Honey Lake’s Sugar Beet Experiment

The Zarbock Brothers on their desert homestead near Stacy. Courtesy of Pam Zarbock Bell
The Zarbock Brothers on their desert homestead near Stacy. Courtesy of Pam Zarbock Bell

In 1910, the Nevada Sugar Company of Fallon, Nevada came courting Honey Lake Valley farmers in the Standish district, as well those homesteaders on the east side of Honey Lake to plant sugar beets. One of the reasons, was the Nevada Sugar Company was in the midst of constructing a $600,000 factory at Fallon.

As an enticement the company stated it would build a second factory at Standish if production was successful and needed transportation facilities. In 1912, with the announcement of Fernley & Lassen Railroad to be constructed through this section of the Honey Lake Valley solved that transportation issue.

It should be noted that in 1911 was the first irrigation season of the Standish Water Company’s pumping plant on Honey Lake’s eastern shore.  In that year they provided water for 1,000 acres that was planted in sugar beets, with the Nevada Sugar Company providing the seed. No  one locally knew anything about growing sugar beets, but they learned quickly. One of the biggest problems encountered  with beet production was the amount of labor required. The problem was compounded as there was a local labor shortage, and then there were those who did not want to work in beet fields. To alleviate the problem 25 Japanese laborers were brought in to assist. Their tenure was brief, even though it was reported they worked twice as fast at a cheaper price.

There were two other problems that ended the experiment. First there was not an adequate water supply and the beets were substandard. It was not only a problem locally, but in Fallon as well for in 1917 the beet factory there closed.

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