North Dakota sugarbeet farmer who died in November crash honored at national grower meeting

Jason Schatzke was honored on the second full day of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association annual meeting, this year held Jan. 29-31 in Washington, D.C.

Jason Schatzke ran a diverse operation, but focused heavily on sugarbeets. Photo taken May 10, 2022 in Wheatland, North Daktoa.
Emily Beal / Agweek file photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Sugarbeet Growers Association posthumously honored Jason Schatzke with the 2022 Sugar Producer of the Year award at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Schatzke was honored on the second full day of the ASGA annual meeting, this year held Jan. 29-31.

Schatzke, who died Nov. 12, 2022, in a single-car motor vehicle incident near Edinburg, North Dakota, was a fifth-generation Wheatland, North Dakota, farmer who grew grains and row crops, including sugarbeets.

Schatzke was a first-generation sugarbeet farmer, gambling on growing the crop despite the advice of others who told him it was not a sound idea, said Neil Rockstad, American Sugarbeet Growers Association vice president and an Ada, Minnesota, farmer.

Although relatively new to sugarbeet production, Schatzke jumped at the chance to represent growers through membership to grower organizations and service on their boards. He was an effective leader and lobbyist, forging friendships with those he served, Rockstad said.


Schatzke was elected president of the American Crystal Sugar Factory Moorhead (Minnesota) Factory District board in 2019 and re-elected to serve as board chair in 2023. He also was a member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association and on the board of the International Sugarbeet Institute, serving as treasurer for both organizations.

Schatzke Farms: Pioneers of North Dakota's Prairie
In 1889, North Dakota became the 39th state in the union when President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill that brought the upper half of the Dakota Territory into statehood. Eight years before that, Schatzke Farms was founded when Johan (pronounced John)

In 2021, Schatzke was appointed to the American Sugarbeet Growers Association board of directors. He was honored by the appointment and took the responsibility of representing the sugarbeet industry. He was a “fierce advocate,” Rockstad said.

Schatzke and his wife, Tanya, worked to build their farm and family and to pursue the American Dream, Rockstad said. He was proud of his and Tanya’s children, Jace, Leah and Grant, making it a priority to attend their activities and support them. He also enjoyed cheering for his friends’ children, and his friends, in turn, considered him family.

“Jason and his family are part of another family, the sugar family,” Rockstad said.

An optimistic individual, Schatzke “was a risk taker and always looked for the positive,” Rockstad said.

An old man in a red Minnesota Twins cap leans onto the counter at a restaurant. He is smirking at the camera.
Earl Mallinger of Oslo, Minnesota.
Contributed / Laura Rutherford

Besides honoring Schatzke, the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, memorialized other sugarbeet growers who died during the past year, including Earl Mallinger , an Oslo, Minnesota, farmer. Mallinger died Jan. 11, 2023, at age 105 .

The 2024 American Sugarbeet Growers Association annual meeting will be held in Orlando, Florida, in early February.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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