Ag Operations Manager started as a fieldman in Croswell

By Elizabeth Taylor, Ag Relations & Communications Manager

Back in 1985, Keith Kalso heard about a possible fieldman position for Michigan Sugar Company opening up in Croswell.  Al Ebner was retiring, so Keith jumped at the chance. 

For the next year, Keith spent almost every workday with Al – learning everything he could about contracting, planting, walking fields and harvest.  Keith feels Al’s mentorship was invaluable and played a large part in beginning Keith’s long career and passion for sugarbeets.  Keith got more than sugarbeet knowledge from Al, too – he and his wife, Lorie, ended up purchasing Al’s home and they raised their three daughters there.

In 1995, Michigan Sugar was struggling to find acres to grow sugarbeets. Keith, through some common interests, met some Canadian farmers and started to form the idea of growing beets in Canada (they had not been grown since 1969).  By the spring of 1996, Keith and his group had secured 5 growers – they grew 250 acres that year. 1997 brought over 3,000 Canadian acres, which eventually grew to what it is today.

Michigan Sugar Company’s Canadian growers honored Keith last week at a Tool Shed meeting by presenting him with a gift and noting his role in bringing beets back to Ontario. 

Keith also obtained and has held a C-TPAT certification for MSC, which is a high profile security clearance at the border that has allowed our trucks much easier access in and out of Canada.  Keith’s work with Canada and the growers there has been one of his highlights at Michigan Sugar.

Another project Keith helped to implement in 1997-1998 was the Sugarbeet Farm Services program.  The service was developed to offer full custom harvest services to new growers interested in growing beets. The service harvested 510 acres in 1998, and ‘new growers profited financially and gained insight on how to produce a profitable crop of sugarbeets,’ according to a 1999 Sugarbeet Update article written by Keith.

In 1999, Keith became the Ag Manager in Croswell. From then until 2015, Keith was very involved in the East District for Michigan Sugar and the Croswell community.  He was (and has been to this day) very involved in the 4-H program, Project RED and Youth Sugarbeet Project and loves working with and teaching kids about agriculture. Keith also headed up many Croswell tours, farm visits and Canadian tours during his time as Ag Manager. One favorite event he recalled was the 100th Anniversary tour – he said Julie Perry was his ‘follower!’

The early delivery lottery system for Canada, the introductions of MAUS operations in the East district, many land purchases, presentations, and beet storage techniques and ideas also stand out as memories of Keith’s time in Croswell.

In 2016, Keith took the position of Ag Operations Manager and made the move to the corporate office in Bay City. His move brought him closer to his daughters, as well as a whole new set of responsibilities.

Today, as he approaches his last official day at Michigan Sugar Company, Keith is looking forward to spending more time with his family, 3 granddaughters (with one more on the way) and traveling with his wife Joann.

We will miss Keith’s always positive attitude, his willingness to help and teach, and his wealth of knowledge and passion for Michigan Sugar and sugarbeets. Keith’s compassion and understanding of growers’ needs is always evident when talking to him – he consistently has thought of others before himself, and strives to always do what’s best for the cooperative.

Please join us in congratulating Keith on a storied, successful career with Michigan Sugar Company and wishing him even more enjoyment in retirement.