The Sugarbeet Grower has reached a big milestone! The first issue of this magazine was published 50 years ago this spring, in May of 1963.
It began as a tabloid, published quarterly by the Western Sugarbeet Growers Association, Inc. Its editor was Aldrich C. (“Al”) Bloomquist, executive secretary of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association and later vice president and then president of American Crystal Sugar Company. (We paid tribute to Al, who passed away last August at age 91, in our November/December issue.)
“The Sugarbeet Grower was conceived to better inform the membership of sugarbeet grower and development associations affiliated with Western Sugarbeet Growers Association, Inc. of what’s going on in the wonderfully exciting and moving world of sugar,” Al wrote in that inaugural issue. “We are hopeful that thru the pages of the The Sugarbeet Grower you will be better informed about the complexities and workings of the Sugar Act. We hope you will have a better understanding of the Association of which you are a member and the plans, activities and accomplishments of that group.
“We hope you will be a better grower because of information on research and new techniques practiced by growers in other areas,” he continued. “We hope that we can in time tell the story of the individual accomplishments of many individual growers. We hope, too, to tell the story of the many and varied organizations which make up this wondrous world of sugar.”
The Western Sugarbeet Growers Association (WSGA) existed from about 1940 to 1965, drawing its membership mainly from states where American Crystal Sugar Company (still a private stock company in that era) operated beet sugar factories. The WSGA’s main objective was to secure congressional legislation that would allow more sugarbeet acreage.
As of 1963, the WSGA umbrella encompassed the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association (RRVSGA), the Mason City (Iowa) District Beet Growers Association, the Southern Minnesota Beet Growers Association, the Minnesota-Dakota Beet Development Association and the Tri-County Beet Development Association. Farmers belonging to the RRVSGA, Mason City and Southern Minnesota groups already grew for American Crystal, while the two development associations (Minnesota-Dakota in the far northern Red River Valley region and Tri-County in the Mayville, N.D., area) were seeking expanded beet acreage and factories for their respective areas.
Bloomquist had been hired as executive secretary of RRVSGA in late 1962, according to Roots of Success, a history of the organization. A college journalism graduate, he previously had worked in public relations for the Western Beet Sugar Producers, an industry group funded by several U.S. sugarbeet processors, including American Crystal. “The Western Beet Sugar Producers folded up in 1962, when some of its corporate supporters withdrew their funding,” wrote Roots of Success’ author, Terry Shoptaugh.
Headquarters for The Sugarbeet Grower as of the mid-1960s were in Bloomquist’s Moorhead, Minn., home. By 1966, Al was listed as both editor and publisher. Beginning with the January 1968 issue, the publication was converted to the standard magazine size of 8.5 x 11 inches.
Bloomquist continued to own and publish The Sugarbeet Grower until 1986, more than a dozen years after Red River Valley growers had purchased American Crystal (a transition in which Al was hugely instrumental).
Al hired me in late 1977 to write and edit for The Sugarbeet Grower. I did so until late 1978, working simultaneously with another ag magazine (not owned by Al, but printed by Kaye’s Printing of Fargo, as was The Sugarbeet Grower).
Back in 1968, Al had purchased the Gilmore Sugar Manual from a printing company in New Orleans. Gilmore, which had been around since the early 1900s, was (and still is) a technical reference book on the U.S. sugarcane milling sector. Al moved Gilmore operations up to Fargo-Moorhead and then published both The Sugarbeet Grower and Gilmore under the banner of his auxiliary enterprise, “Sugar Publications.”
Al sold Sugar Publications to Kaye’s Printing of Fargo in 1986, and Kaye’s asked me to return as editor and manager of both The Sugarbeet Grower and Gilmore Sugar Manual. I am still here — some 27 years later!
Kaye’s was sold to Forum Communications Company (FCC) in 1999, and Sugar Publications has been owned by Forum Communications Printing (FCC’s commercial printing division) since then. We were based in the Kaye’s building in downtown Fargo until early 2006, at which time we moved into a new Forum Printing building on the city’s northwest side.
So now, 50 years after its first issue hit the mail, The Sugarbeet Grower perseveres — continuing that original commitment to serving the informational needs and interests of sugarbeet producers.
My favorite part of the job always has been — and remains — interacting with growers, researchers, sugar company personnel, association leaders and allied industry. With few exceptions, I have been consistently impressed by the quality of individuals I’ve encountered, and likewise very grateful for their interest and support.
During my tenure as editor of The Sugarbeet Grower, I have traveled to every beet-growing area of the U.S. and Canada — often on multiple occasions. I have been fascinated by the variation in growing environment and production practices in the different locales, realizing, of course, that there’s always a reason why each grower uses (or does not use) a particular production regimen or implement in his operation.
I have also been gratified by the wonderful cooperation of so many people through the years— growers, ag staff, university and USDA scientists, industry leaders — when I interrupt their day by asking for story ideas or their time for an interview. I often tell people, “I don’t know much; but I usually know who to ask.” And that counts for something. I’m likewise grateful for all those companies who show their confidence, as advertisers, in the value we provide. Without them, this magazine never would have reached the venerable age of 50.
The next quarter century is certain to bring major changes — some more profound than anything experienced during the past 25 years, the past 50 years. Well, I won’t be here for the 75th anniversary of this magazine’s founding. But I do hope and trust the sugarbeet industry will be thriving in 2038 — and that The Sugarbeet Grower will still be serving it. It has been a wonderfully symbiotic relationship, and I am proud to have played a role in it.
My sincere thanks and continued best wishes to you, our valued readers. You remain, after all, the very reason we’re here. — Don Lilleboe
Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower