Pumpkin Prowess

By / Photography By Natalie Cody Gantz | August 25, 2017
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Leonardo "Leo" Ureña has worked with and for rancher, grape grower and vintner Lee Hudson at Hudson's ranch in Carneros since 1985.

Originally from La Ureña, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Leo came to the Napa Valley in February of 1985. He initially found a job in construction, but was laid off soon after. Fortunately for Leo–and for Lee Hudson, as has proven to be the case over the last 32-plus years–he then made his way to Hudson Ranch. He met his future wife, Gloria, on a return trip to Jalisco in 1987. After they married in 1993, Gloria joined him in Napa where they made a home and had three children: Liliana, 22, Melissa, 19, and Leonardo, 11.

Today, Leo oversees and manages the crew responsible for all garden production and maintenance, poultry, landscaping and general maintenance at Hudson Ranch (everything but the ranch's vineyards). This includes Hudson Ranch's spectacular pumpkin- and gourd-growing programs. Leo has won many awards and accolades for his cucurbit whispering throughout the years. Most notably so far, in 2011 he grew three giant pumpkins that had a combined weight of 5,000 pounds. He won first place in the annual competitions held in Half Moon Bay and Elk Grove, second place at Morgan Hill and was named Grower of the Year by the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth organization that year.

In September 2016, Leo was invited to speak to an international group of farmers and growers at Santa Rosa's annual National Heirloom Expo about how he grows his eye-popping and award-winning pumpkins and gourds. Leo agreed, but on the condition that he could give his talk in Spanish, an acknowledgement and honoring of the reality that the hands-on, dirt under the fingernails farmers who might go on to replicate his farming feats, at least here in the U.S., would most likely speak Spanish as their primary language.

Leo has been invited back this year to speak about growing large-scale vegetables and gourds without the use of pesticides. Hear his tips for yourself on Tuesday, September 5, at this year's National Heirloom Expo.


Article from Edible Marin & Wine Country at http://ediblemarinandwinecountry.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/pumpkin-prowess
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