Cabbage field bonnie plants

Cabbage might not be a third grader’s favorite vegetable to eat, but for many, it’s a favorite one to grow.

That’s thanks to the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program, which encourages young people to learn about agriculture by growing their own vegetables. Bonnie Plants provides free cabbage plants to third-grade classrooms across the country and offers a $1,000 scholarship to one student in each of the 48 contiguous states.

According to Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, the 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.”

Third graders in more than 200 New Mexico schools participate each year, says Mark Alvarado, the growing station manager for Bonnie Plants.

Cabbages were the first profitable plant sold by Bonnie Plants in 1918. The cabbages used for the third-grade program are O.S. Cross cabbages, known for producing giant, oversize heads, some tipping the scales at 50 pounds, making the process even more exciting for kids.

“The students have a lot of fun growing these plants,” Alvarado says. “We’ve received great
feedback about the program and the opportunity it provides.”

At the end of the growing season, teachers across the country select a class winner based on size, appearance and maturity. Then, a state winner is randomly selected from all “best-of-class” entries by each state’s department of agriculture. Last season’s winner in New Mexico was Diego Hernandez from Albuquerque.

“It’s great to see the enthusiasm of the students for the program and to know that they are learning valuable lessons about the importance of gardening and how much fun it can be,” Alvarado says.

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