Northern Colorado grown vegetables and fruits have been a popular commodity and industry since at least the 1870s, producing various successful crops including beets, apples, potatoes, peas, and cabbage to list only a few. Canneries emerged facilitating long-term storage and exportation. While John Epsom started his canning business in Denver in 1883, he and daughter Lida soon moved it to Longmont naming it J. Empson and Daughter. An 1891 fire destroyed their first Longmont cannery; they quickly rebuilt it.
Empsons purchased 350 acres of area farmland they converted to vegetable production, including the development of a smaller sweeter pea than was typically grown. Their business canned pumpkins, peas, and cabbage. John invented a pea sheller and viner for which he received patents in 1895 and 1897, respectively. The viner separated peas from the pods and vines. The cannery evolved into a plant with six buildings including this 1901 food warehouse, which was expanded twice over the next eleven years.
Primary buildings included the cannery, where employees loaded raw vegetables onto conveyor belts for devining, washing and separating; the center cannery building, where the vegetables traveled for a second washing, cooking, and canning; and finally the warehouse, where workers hand labeled, boxed, inventoried and sorted the cans. Conveyor belts traveled between these three buildings for efficiency.
By 1905 the plant employed 600 people and shipped over 300 railroad cars of canned produce annually. The company owned 2500 acres for vegetable production, of which 2000 was for pea plants. After John Epsom’s death Max Kuner of Denver’s Kuner Pickle Company purchased the business (including plants in Loveland and Greeley) in 1927. The named changed to The Kuner-Empsom Company. The Longmont plant operated until 1970 and the warehouse, the only remaining building of the plant, was listed in the National Register in 1984.