Brewer fourth-grader wins $1,000 for growing giant cabbage

Posted Dec. 22, 2011, at 5:51 p.m.
Bangor Christian Schools third-grader Madison Hobert holds up her award-winning over-sized cabbage that she grew in her backyard throughout the summer. For the 9.5-pound cabbage, Madison won a $1,000 scholarship from Bonnie Plants.
Courtesy of Bonnie Plants
Bangor Christian Schools third-grader Madison Hobert holds up her award-winning over-sized cabbage that she grew in her backyard throughout the summer. For the 9.5-pound cabbage, Madison won a $1,000 scholarship from Bonnie Plants.

One enormous cabbage recently earned Madison Hobert, 9, of Brewer the “best-in-state” prize of a $1,000 scholarship toward education from Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America.

Madison was in class at Bangor Christian Schools when news of her winning came over the intercom.

“We were in computer class, and all of my classmates started screaming,” said Madison, now working her way through fourth grade.

The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is about encouraging the next generation of gardeners, and they are looking to increase participation in Maine. This year, 107 Maine children from 25 schools grew an oversized cabbage, but nationwide more than 1.5 million third-graders participated from 48 states.

Each year, Bonnie Plants trucks free cabbage plants to third-grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program online at www.bonnieplants.com. First launched in 2002, the program awards a $1,000 scholarship to one student per state.

Madison used the words “fun” and “cool” to describe her time gardening. Though she has helped her mother, Stacey, plant flowers, she had little hands-on gardening experience before the cabbage.

She learned about the contest from her teacher, Sarah Keib.

“We grew it in the backyard in the famous Brewer clay,” said her father, Jason Hobert. “Madison, her mother and I watered it every couple of days.”

“I think that the program is an outstanding program,” he continued. “It has been fun for Madison, watching the cabbage grow through the summer, starting out as a little plant in a Styrofoam cup and growing to a 9.5-pound cabbage.”

Cabbages were the first plant sold by Bonnie Plants in 1918. For the contest, they offer an O.S. Cross, or oversized, cabbage, some of which have tipped the scale at 40 pounds. It’s all to make the experience more exciting for the young gardeners.

As a learning gardener, Madison had her work cut out for her. Bonnie O.S. cabbages require six hours of full sunlight and at least three feet on each side to spread out in nutrient-rich soil. She learned how to dig a hole to plant the cabbage properly, and she and her father watered the plant during dry spells.

At the end of the growing season, Keib selected Madison as the young gardener with the best cabbage, based on the vegetable’s size and appearance. A photo of the cabbage and Madison was submitted to Bonnie Plants. Her name then was placed in a statewide drawing and randomly selected from the cream of the crop by the Commission of Agriculture’s office.

Madison isn’t sure what she’ll be studying in the future, but she’s happy to have a scholarship already to help fund her education.

“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, in a prepared statement.

“I didn’t eat it myself, but I heard it tasted really good,” said Jason Hobert.

Madison’s grandmother, Trudy Wilson, used the cabbage in a boiled dinner.

To sign up for next season’s program, visit www.bonnieplants.com.

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