Apr 7, 2007
Custom Harvester Aids Carrot Farmer

Glenn Vogel’s carrot harvester is the only one of its kind. On a good field with plenty of trucks, it can cover 18 to 20 acres per day, pumping out a 22-ton load of carrots every 20 minutes and filling 25 semi-loads. Usually, a shortage of trucks is the only limitation.

Glenn, 48, runs Vogel Produce in Fremont, Mich. The farm’s main emphasis is carrots – between 500 and 600 acres of them – but it also grows about 500 acres of corn, 300 acres of soybeans and 170 acres of butternut squash. The farm is venturing into green beans and onions, Glenn said.

Glenn’s father, Andy Vogel, started farming in 1948 with 10 acres of celery, onions and potatoes. Vogel Produce is now a 1,700-acre operation. Glenn’s son, Scott, helps his dad run the farm and will take over some day.

But back to the carrot harvester. It’s a big machine.

Glenn’s brother, Wayne, built the harvester in 1992. Wayne owns a machine shop, Vogel Engineering, where he makes harvesters and other equipment for a living. Glenn’s harvester is unusual, because it’s the only six-row harvester Wayne has constructed. It originally was a four-row harvester – Wayne’s typical design – but they added two rows in 1996, when Glenn started growing cut-and-peel carrots for Bolthouse Farms. Cut-and-peel carrots are smaller than fresh-market varieties and need to be planted at higher densities to make up tonnage. They went from four 34-inch rows to six 17-inch rows, Glenn said.

The harvester is efficient. From early August until early November, it drives over the rows, pulls the carrots out, carries them to the top of the machine and spits them into a semi-truck that drives alongside. Two people are needed to run the harvester: a driver and a monitor on top. Glenn and his son do the driving.

The harvester is the only machine they use for carrots. It could be used for parsnips and beets, but Vogel Produce doesn’t grow them. The machine has performed admirably for years, and could last another 20 or so with proper maintenance. As long as the frame is sound, other parts can be replaced, Glenn said.

Vogel harvesters seem to have a penchant for longevity. Glenn’s father and brother built a different four-row harvester almost 30 years ago. The family used that machine for a long time, and Glenn sold it to another farmer who’s still using it.

Most of Vogel Produce’s harvested carrots go to Bolthouse Farms, but some go to Gerber. They also store carrots for Gerber, Glenn said.

The Vogels were the first growers in their area to raise carrots on sand instead of muck. Carrots raised on high, sandy ground grow a little slower, but they end up smoother and there’s less risk of water damage. Sand also is easier on the harvester because it doesn’t sink down, he said.

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