Growing Our Next Generation of Gardeners is the inspiration behind Bonnie Plants Grade 3 Cabbage, a national competition that invites third graders to learn about gardening by growing their own cabbage plants.
It was started in 1996 near the factory’s wholesaler headquarters in Union Springs, Ala. The Bonnie Plants cabbage program became national in 2002, with the participation of 48 contiguous states. Today, more than one million cabbage plants are shipped across the country to third grade classes and/or students who have signed up to participate.
Bonnie Plants chose cabbage because that’s where the company began – growing cabbage plants in 1918. The variety the competition sends across the country is OS Cross, also known as “The School Cabbage,” an all-American selection from 1951 known for producing Giant cabbage.
According to the website, OS is a bolt-resistant hybrid that produces slightly flat heads that range from 30 to 50 pounds and mature in 82 days. Plants should be spaced 36 to 48 inches apart.
By far, the largest cabbage planted by a third-grader weighed 75 pounds—that’s a lot of cabbage salad!
Before the pandemic, the program was marketed to schools across the country; Teachers went online to record their classes, and told Bonnie Plants how many pupils they had. Covid shut down the program in 2020, but in 2021 Bonnie relaunched Cabbage as a distance learning friendly activity to take education safely outdoors.
Today, teachers and/or parents or youth group leaders with third graders can register their students online. Individual cabbage plants are shipped to the school and/or home. Bonnie sends out plants at different times of the year based on the ideal growing season for cabbage in each state. When you register online, you choose the date you want your plants to arrive.
Registration for the spring planting season will open in January. Here is a link to the site: bonniecabbageprogram.com. This is a free program for any third-year student in the country who is interested.
Photo gallery: cabbage candy
more than sloo
Students in the program learn much more than how to grow cabbage.
A complete lesson plan with plants is included, with gardening tips and specific instructions on how to grow and care for cabbage.
Students will also learn how to measure, predict outcomes, and other critical thinking skills in addition to cooking.
Cabbage plants can be grown in a regular ground garden, raised bed, or even a container.
The show shares recipes, including ideas that might make cabbage more palatable for young adults—patch cabbage cupcakes and angel hair cabbage with spaghetti sauce.
Bonnie Plants worked with a third-grade teacher to develop lesson plans, taking into account exemplary educational standards in math, science, health, and social studies.
At the end of the growing season, the program shares information on how to harvest cabbage plants.
Students are asked to take a digital picture of their plants, and each child is shown with their ripe cabbage.
Teachers (or parents) submit photos of cabbage and the pupils who have raised it through the online application form. Each submission goes to a pool for that state. In cooperation with the state departments of agriculture, Bonnie Plants selects a winner for each state from the state pool.
The winner from each state receives a $1,000 scholarship, and their photo is on the winners page on the Bonnie Plants website. Find it and you will be suitably impressed by the size and quality of the cabbage pictured on these pages.
The newest Arkansas Cabbage champ is Marshall Forcoron of Ridge Road Elementary School in North Little Rock. Bonnie Plants awarded Marshall a $1,000 scholarship plus bragging rights to the “best in the state” to grow a 14-pound cabbage.
Downloadable certificates are also on the Bonnie Plants website for all participating students.
Attracting young people interested in growing their own food is an ideal way to create lifelong gardeners. To learn more about the Bonnie Plant Program, visit the bonniecabbageprogram.com website.
Read Janet Carson’s blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.