The 2021 winner of the Safeway World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-off in Half Moon Bay is a retired engineer from Washington state whose gigantic gourd tipped the scales at an impressive 2,191 pounds Monday.
Jeff Uhlmeyer, 62, who trucked the winning entry down from Olympia on a flatbed trailer, will take home nearly $20,000 in prize money.
“I don’t think there’s any secret about pumpkin growing,” Uhlmeyer said. “You need good seeds, good soil, good friends and good collaboration.”
He also said a supportive family is key and that he’s been in the massive pumpkin game off and on since 2009, even taking third place in the competition back in 2017.
“I don’t think there’s any secret about pumpkin growing. You need good seeds, good soil, good friends and good collaboration.”Jeff Uhlmeyer, champion pumpkin grower
This year, Uhlmeyer’s pumpkin was so big, only one other pumpkin in the history of the event was larger — last year’s 2,350-pound behemoth, said event spokesman Tim Beeman.
Uhlmeyer planted 2021‘s champion pumpkin on April 15, coddled it along until it outgrew its shed, moved it outside and carefully tended to its needs for the next six months.
“Basically, you let the plant tell you what it needs. That comes with experience,” he said.
The happiest pumpkins are those that live in well-balanced soil conditions and enjoy temperatures above 50 degrees.
“They like those warm evenings,” Uhlmeyer said. “These things will grow 40, 50 pounds a day under optimal conditions. They’re just amazing.”
Uhlmeyer’s training as an engineer and his 37-and-a-half years at the Washington Department of Transportation inform his approach to prodigious produce production.
He said “finding out what works and what doesn’t and taking the process and making it better” are all part of his methodical gardening technique.
Uhlmeyer has entered and done well in other pumpkin contests, but said the annual Half Moon Bay event is unparalleled.
“Half Moon Bay is so supportive,” he said. “This is the granddaddy of pumpkin competitions.”
A recording of Monday’s weigh-off can be found on Facebook.