Sebewaing is an agricultural community. In 1851 the early settlers cut down forest trees, so marshes could be drained. Good land, with hundreds of years of leafy vegetation to enrich it, grew huge crops. Farming is a very profitable business in Huron County. Sebewaing was surrounded by level fields, well adapted for growing crops, these fields were owned and tilled by thrifty farmers who had inherited the art of permanent agriculture. Harvesting wheat near Sebewaing at the turn of the 20th century required horsepower, plus some drive-belt assistance from a gas-powered tractor. Many Mexicans followed farm work each year, and would later "thin" beets and hoe other crops in the Thumb. They'd next head to northern Michigan for cherry and other fruit harvests.
On May 14, 1936, a small cooperative was formed in the heart of Sebewaing. The name was changed to Sebewaing Farmers Cooperative, Inc., in May of 1946 by Board President Adolph Baur. The cooperative operated under this title until July 1985 when it merged with Cooperative Elevator Company of Pigeon. The cooperative was originally located on Mason Street, near present day Kuhl Construction, until 1954. Business was conducted on a relatively small scale. Farm members and other patrons were able to purchase supplies such as, feed, seed, fertilizer, petroleum products, poultry and livestock equipment. With the absence of adequate storage facilities, the marketing of farm production was limited to the small amount of grain that was purchased for feed mill operations. This would change, however, over the next 30 years. In the fall of 1953, the first of many expansion projects had begun. A feed mill, four 10,000 bushel silos, a dryer and a bagged feed warehouse were completed in the summer of 1954. This took place on the present day site of Cooperative Elevator Company's Sebewaing branch, located on M-25 at the northeast end of town. Six more 10,000 bushel silos and two bean processing and storage warehouses were built in 1956. By 1970, the cooperative had 105,000 bushels of bulk storage and approximately 65,000 bushels of bagged dry bean storage. Five years later, in 1975, construction of a grain storage facility had begun. This project consisted of five 54,000 bushel silos and the installation of a grain dryer. A rail load out system capable of loading a train car in less than 20 minutes was installed during the summer of 1983. In addition to this, the grain plant doubled its storage capacity with the completion of a 256,000 bushel steel storage tank. Sebewaing Farmers Cooperative, Inc., merged with Cooperative Elevator Company of Pigeon on July 1, 1985. The plant is now one of nine Cooperative Elevator Company locations within the tri-county area.
Ground was broken September 28, 1901 for a sugar factory. Farmers will be acquainting themselves with the skills for planting and cultivating sugar beets. The first load of beets arrived ceremoniously at the new scale house on October 10, 1902, gaily-decorated and drawn by a team of four proud horses. The first campaign began October 27, 1902 and was completed January 31, 1903, operating 96.5 days. Those first-year growers had planted and harvested 7,000 acres and produced 48,270 tons of beets, for 6.895 tons per acre. Sugar content was 13.23 %, production was 9,102,507 pounds of granulated sugar and 506,504 pounds of yellow. As seasons passed for the new sugar factory, local farmers soon realized sugar beets were an excellent cash crop in Michigan's Thumb Area. The steady crop, grown by farmers committed to growing and harvesting only the highest
quality sugar beets, worked well in rotation with corn, wheat and dry beans. Local factories were combined into the Michigan Sugar Company in 1906, and Sebewaing enjoyed benefits from the strong sugar beet crop for many decades. Life was good in the business, which also ultimately located factories in Caro, Carrolton and Croswell. The Pioneer Sugar brand became the leading sweetener for Midwest housewives, restaurants, bakeries and industrial food companies for many years. Renovations and improvements were constantly made over the years, and a job at the sugar factory meant steady employment at good wages, especially during the fall and winter "sugar campaigns" of harvest and processing, which often ran from October into March. Michigan Sugar Company was acquired by Savannah Foods & Industries, Inc, in 1984. The new company became part of Imperial Sugar Company in 1997, as more competitors challenged sugar's sweetening dominance-from corn syrups to artificial sweeteners and more. Early in January, 2000, talks began between Michigan beet growers and Imperial Sugar officials to purchase Michigan Sugar Company, to turn it into a grower-owned cooperative. In August, 2000, the Michigan Sugar Beet Growers, Inc. was formed, and the 13-member steering committee became the Interim Board of Directors for the new Co-op. The sugar industry in Sebewaing and mid-Michigan has completed one century of quality operation. Today, about 2,000 farmers produce more than 3.7 million tons of beets from 195,000 acres of land, with average 18% sugar yield, resulting in more than 1.2 billion pounds of pure sugar each year. The sugar beet industry generates a base economic impact of nearly $300 million in
Michigan each year. Thanks to the confidence of lawmakers, financial experts, farmers and local government leaders, Michigan's sugar industry begins its second century hopeful of many more years of the same sweet business.