Cattle Beet Capital


Cattle Beet Capital

Making Industrial Agriculture in Northern Colorado

Michael Weeks

348 pages
26 photographs, 7 illustrations, 4 maps, 4 graphs, index

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July 2022


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eBook (PDF)

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July 2022


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eBook (EPUB)

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July 2022


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About the Book

In 1870 several hundred settlers arrived at a patch of land at the confluence of the South Platte and Cache la Poudre Rivers in Colorado Territory. Their planned agricultural community, which they named Greeley, was centered around small landholdings, shared irrigation, and a variety of market crops. One hundred years later, Greeley was the home of the world’s largest concentrated cattle-feeding operation, with the resources of an entire region directed toward manufacturing beef. How did that transformation happen? Cattle Beet Capital is animated by that question.

Expanding outward from Greeley to all of northern Colorado, Cattle Beet Capital shows how the beet sugar industry came to dominate the region in the early twentieth century through a reciprocal relationship with its growers that supported a healthy and sustainable agriculture while simultaneously exploiting tens of thousands of migrant laborers. Michael Weeks shows how the state provided much of the scaffolding for the industry in the form of tariffs and research that synchronized with the agendas of industry and large farmers. The transformations that led to commercial feedlots began during the 1930s as farmers replaced crop rotations and seasonal livestock operations with densely packed cattle pens, mono-cropped corn, and the products pouring out of agro-industrial labs and factories. Using the lens of the northern Colorado region, Cattle Beet Capital illuminates the historical processes that made our modern food systems.


Author Bio

Michael Weeks is a lecturer of history at Utah Valley University.


“This is an important story about the development of factory farming in the Colorado Piedmont in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. One key intervention that Weeks makes is placing the story of the Colorado Piedmont at the center of the history about the growth of irrigated agribusiness in the West. Cattle Beet Capital makes important contributions to environmental history, agricultural history, and business history as well.”—Bartow J. Elmore, author of Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism

“[Weeks] has uncovered loads of fascinating new material, especially from archives, that makes this story interesting and revealing. Cattle Beet Capital offers a fresh and original story that should inspire others. This will make an important contribution to agricultural, environmental, and regional history.”—Deborah Fitzgerald, author of Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Cultivating a Regional Agroecology
2. Capitalism and Sustainable Farming
3. Beet Biology and the Nature of Labor
4. Piedmont Sugar and the State of Science
5. The Economics of Mechanization and Watershed Engineering
6. Building the Petrochemical Paradigm
7. Manufacturing Beef

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