Kelly Dyson, 10, watched for about three months as her tiny cabbage grew into a massive, award-winning vegetable.
Third-grade students across the United States joined in a cabbage growing contest, hosted by Bonnie Plants.
“It was quite interesting to see something grow from a 2-inch cabbage to a 32-pound cabbage ... all I can say is wow,” Dyson said.
Dyson, a resident of Flowery Branch, was named the state winner by the Georgia Agriculture Department and received a $1,000 savings bond toward her education.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “I never expected in my whole entire life to have accomplished something like this.”
The national Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program had more than 1 million participants in the U.S., including 53,922 in Georgia.
“I like a challenge every once in a while, and sometimes I need something to occupy my time,” Dyson said.
Dyson attends Spout Springs School of Enrichment in Flowery Branch and her teacher, Victoria Marsh, gave her class the opportunity to participate in the program.
“Without her getting me the cabbage, I probably wouldn’t have heard about the program or won,” Dyson said. “You never know when you might need to know how to garden in life. It is a good thing you can use during your time.”
Marsh said Bonnie Plants drops off about 150 cabbages every year and provides directions, though it’s up to the student to grow their cabbage at home.
“It is a good life skill for them to see the process,” Marsh said. “They learn a lot of academic here at school but not necessarily things such as how to grow your own food. This is good for them; it is another outlet to look into.”
Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, trucks free O.S. Cross, or “oversized,” cabbage plants to third-grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program.
“The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is a wonderful way to engage children’s interest in agriculture, while teaching them not only the basics of gardening but the importance of our food systems and growing our own,” said Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants. “This unique, innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates, through hands-on experience, where food comes from. The program also affords our youth with some valuable life lessons in nurture, nature, responsibility, self-confidence and accomplishment”.
Last year, Dyson participated in a school group that focused on gardening.
“I can’t speak enough about Kelly. She is very motivated. She has been a neat student to be able to watch,” Marsh said. “No matter what happens, she keeps going. She is very determined; when she sets her mind on something, she makes sure she gets it.”
The cabbage took 10 weeks to grow, according to Dyson.
“It was all a matter of tender love and care. I had to water it every day with a cup of water, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I put Miracle Grow on it once a week. It did pretty well from then,” Dyson said. “The garden box it was living in is on wheels so it could roll around in and out of the sunlight.”
Bonnie Plants initiated the program to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people.
“Maybe I could start a garden with flowers and attract some bees to keep them alive longer and I can figure out how long they live,” Dyson said.
To see the 2017 winners and learn more about the 2018 contest, visit www.bonnieplants.com.