How sweet it is
Before the Europeans settled much of this country there were longstanding traditions among many of the native tribes in North America. One of these traditions, called the potlatch, was adopted and modified by many of the Christian Churches in the Midwest--they call it a potluck dinner. At a potluck dinner everyone brings their favorite dish that they can afford to share with the community in a get together, so that everyone can get a taste of the best the community has to offer. Recipes and cooking secrets are often shared, so that the next generation will be able to carryon many of the traditional foods from the past. The original potlatches, however, were usually called by the most successful hunters and gatherers among the tribes, and those who less fortunate in the community came only with open arms so they could take home what was needed to keep their family whole for the period that the food could be preserved.
A rich man in the tribe was the one who had gathered great amounts of respect and gratitude from his neighbors because of his success and ability to share his bounty. Essentially the potlatch was a voluntary estate tax paid by the living people who had accumulated more than what they could use in their immediate family. My how times have changed in the Red River Valley. I have family that still live in that area and many of them have been beet farmers and sugar workers over many years. I know that most of their families attend the same Churches and their children and grandchildren attend the same schools. The management workers of the company do likewise with their families. It will be interesting to see what happens to these families as the children return to school and Sunday schools this fall when the adults in the community can't seem to agree on which families will have food on the table this winter.
I am not sure of all the facts, but this is what I have gathered from public records and news reports. Domestic sugar is considered a critical commodity, so the federal government severely limits sugar imports to only the amount needed to keep the price of sugar sufficiently high to support ample domestic supplies available to consumers. In recent years area farmers have been able to earn an average of about $1200.00/acre with their beet production payments. This amount is about 3-5 times as much as they can earn on traditional small grains with the same land. This amount is also about ten times the amount paid to the entire locked-out labor force in wages and benefits for all of the processing cf their product into salable sugar and other byproducts. Each locked-out union member on average processes about 400 acres worth of beets into sugar. They do this buy working rotating shifts That have them working seven nights four to midnight, seven nights midnight to eight and seven days of eight to four out of each four week period from mid august until the end of May. They work three out of four Labor Days, Thanksgivings, Christmas, New Year's Days and Easters. sometimes they are still doing the shutdowns on Memorial Day, so the only holiday they as sure to have off is theFourth of July. During the beet processing season, they are not allowed to take a day of vacation, so those union workers miss three out of four school activities with their children.