The Other Colorado Gold Rush Was White, Sweet, And Lucrative Too

February 22, 2018
Photo: Pauline Reiber, 9 years old, tops beets on the High Plains near Sterling, Colorado, in 1915.(Library of Congress/Lewis Hine)
Pauline Reiber, 9 years old, tops beets with a knife on the High Plains near Sterling, Colorado, in 1915.

Photo: Pauline Reiber, 9 years old, tops beets on the High Plains near Sterling, Colorado, in 1915.(Library of Congress/Lewis Hine)Everyone knows the importance of the Gold Rush in Colorado's history. But what about the White Gold Rush of sugar beets In the late 1800s, when the sweet lure of this homely root vegetable started a stampede to Colorado's plains for a new source of riches. Dan Garrison, a producer for Rocky Mountain PBS and Colorado Mesa University, has made a documentary about the White Gold Rush. He tells Colorado Matters that sugar beets transformed the state’s economy: They became the biggest cash crop in Colorado, and Colorado became the biggest sugar producer in the country.  The rush to sugar changed Colorado's history by opening the floodgates on a new immigrant population and by kick-starting  industrialized agriculture.