Growing Sugarbeets in California

  • Holly Sugar Corporation constructed the factory south of Brawley, CA in 1947.
  • Prior to the construction of the factory sugarbeets had been grown in the Imperial Valley since 1932 and shipped to factories along the Pacific coast.
  • Spreckels Sugar Co. built the Mendota factory in 1963 and was the last beet factory built in California, it last processed beets in 2008
  • Holly Sugar acquired Spreckels Sugar Company in 1996. In 2005, when Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative purchased Holly Sugar from Imperial Sugar Company (owners since 1988), the Holly Sugar name was relinquished and the name, Spreckels Sugar Company, Inc. was chosen to take its place.
  • In the Imperial Valley, sugarbeets are planted in September of each year and harvested from April through July.
  • Due to excessive summer heat, sugarbeets cannot be stored in piles such as they are in the Midwest. Harvest must go on each day the factory operates, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Imperial County ranks #1 in California for the production of sugarbeets. Sugarbeets are the eighth most valuable crop to Imperial County1, yielding an average of about 40 tons/acre and 14,000 pounds of sugar per acre.
  • Imperial Valley sugarbeet growers have increased the yield and quality of sugarbeets to world record levels in the past several years.
  • Average yields in the United States are about 22 tons per acre or 8500 pounds of sugar per acre.  
  • The sugarbeet industry in California provides work for over 300 employees during harvest and countless others in related fields.
  • Agricultural researchers, plant breeders, Pest Control Advisors, tractor drivers, and farm laborers all work in sugarbeet production.
  • Fuel suppliers, farm equipment dealers, seed companies, fertilizer and chemical dealers, custom agricultural applicators, and irrigation personnel all depend on sugarbeets for a large part of their revenue.
  • Truckers and railroad workers are kept busy moving millions of tons of sugarbeets, sugar, coal, lime rock, molasses, and beet pulp to and from the factory and/or distribution center.
  • Beet pulp is the residue left after sugar is extracted from the Sugarbeet roots. The pulp is solar-dried on massive paved areas in Brawley. Pulp is a major ingredient in dairy feed in California and Arizona.  
  • Molasses contains the portion of sugar that could not be crystallized into white sugar. Molasses is used as a principal product in the manufacture of yeast for fermentation processes. It is also used as an animal feed ingredient.
  • Sugarbeet tops are plowed under following the harvest. This helps to enrich the soil. Every part of the Sugarbeet is utilized in some practical way.

1 Summary of County Agricultural Commissioners Reports, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, October 2005

Spreckels Sugar

Box 581
395 West Keystone Road
Brawley, CA 92227

Phone: 760-344-3110
Fax: 760-344-0142

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