CLAYTON — Almost 10 pounds … now that’s a lot of cabbage.
It was enough green to help Hailey Ross, now a fourth grader at Clayton Elementary School, recently win the “Best in State” prize for Delaware and a $1,000 scholarship in the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program.
Hailey was selected Delaware’s winner by Bonnie Plants, in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Agriculture, based on her enthusiasm to participate and learn, in addition to the size and overall appearance of her cabbage.
“I planted it at (my grandfather’s) farm, where the best soil is located,” Hailey said. “We kept watering it and my grandfather helped me put fertilizer on it.
“Cabbages are actually pretty easy to grow,” she added. “I like gardening. I like taking care of the plants.”
Her mother, Jennifer Ross, a STEAM teacher at Clayton Elementary, said gardening and farming is something that runs in the family.
“I was super excited for her,” she said, after learning that Hailey had won “Best in State” for Delaware. “We always do gardening together as a family at our house and then her grandfather has (a garden) up at the farm, and he does his.
“We plant sweet corn and everything, so something she’s familiar with is planting and keeping the crops alive.”
This year, nearly 200,000 third graders in the 48 contiguous states participated in the cabbage growing program.
Mrs. Ross said the participants in the contest began growing their plants at the end of the last school year. The contest was decided near the end of September.
“When (the students) got the (cabbages), they were just really tiny,” she said. “Normally they’re actually in a pod, but this time it was just the seedling of it, basically.”
Bonnie Plants, the largest grower of vegetable and herb plants in the U.S., relaunched its cabbage program earlier this year as a remote-friendly learning activity to safely bring education outdoors.
Angela Thomas, corporate communications manager at Bonnie Plants, said that with so much stress surrounding students and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, connecting with nature through gardening has never been more rewarding for the physical and mental well-being of kids.
“It’s truly amazing to see first-hand how the Third Grade Cabbage Program is able to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people and grow our next generation of gardeners,” Ms. Thomas said.
“We’re proud of all of this year’s participants and would like to congratulate Hailey, whose hard work is paying off.”
At the start of the program, each of the participating students received a starter O.S. Cross variety cabbage plant and the lessons needed to care for and nurture their plants every step of the way.
The O.S. Cross variety of cabbage is known for producing giant, oversized heads of cabbage that can tip the scales at more than 40 pounds.
Once fully grown, students took a photo with their cabbage and submitted it for a chance to win.
Michael T. Scuse, the Delaware Secretary of Agriculture, said the Third Grade Cabbage Program is a great opportunity for youngsters to get a little bit of experience with agriculture at a young age.
“The Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program is a wonderful way for teachers and parents to introduce children to agriculture through a hands-on, engaging and memorable learning experience,” Secretary Scuse said.
“It was inspiring to see the impressive Delaware-grown cabbages that all of the students produced through this program. I am confident this is just the beginning of a lifelong gardening journey for them.”
Bonnie Plants launched the Third Grade Cabbage Program in 1996, choosing cabbages because they were the first profitable crop the company sold.
“We relaunched the Third Grade Cabbage Program in the spring as a safe, remote-friendly learning activity to inspire children of all backgrounds to grow a love of gardening,” said Mike Sutterer, president and CEO of Bonnie Plants.
“After pausing the program last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re thrilled to once again see so many students were able to participate and learn the basics of gardening as well as life lessons like responsibility, self-confidence and accomplishment.”