Paths to the Present: Windsor’s white gold
November 12, 2016
While driving through the roundabout at Crossroads and 7th Street the other week, I noticed a sugar beet had escaped the delivery truck, becoming propped along the side of the road. The large oblong white sugar beet got me thinking about how this strange vegetable impacted Windsor.
Sugar beets are root crops that are used for the commercial production of sugar. They contain about 75 percent water, 20 percent sugar and 5 percent fibrous plant matter. Sugar is extracted from the beet by processing it to create syrup, which is ultimately refined into sugar.
As early as 1900, sugar beets began being planted on Windsor farms. It only took two years to discover that the northern Colorado soil and climate were optimal for the cultivation of sugar beets. The Windsor Sugar Factory was quickly built and ready for the first campaign beginning in November 1903 with the daily capacity to process 600 tons of sugar beets.
The construction of the Windsor factory propelled the sustained success of Windsor as a town in the early 20th century. Between 1900 and 1910, the population of Windsor nearly tripled from 390 to over 1,000 inhabitants, turning Windsor into a sugar beet boomtown.
By 1959, over 10,000 acres of land were dedicated to the cultivation of sugar beets, but the prosperity would not last. In the 1960s, the price of sugar began to fall and Great Western Sugar Co. announced that the Windsor factory would close after the 1966 campaign. Sugar beets were still grown in Windsor after 1966, and continue to be grown by local farmers. The Windsor factory was largely demolished in 1977, but the smoke stack, silos and a portion of the building still remain as a testament to the sugar beets that transformed Windsor.
— Caitlin Heusser is the Museum Curator for the Town of Windsor.