1901: Report on sugar beet factories. (Added May, 2009)
Sessional Papers - Legislature of the Province of Ontario, 1901
The Sugar Beet Industry in the State of Michigan.
To the Hon. John Dryden, Minister of Agriculture.
Acting under instructions received from you, we went to Michigan and studied close the sugar beet industry in the following districts, name, Bay City, Alma, Holland, Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Rochester and Cairo.
Our visiting being timed during the month of October, we saw the beets being harvested in many districts, as well as seeing some of the factories in operation. At Bay City there are three large factories, two in Bay City proper, and one in West Bay City. At this point, harvesting was in full swing. One of these factories (controlled by the Michigan Sugar Company) began operations in 1898, and is the pioneer sugar factory in the State. They obtained a gold medal recently for granulated sugar at the Paris Exhibition. In 1898 this factory had under cultivation 3,300 acres of beets reaching over 19 counties. The product was 31,930 tons of beets for which they paid $4.44 per ton, or a total of $141,769.20. In 1899 they had 4,300 acres beets in only five counties from which there were 39,296 tons for which was paid $178,345.61. In 1899 the average retention of sugar was 9 per cent from 12 per cent, beets, showing 3 per cent loss in process of manufacture.
In 1899 the Company declared a dividend of 5 per cent on their paid up capital, but are expending $25,000 this year in improvements and warerooms. The capital stock of the Company is $400,000. In 1899 they started the factory on October 4th and ran continuously until January 27th. During that period they used about 400 tons of beets per day, consumed 9,760 tons of coal, 247 tons of coke, 1,981 tons of limestone, and used an average of 2,500,00 gallons of water each 24 hours. They produced in 1898 5,713,349 pounds of sugar of all grades. In 1899 the product was 7,415,233 pounds. In addition to the sum paid for beets they paid large sums for labor. Their pay roll for the past two weeks (and the factory is not running), was $1,400. They pay for beets, labor, salaries, and fuel, while in operation, from $70,000 to $80,000 per month.
The other factory in Bay City (East Side) is even larger, and is owned by the Bay City Sugar Company – a joint stock Company – with a capital of about $500,000. As this factory was not running when we were there, we were unable to gather any facts concerning their operations last season. In conversation with farmers, however, who had supplied them last year, and who were supplying them again this season, with beets, we learned that this Company was quite as successful and gave as good general satisfaction as the Michigan Sugar Company did. They have contracted all their pulp this year for export, and have put in appliances for evaporating and otherwise preparing it for shipment to Germany, where it is in demand for feeding stock.
The West Bay City Sugar Company own and operate the factory on the west side of the river. This, like the others, is an immense structure, and was in operation when we visited it. The capital stock of the Company is upward of $450,000, and they have about 4,000 acres beets under contract. The day of our visit fully 200 loads of beets were delivered in farmers' wagons, each load containing from 2 to 2 ½ tons. The price paid for beets is uniform throughout the state, name, $4.50 per ton for 12 per cent beets of 80 degrees purity, with 33 ½ cents per ton for every additional 1 per cent of sugar, added thus: 13 per cent beets would be worth $4.83, 14 per cent beets, $5.17, and so on. The beets were testing high, some showing 16 per cent sugar, and some even more. As this factory had just started, all the officials capable of giving us reliable information were very busy, so we did not get statistics relative to their past season's operations, but learned that they were not so successful on account of having to reconstruct some portions of their building and also to introduce some improved machinery. The amount paid for beets and labor will be about the same in each of the factories in this city, and represents a sum equal to fully $1,000,000 put in circulation by the three factories located here. These companies have the advantage of getting their coal mined within a mile from their factories, and when the large quantities consumed are considered, this means a great savings in freight on fuel.
During our visit here we conversed with many farmers living from 2 to 15 miles from the factories, visited their farms, saw fields of beets ranging in extent from 4 acres to 80 acres, and in some instances even more. We talked with farmers who own their land and with those who were tenants, with 40 acre farmer, and with the farmer who tilled from 60 to 80 acres and upward, and in nearly every case they were well satisfied with the establishment of the sugar factories, and claimed the growing of sugar beets was the best money crop on their farm. The soil in this district, known as the Saginaw Valley, is a rich alluvial deposit capable of producing large crops of corn, wheat, hay or oats, but many acres of beets are grown on higher and lighter land, with as good results. There is a large foreign population here, the most of farmers being of German or Holland descent, while the laboring class is largely Polish.
We saw as many as sixteen women in one field topping beets, and frequently would see a less number diligently working in the fields. We were told that one dollar per day was the price paid them, and that they are better workers than the men. When on our way from Bay City, twenty seven girls, varying in age from fifteen to twenty years, got on the train and came down about five miles to a large beet field where they were getting 80 cents per day of nine hours, and their railway fare paid, and that they all preferred this work at that pay to domestic service. In on instance did we hear of any complaint for want of labor to cultivate or harvest the beet crop.