Where were the first cabbages planted when the school's program began in 1995?
The program began in Union Springs, Alabama, where Bonnie Plants is headquartered.
So you’ve got 48 states involved now.
Alaska and Hawaii do not participate since there is no way to service the program in those states. Bonnie does not have growing stations in either state, and it is unlikely the program will be initiated in either state. Bonnie Plants is the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, with 75 growing stations nationwide, providing vegetable and herbs—regionally throughout the US.
How can schools participate?
Any school can sign up to participate in the program at www.bonnieplants.com. Plants are delivered by Bonnie drivers directly to each classroom. The program is free to any and all schools in the country. Deadline for the North is April 15.
Why cabbages? And why third graders, and not another age group?
The O.S. Cross (O.S. stands for oversized) is used because this variety of cabbage can grow to be an extraordinary 40 pounds, sometimes bigger than a basketball. The size of the cabbage at the end of the growing season can be astonishing, it certainly grabs the attention of participating children and encourages them to continue gardening. The program also instills confidence in the children and demonstrates to them that they can garden successfully. Third graders are nine and ten years old, young enough to be amazed and enamored with their accomplishment, but old enough to take on the responsibility of caring for the plant throughout the growing season and successfully harvesting at season’s end.
The program’s goal is to introduce kids to the joys of gardening. The program’s first participants must be in their early twenties by now.
Obviously, the program is working because it’s growing in popularity, but I’m curious—do kids ever get back to you later on to tell you that they’re now working in, say, agriculture or the environmental field, or that they simply have a garden now, thanks to the program?
Many of the participating children, as well as their parents, grandparents and teachers, do write in and share with Bonnie the joy the program brought them. One cabbage program participant from 2009 started a vegetable and herb garden at her school, home and on the premise of her hometown’s local soup kitchen. To date she has provided 3,500 pounds of vegetables and herbs to soup kitchens and shelters.
What do you, personally, get out of this? What’s your background and how does it fit in?
Well, I’m an avid gardener myself, and the grandson of Bonnie Paulk. The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is our way of engaging children in the joy of gardening. Gardening provides children with a safe place to experience nature, discover the cycles of life and develop an understanding of our environment. It also exposes children, first hand, to the benefits of growing your own nutritious food and it’s a great source of physical activity. The cabbage program, over the past fifteen years, has proved to be an enriching hands-on experience that kids and teachers across America have embraced. Seeing students excited about learning and the art of gardening is what we strive for.