Sugar Beets Research Topic

Instructions on how to thin young beet plants. Drawing of a young beet and a mature beet. Through the Leaves, Great Western Sugar Company, May, 1931,  p. 121.
(Instructions on how to thin young beet plants. Through the Leaves, Great Western Sugar Company, May, 1931, 121.)

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1900 kicked of Colorado’s sugar beet era. The turn of the nineteenth century reflected the ripening of two significant factors in the beet buisness: 1) refinement of beet-to-granulated-sugar technology and 2) the recent passing of the Dingly Tariff, making sugar more profitable. Northern Colorado and the Arkansas River Valley comprised the nucleus of the state's growing region, with growers scattered on the western slope.

Family of Hispanic sugar beet workers. Through the Leaves, Great Western Sugar Company, Nov.-Dec., 1942,  p.20.
(Diaz Family. Through the Leaves, Great Western Sugar Company, Nov-Dec, 1942, 20.)

When farmers adopted this new cash crop, rural life in these areas changed. Certainly, farmers had hoped that sugar beets would turn dramatically higher profits than the traditional corn and wheat harvests, injecting new life into rural economies. They must have also anticipated that alongside the sugar beet profits came the necessary arrival of long-term migrant workers. These workers—Germans from Russia, Spanish-speakers from the Southwest and Mexico, and Japanese-Americans —labored over a six month season on one farm’s single crop. Because of their long stay in the area, many migrant workers turned into permanent residents, establishing new ethnic elements in the landscape.

Sugar beets required not only intensive labor, but quick, reliable transportation to the local sugar beet factory. If not processed in time, the harvested beets' sugar content chemically degraded. Companies like the Great Western Sugar Company established sugar processing factories in medium-sized cities, then used rail lines to link themselves to outlying beet growers. Thus, a centralized network bonded farmers to the factory.

Grand Junction Sugar Beet factory--first beet factory in Colorado. Independent Lumber Company Collection, Loyd Files Research Library, Museum of Western Colorado, 1982.101.
(Grand Junction Sugar Beet factory--first beet factory in Colorado. Independent Lumber Company Collection, Loyd Files Research Library, Museum of Western Colorado, 1982.101.)

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