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On the Coast Magazine

Kids Grow Green: Cashing in on Cabbage

01/06/2014 10:36AM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Many families enjoy a specific traditional New Year’s meal and for various reasons. For most residents of the south, that includes some sort of beans, peas or lentils, usually black-eyed peas, and a cooked green leafy vegetable, such as cabbage, collards, kale or chard. According to some historians, the leafy vegetable tradition dates back nearly 500 years; others, like the black-eyed peas, can be traced to the Civil War. Being raised in the south, you don’t usually ask why; you just eat it because you are told, “It’s tradition.” But did you know that eating beans and cabbage on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring you good fortune? The beans stand for luck and the greens for prosperity! 

One special third grade boy named Dominic Kelly from the Port St. Lucia area recently found both luck and great fortune in his whopping 38- pound cabbage! Through the help of his teacher and support of his school, Floresta Elementary, Dominic participated in the National Bonnie Plant Cabbage Program where kids across America are growing, and in his case, cashing in, on some big “greens.”
 
Bonnie Plants began nearly 100 years ago by Livingston and Bonnie Paulk on a small farm in Alabama, tended on land borrowed from their uncle. Through hard work and sacrifice, it is now a national plant wholesaler and one of the region’s largest retail store suppliers of vegetables, herbs and flowers.  Further, it is the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, with 72 stations across the country.

The cabbage-growing competition started 12 years ago and continues to “grow” each year.  It runs annually and is FREE to teachers and students who sign up. Last year, more than 1.5 million third graders in 48 states received hands-on gardening experience growing colossal cabbages with high hopes to win “best in state” and receive a $1,000 scholarship towards education from Bonnie Plants. Each year Bonnie Plants trucks free OS Cross (or "oversized") cabbage plants to third grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program and whose students wish to try for the $1,000 scholarship.

The President of Bonnie Plants and grandson of the company’s founders, Stan Cope, states, “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 their own.” He goes on to say, “This unique, innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates, through hands-on experience, where food comes from. The program also affords our youth some valuable life lessons in nurture, nature, responsibility, self-confidence and accomplishment.” 

Students and teachers can learn more about the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program by visiting www.bonnieplants.com. Whether eating them on New Year’s Day or growing one throughout the year for your own pleasure or in the hopes of being the next “lucky” winner, the cabbage can certainly turn into something big and green.
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