October 23, 2014

Bringing in the pickles

Lugene Daniels
A load of pickles is dumped into a semi truck trailer.
Lugene Daniels
Scott Suszko, of Twining, manuevers a pickle harvester through a field.
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By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

TWINING — Stange Farms LLC., in Twining, farms over 1,950 acres of crops every year but over a quarter of those crops, 510 acres, are devoted to one plant in particular – pickles – a cautious crop.

“It’s one of the most riskiest, probably, because if it rains, the pickles get a certain size and you have to harvest them. They get bigger faster if it rains,” said Stange Farms partner, Scott Suszko. “They’re the last thing to plant and the first to harvest.”

Suszko added pickles are harvested approximately 50 days after planting, unlike other crops at Stange Farms, such as corn, wheat and soybeans, which are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall.

And during the last couple weeks of August, the Twining farm, which is the largest pickle producer in Arenac County, continued its pickle harvest that it began in July.

Very slowly at that.

Suszko says when driving a tractor hooked up to a pickle harvester, an implement that spans 14 feet and harvests six rows of pickles at once, the average speed is barely over two miles per hour.

After Stange Farms, which is a partnership between Suszko and his uncles, Bob and Ed Stange, harvests the pickles, they are instantly hauled away.

“We load and haul them down to Bay View in Pinconning,” Suszko said, adding some get stored in brine there, while others are shipped throughout the country.

When it comes to Bay View paying Stange Farms for their pickles, Suszko says size matters.

“We get paid on grade,” he said, adding grade depends on the width of each pickle. “They take your whole load and they sort through it.”

Once sorting is complete, Suszko says Bay View buys the pickles by the bushel with price varying depending on the pickle’s grade/size.

But not only tractors, harvesters and trucks are in the pickle fields, Suszko says bees also play an important part in growing pickles.

“You need the bees to pollinate them (pickles),” Suszko said. “When they (pickles) start to blossom, we put the bees in the field. … We move them from field to field.”

Suszko says to efficiently grow its pickles, Stange Farms LLC. plants, pollinates and harvests at different times so fields will never need the same treatment at the same time.

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