Agri-Stats: Sugar Beets


Sugar beets revolutionized Agriculture on the Central Coast. 

Between 1874 and 1880, the California Beet Sugar Company operated a beet sugar mill in Soquel, which required hundreds of acres of beets to be grown from west of Watsonville to the Pajaro Valley.

Two lasting legacies resulted from this venture that changed the face of agriculture in the Monterey Bay area.  First was the use of future’s contracts: growers were guaranteed a price for their sugar beets for the first time. Second was the use of subcontracted, inexpensive Chinese labor  to farm the beets: this model of using immigrants to perform for cheap hand-labor established a model that persists to today.

IN XXXX, the California Beet Sugar Company had been moved (why?) 100% of its operation from Soquel to Watsonville, and became the largest beet sugar factory in the U.S.

From XXXX date, sugar beet production, as well as other crops, started shifting east and southward to Castroville and on to the Salinas Valley.

According to Burton Anderson, the first sugar beets in the Salinas Valley were introduced by John Kieland, who grew beets in Castroville for the Western Sugar Beet Company.


James Bardin, a settler in the Blanco area,  pioneered sugar beets in the Salinas Valley.

Claus Spreckels, the German “Sugar King” had made a fortune in the sugar cane business in Hawai. He opened a sugar refinery in Watsonville? in 1888 called the Western Beet Sugar Company. The beet supply in the Watsonville area was inadeqate for the Watsonville Plant; and therefore, he decided to expand into the Salinas Valley. He bought land next to the Salinas River to build the world’s largest beet refinery and a the company town of Sprecketls. He had originally built a narrow gauge railroad, the Pajaro Valey Railroad, to service the Watsonville refinery and this was expanded from Moro Cojo  and Moss Landing wharf to Spreckels. It included periodically placed beet loading dump stations along the rail line. Eventually, the line included a branch line to casrry passengers to and from Spreckels 

Books and References

Anderson, Burton. The Salinas Valley, A History of America’s Salad Bowl. A Monterey County Historical Society Publication. 2000.

Lydon, Sandy. Chinese Gold.