Beet Growing


(Submitted by Ruth K. Powers)

The sugar beet industry was one of the early farming act­ivities in Plain City. The ground was prepared late in the fall and early spring for planting the seed much the same as it is today except horse drawn machinery was used instead of tractor operated ones.

After the seed sprouted and the young plants grew a few inches in height, the rows were cultivated and a thinning of the plants was required since the seeds were drilled close together. Segregated seed had not been developed at that time. This thinning process was that of spacing the beet plants several inches apart to allow the young plant to grow. This was usually done with a short handled hoe and hand labor. A good beet thinner might be able to cover an acre a day. The beet crop required another hoeing or two and cultivating to eliminate the weed growth. Regular irrigation was necessary to give moisture to the growing plants. In October the beets were matured and ready for harvesting. Again this process required much manual labor and the use of horse powered machinery.

The beets were dug using a beet digger. The beet leaf was cut from the beet itself by hand using a long beet knife. Then the beets were thrown into rows or piles to be gathered up with a large beet fork to be placed on a specially built box on which they could be hauled to the beet dump.

Sometimes young members Of the family’ who were too young to lift the beet fork full of beets, could assist with the beet loading by grasping the tail of the beet and Gave it just enough of a throw to allow them to land in the beet box. They were then transported to the beet dump site and emptied into either a railroad beet car or placed in the beet pile. From the hopper the beets are elevated to be dropped into the railroad cars. When the beets were brought in faster than the railroad cars could be loaded they were piled for later loading.

The beets were transported to the Amalgamated Sugar Factory where another process was utilized to manufacture refined sugar to be used in homes, industries, eating establishments or wherever possible.

In 1958, in Rebel County, the average field was 16.3 tons per acre. According to an article which appeared in the Ogden Standard Examiner on October 19, 1959, Mike Pannunzio averaged 28.8 tons per acre on a 13 acre piece. On a four-acre piece, the yield was better than O tons per acre. This farm was situated near the site of the Plain City beet damp which was located just north of 41OC West 1975 North.

The beet dump has since been removed and a modern housing development now occupies the site. He started his business in 1908, and was still in business in the Forties. We understand this building was a part of the first canning factory in Plain City, and was moved to this location.