Iowa winner of Bonnie Plants cabbage program

Waverly student received a $1,000 scholarship for her over-sized vegetable

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It was almost a year ago that Lily Herrmeyer came home from school with some atypical homework — a cabbage plant.

Carol Young, Lily’s third grade teacher at West Cedar Elementary in Waverly, and West Cedar’s other third grade teacher have distributed the cabbage plants to their students for years as part of the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program.

Participation is up to the student, though.

Lily is her first student to enter. She’s also the first to win.

“Now that we’ve had a winner in the building, I will be curious to see if we have more students interested in the program,” said Young, who will soon be handing out plants for the 2013 crop. “We may have 45 excited third-graders.”

As the 2012 winner, Lily received a $1,000 scholarship.

“I definitely did not think that would happen,” Lily, 10, said. “My mom got a phone call and I started turning cartwheels in the hallway.”

Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program was launched in 2002 with the goal of inspiring a love of vegetable gardening in young people. The program focuses on cabbage plants because cabbages were the first plant sold by the company in 1918.

The company distributed more than 1.5 million free cabbage plants to third- grade classrooms in 48 states — Alaska and Hawaii are excluded — last year. The cabbages are the O.S. Cross variety, which is known for producing giant, oversized heads.

Students plant the cabbage and care for it over summer vacation. At the end of the season, teachers from each class select the student who has grown the best cabbage, based on size and appearance.

“I just remember she said she definitely wanted to plant it and see how big it would grow,” said Jessica Herrmeyer, Lily’s mom.

Lily’s cabbage plant produced leaves as large as four-feet across, double that when you consider her plant grew into two cabbages.

“She had twins,” Jessica Herrmeyer said.

Caring for the plant during last summer’s drought was challenging, but Lily’s grandfather assisted her throughout the process.

“He grows a lot of stuff, so he helped,” she said.

At the end of the summer, a picture of the cabbage and the student is submitted to Bonnie Plants. The student also is included in a statewide scholarship drawing.

After the official contest photo was taken, Lily, who is now in fourth grade, had a new problem.

What was she going to do with her extra-large cabbage?

“We got her grandmother’s coleslaw recipe,” Jessica Herrmeyer said. “Now she makes coleslaw all the time.”

“I love it,” Lily said.

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