Utah State Historic Vegetable - Sugar Beet

Sugar Beet

The sugar beet was named the historic state vegetable in the 2002 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, S.B. Bill 136. Senator Bill Wright, R-Elberta, sponsored the measure and it was supported by the students of Realms of Inquiry school of Salt Lake City (Utah Code). The Spanish Sweet Onion is the Utah State Vegetable.

There was stiff competition at the Capitol from the Realms of Inquiry School students, supported by Rep. Jackie Biskupski, who backed the sugar beet as Utah's vegetable. A compromise was reached; plans to designate one or the other was merged into a single bill and the sugar beet was declared the historical state vegetable and the Spanish sweet onion the contemporary state vegetable.

Utah achieved prominence in nineteenth-century America for its efforts to produce sugar from sugar beets; and the production of beet sugar contributed substantially to Utah's economy for almost one hundred years. A first bold attempt was made in the early 1850s but the factory never quite managed to solve the chemical problems of converting beets grown in alkali soil into granulated sugar. By the 1980s there were no beet sugar factories in Utah. The Utah History Encyclopedia has a thorough history of the sugar industry in Utah.

The Lehi factory of the Utah Sugar Company was the first successful beet sugar factory in the Mountain West, the first to use beets grown by irrigation, the first to have a systematic program for producing its own beet seed, the first to use American-made machinery, the first to use the "osmose process" of reprocessing molasses, and the first to build auxiliary cutting stations. This factory also served as a training base for many of the technical leaders of the sugar beet industry of the United States.

The onset of World War I and the expansion of sugar beet acreage brought about a shortage of laborers. The Utah-Idaho Sugar Company sought workers outside of the United States and hired families from Juarez, Mexico to work the fields in the Garland area. The people, their housing, schools, and social life are described in Mexican Families and the Sugar Industry in Garland.

Utah's Sugar Beet History and Industry

Learn more about Sugar Beets

  • Beta vulgaris L. (Alternative Field Crops Manual, Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products)
  • Beta vulgaris L.: Common Beet (The PLANTS Database, Natural Resources Conservation Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • Sugarbeets (Alternative Field Crops Manual, Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products)