POMARIA — What began as a simple class project transformed into a garden of pride when 9-year-old Kendellin Haltiwanger grew a 29-pound cabbage at her grandparents’ home in Pomaria.
Haltiwanger, now a fourth-grade student at Pomaria Garmany Elementary, received a cabbage plant last year in Kaitlyn Dowd Brehmer’s classroom. The plant came from Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program out of Alabama.
Each student in the third grade received a plant, said Haltiwanger’s mother, Valerie.
“They received the plants in the spring and were given the task to water it and check on its progress through the following weeks,” Valerie said.
According to Bonnie Plants’ website, the program was started in 2002 with a mission to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people. Each year, the company distributes more than one million free cabbage plants to third grade classrooms across the country.
Why cabbage? The company said it was the first plant they sold in 1918. The cabbages are the O.S. Cross variety, which is known for producing giant, oversized heads, making the process even more exciting for kids, their website said.
Haltiwanger brought the plant home to her grandfather’s house and he helped her plant it in his garden among his tomato plants.
“I was watering it a couple times in the beginning, but it rained a bunch,” Haltiwanger said. “My granddaddy said not to water too much because of the rain.”
Haltiwanger said she also clipped weeds from around it several times. As the cabbage plant grew larger, Haltiwanger said they left it in the ground. Her friends were saying their plants were only weighing in around one pound.
When they finally pulled the cabbage from the ground in the last week of July, it weighed in at a full 29 pounds. With the help of a large knife, they quartered the cabbage, sharing with her family and neighbors.
One quarter easily made a gallon of slaw, her mother said.
Although Haltiwanger said she does not like cabbage much, she loves slaw, which is why they decided to use it to make just that.
Haltiwanger said they took two quarters of the cabbage-made slaw to the beach with them before she began school so that it could be enjoyed while on vacation. The other was divided between their neighbor and friends.
The only thing Haltiwanger said her neighbor could say when receiving the slaw was “Oh my gosh.”
“That’s mainly what I would say if I were getting it,” Haltiwanger said and laughed.
Showing the picture of the final product, Haltiwanger said her friends and former teacher were amazed at how large the plant actually grew compared to others in the class.
Haltiwanger said she hasn’t planted anything else in the garden since the cabbage to test out the “magic” of the garden.
When she’s not gardening, Haltiwanger enjoys roller-skating, riding four-wheelers, jet-skiing, and riding on the golf cart. Haltiwanger lives in Pomaria with her parents, Jay and Valerie.
“The joy of gardening and the satisfaction of growing healthy food are gifts that kids never outgrow,” said Stan Cope, president and CEO of Bonnie Plants and grandson of founders Livingston and “Miss Bonnie” Paulk. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to share these gifts with the next generation of gardeners.”
More information on the program can be found online at bonniecabbageprogram.com.