The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Leon Hubbard Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

December 18, 2013


Leon Veril Hubbard (1917-2014) was born to two Oregon Agricultural College graduates on a tenement farm in the forests of Klamath County. Not long after his birth, his family moved to a farmstead near Newberg, Oregon, where they tended dairy cows and raised produce for sale at local markets.

With the onset of the Depression, Hubbard's father was forced to travel for work and, at age sixteen, Leon took over daily operations of the family business. He obtained a driver's license and, each morning, delivered milk to the family's customers prior to driving to class at Newberg High School - he was the only student at the school who arrived by car. During his high school years, Hubbard was also active in Future Farmers of America, elected as state President and western regional Vice President for 1935-1936. At age 18 he was likewise elected Master of the Sunnyside Grange, in the process becoming the youngest person in the country to occupy a position of this sort.

With high school completed, Hubbard found work as a milk tester, measuring butterfat content produced by cows in Lincoln County. When this job ended in 1937, Hubbard contacted A.G.B. Bouquet, horticulturist at Oregon State College, inquiring into job opportunities. Bouquet offered Hubbard a research assistantship, a position that required Hubbard to enroll in the college's undergraduate curriculum. In due course, Hubbard commenced studies in Horticulture and completed his degree in 1941. During this time he married Hazel Davidson, whom he had known in Newberg. The couple remained married until Hazel's death in 2007; together they raised four children.

Following his time at OSC, Hubbard found employment as a junior agronomist at the Sherman County Agricultural Experiment Station in Moro, Oregon, where he spent two years working to improve the quality of wheat seed. In 1943 Hubbard took a different job as crop researcher and developer for Birds Eye General Foods, based in Hillsboro, Oregon. He relocated his family to Hillsboro and, during the war years, supported efforts to develop crops for use by the U.S. military; later responsibilities included oversight of zucchini, squash and pea production.

In 1951, weary of the regular travel required of him at Birds Eye, Hubbard resigned and leased a 100-acre farm near Banks, Oregon. As an independent farmer, Hubbard spent seven years cultivating berries, beans and other produce, mostly for sale to his former employer in Hillsboro. In 1957 prices for Hubbard's commodities sank and he was compelled to return to industrial agriculture, accepting a position as field representative for the Gresham Berry Growers Cooperative. The family moved once again, to Gresham, and remained there for two decades.

As urban sprawl began to consume the farm lands ringing the Portland metropolitan area, Gresham Berry Growers withered. In the 1970s the cooperative was purchased by Stayton Canning Company, now Norpac Foods, Inc. Hubbard was retained as field representative, with primary responsibility for broccoli and bean production. He moved to Keizer, Oregon to be closer to the company's production facility and lived in Keizer for the remainder of his life.

Hubbard retired from Norpac Foods in 1983. From then on, his primary leisure pursuit was the breeding and cultivation of fuchsias. He was in charge of the flower pavilion at the Oregon State Fair for many years and even traveled overseas as a representative of the American Fuchsia Society. A small garden is now dedicated to him on the Oregon capital mall in Salem.

Leon Hubbard died in May 2014, one month shy of his ninety-seventh birthday.