Giant cabbage equals cash for 3rd grader

Lauren Owens
The Florence Morning News/AP
Mia Taylor was named the 2019 South Carolina State Winner for her cabbage that was more than 5 feet wide. The head of Mia's cabbage was 16 inches wide.

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) – For Delmae Heights Elementary School fourth-grade student Mia Taylor, the Bonnie Third-Grade Cabbage Program really paid off.

Each February, Bonnie Plants donates cabbage plants in cups to third-grade students at Delmae Height Elementary to take home and plant.

Mia, who took part in the program last school year, was named the 2019 South Carolina State Winner for her cabbage that was more than 5 feet wide. The head of Mia's cabbage was 16 inches wide.

On the morning of Jan. 21, Delmae Heights Elementary School called a school assembly, and a Bonnie Plants representative presented Mia with a $1,000 scholarship, a certificate and a T-shirt for receiving the title.

"I was really happy," Mia said. "I feel like today was the best day ever."

Mia could hardly sleep the night before the assembly because of her excitement, said her mother, Meredith.

Meredith said their family had just moved back to Florence and were living with Mia's grandparents while searching for a home when she began the cabbage project.

Mia's grandfather, Roy Todd, had the perfect garden spot for her cabbage plant.

"It was a double celebration because we had lived in Louisiana for two years, and she had been away from her grandfather," Meredith said. "For her to be able to come back to Florence and get to spend this time with him in the garden every day was a very special experience for her."

For a few months, Mia and her grandfather Todd tended to the plant, watering, fertilizing and picking bugs off the cabbage. Mia kept records of how much water and fertilizer she put on it, as well as how much the cabbage grew.

"It's really special that she was chosen out of the entire state to receive that award, and we're going to invest it for her in some savings bonds so she can have that available for her when she needs it," Meredith said.

This year was the first time Delmae Heights Elementary had a state winner for the Bonnie Plant project.

Debbie Chapman, who leads the program at the school, received a phone call around November or December, telling her that Mia was the state winner.

"It just caught me off guard, and I just cried because I'm like it's been 15 years and I finally got one," Chapman said.

A representative from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture also attended the school assembly for Mia.

"I think we are just so proud of Mia, to just see actually all of them, really, take on this project and put their heart into it," said LauraKate Anderson, who works in marketing with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. "It teaches them a lot about agriculture, nutrition, hard work, dedication, and I think that overlaps into their school work and their home life. I think that it's just a good starting point to really build character."

Stephen Chapman, greenhouse manager for Bonnie Plants, said the students with the largest cabbage plants from each class are given one entry into the statewide competition, and Bonnie Plants selects a student from each state at random to receive the statewide award.

"Every time I do one of these every year, it's just amazing how these third-graders take a big responsibility taking care of a plant," Chapman said. "It teaches them some responsibility in showing them the understanding where a small seedling comes from."

Chapman said the program gives children a better understanding of the agricultural process.

The Bonnie Third Grade Cabbage Program takes place across the U.S. each year, including the 48 contiguous states.

Mia said she has one piece of advice for third-grade students taking part in the program this year: "Don't let the bugs get on the cabbage because they'll eat to the inside of it, and it will die."he 2019 South Carolina State Winner for her cabbage that was more than 5 feet wide. The head of Mia's cabbage was 16 inches wide.

Wisconsin did not have an entry this year.