r As you drive northbound on I-15 toward Spanish Fork how many times have you wondered about the big brick building with a tall smoke stack on the eastside of the road? It is a relic of the era when the sugar beet was the major agricultural crop in Utah Valley. The Spanish Fork sugar beet factory was established in 1916. It was originally a beet slicing factory that could grind into pulp 450 to 500 tons of sugar beets a day. A 4-inch, 24-mile pipeline was built to move the pulp from Spanish Fork to the sugar beet factory in Lehi. At the time it was the longest and largest pipe in the world transferring beet pulp. Eventually, the Spanish Fork factory did the entire processing of sugar beets to white crystal sugar.
The sugar beet factories were originally owned by the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, a commercial venture of the LDS Church. They were pioneers of the sugar industry in the United States in both farming sugar beets and sugar beet processing technology. That is a story in itself. At one time Utah had 17 sugar factories and Idaho had 10. The Lehi sugar beet factory was the fourth sugar factory in the United States and the first in the mountain west. In the early 1900’s it was one of the largest in the world with 22 coal fired boilers. After the 1924 harvest the Lehi factory ceased operation and was dismantled in 1939.
The sugar beet industry changed after World War II with the availability of sugar cane which could be grown year-round and with cheaper labor cost to produce. The Spanish Fork sugar beet factory closed in 1952 after operating for 36 years. The property is now owned by the Wasatch Pallet Company. Most of the original building is condemned and unsafe. It remains a landmark and testimony to a bygone era.