co. This day was a little cooler, and Rasgorshek hoped his crews could work a longer day, running machinery that slices off the tops and harvesting the beets. Cloudy skies help.

“Most people don’t like inversions, but we love them,” Rasgorshek said. “It keeps them cold. With the big crops we had this year and last year, we’ll throw beets away if we aren’t careful.”

Sugar beets are big business in Idaho, where about 4,000 workers are directly involved in growing and harvesting beets and 1,500 work in processing. About 450 growers are members of the Snake River Sugar Co., the co-op that owns Amalgamated. The company buys all of the sugar beets harvested in Idaho, Washington and Oregon, and brings in around $1 billion a year in revenue.

The Nampa plant, which can be seen and smelled from Interstate 84, employs 400 Treasure Valley residents year-round, and an additional 100 during the five-month peak starting with the harvest.

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Beet harvesting in Paul Rasgorshek’s fields southwest of Nampa. Katherine Jones Idaho Statesman

This is Rasgorshek’s 32nd beet harvest. He farms 175 acres of sugar beets, a small sum considering the rest of his 5,200 acres are devoted to alfalfa seed, mint, wheat, onion and carrot seed.

Rasgorshek, 52, is optimistic his tonnage will beat last year’s yield of 43 tons per acre. He’s also hoping for higher than 17% sugar content, which affects the price he receives from Amalgamated.

Sugar beets are threatened in the Valley and across the U.S. A glut of sugar from Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere flooded the market and drove down prices for domestic growers. Idaho sugar beet cash receipts fell 37 percent during the past two harvests despite strong yields.

The fate of the domestic sugar industry might lie with a lawsuit filed by U.S. sugar processors — including Amalgamated — with the International Trade Commission charging that Mexico producers have strategically sold for

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Aurora Gardener Founds Rebel Marketplace Farmers’ Market

James Grevious had never planted a garden before, let alone run a farmers’ market. But this 38-year-old father of three is successfully doing both and plans to keep the momentum of good, clean food going in his Aurora neighborhood.

“As far as Aurora goes, people actively need access to healthy food,” he says. “I spoke to Mo Betta’ Green [Marketplace], and I wanted to bring something like that to Aurora and follow in her footsteps.”

So Grevious founded his own business, Rebel Marketplace, a monthly, seasonal farmers’ and local wellness market that opened this past spring in Aurora’s Del Mar Park at 312 Del Mar Circle.  Under the slogan “Feeding our community, one garden at a time,” this small market started with a lot of gumption on Grevious’s part after his several years running his own urban farm project, Rebels in the Garden. But between COVID-19 and an initial permit denial from city officials, the public market almost didn’t happen. 

Rebels in the Garden urban farm in Aurora.EXPAND

Rebels in the Garden urban farm in Aurora.

Linnea Covington

“You can’t tell James no,” says Desiree Fajardo, Grevious’s girlfriend and a fellow gardener. “I think they are going to say no and if you just except that no, you won’t get anywhere,” she say about the city agencies in charge of licensing and permitting.

As she predicted, Grevious did not take no for an answer and asked for a meeting with the city to discuss the issues they had with starting an outdoor market at the park. He found out that there weren’t any restrictions he couldn’t overcome, and they were all able to work together to set up a plan. Then the pandemic hit and the rules became trickier to navigate, but still Grevious pushed on.

“If we didn’t have COVID I think it would have taken off, but then I wouldn’t have all of this without COVID and staying home,” says Grevious, gesturing to his vast garden. “Also, the market drew people who might not have come out if it wasn’t for the pandemic.”

Grevious can plant long rows of vegetables in his spacious back yard.EXPAND

Grevious can plant long rows of vegetables in his spacious back yard.

Linnea Covington

The seeds for Rebel Marketplace were planted in Grevious’s own back yard with Rebels in the Garden, a project he launched to engage his kids, nephew and a family friend in 2015. The idea, he says, was to do something meaningful in response to the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. At first it was mostly just good reason to hang out, grow food and have healthy snacks together at his home in Montbello. But the gardening and socializing went well enough that Grevious decided to continue his urban farm the next year. Unfortunately the timing was off and the the Air Force master sergeant and F-16 mechanic got deployed to Japan. So, the garden had to be put on hold.

In 2017 he moved to his current location in Aurora’s Highland Park neighborhood. His large back yard was perfect for the new farm, and by

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