The crumbling remains of abandoned sugar factories languish throughout Northeastern Colorado, bleak reminders of the rise and fall of the beet sugar industry.
Northeastern Colorado was once the site of the thriving beet sugar industry. Tariffs enacted in the early 1900s bolstered the beet sugar companies by artificially raising the prices of imported cane sugar. The Sugar Act of 1948 further aided beet sugar manufacturers by setting quotas for sugar imports and providing subsidies to domestic producers.
After decades of growth, Colorado’s beet sugar industry began a sharp decline in the mid-1970s due to a concatenation of circumstances. In late 1974 congress allowed the Sugar Act to expire, removing the government-sponsored advantage that had so benefited the beet sugar producers.
The late 1970s was also a time when the use of sugar in the United States dropped dramatically due to the increased use of alternatives such as fructose and artificial sweeteners. The resulting surplus in sugar inventories and competition from cane sugar producers led to falling prices that ate away at profitability. To compensate, many plants were closed in the latter half of the 1900s.
One of the roads alongside the abandoned sugar mill was under construction, and I knew it would be difficult to pass unseen through the site.
I decided I would walk through the grounds as though I had a reason to be there, and if anyone asked me to leave, I would.
I was dying to explore the abandoned buildings, but every entry point was spray-painted with “No Trespassing” in big bold letters and I’d seen a pickup truck drive through the lot and park next to one of the buildings, so I knew there was a good chance I’d be seen.
I wandered the grounds and settled for photos of the exteriors of the crumbling buildings. One structure was entirely gutted, so I walked through it.
On the other side was a train track. Large sections of concrete marked stalls from which sugar was loaded onto freight trains.
A rusting metal bridge contained a conveyor belt for moving beets from the storage building to processing facility.
Large sections of the outer wall of one of the structures had fallen away, exposing the interior.
Several smaller abandoned buildings also occupied the grounds.
The smallest contained a little office.
Another appeared to have once functioned as a workshop.
A series of railroad tracks crossed the property, where trains hauled the refined sugar out of the facility for distribution.
Both cane and beet sugar are 99.95% sucrose, making them nearly identical. The .05% difference consists of traces of minerals and proteins. Beets grow in more diverse climates and can be farmed in 12 states, while only 4 states have climates capable of supporting sugar cane.
Harvesting methods differ too. Cane fields are torched to get rid of the leaves and then the stalks are chopped down, while sugar beets are uprooted. Due to the different harvesting methods, beets must be replanted every year; cane regrows on its own. Beet sugar is typically cheaper to produce because its refining process is less complex than that of cane sugar.
In recent years the beet sugar industry has seen a dramatic shift toward using genetically modified crops. In 2008 Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” GMO sugar beets, which are genetically engineered to withstand exposure to glyphosate herbicide. Most cane sugar is not GMO, but since 2010, 95% of sugar beets grown in the US are Monsanto’s GMO strain.
Monsanto has so cornered the seed market that non-GMO beets are nearly impossible to come by. In 2010 a federal judge declared Roundup Ready sugar beets illegal because Monsanto had not performed the necessary environmental impact studies. But non-GMO beets had already become so rare that the USDA told farmers to ignore the ruling in order to avoid a probable 20% decrease in crop yields.
Nowadays, 55% of sugar sold in the US is beet sugar. If a package isn’t specifically labeled as cane sugar, it probably contains beet sugar, which means it is almost certainly GMO
The stunning photos of an abandoned Sanatorium in Kalyazin were taken by Jim Sullivan. Jim Sullivan is a traveler, who shares his stories with followers.
If you’d like to see more abandoned places in ex-USSR countries or discover Soviet history, then check out our articles on the Abandoned Sports Complex in Jermuk, Armenia, and the Snowbird Community in Abandoned Slab City