Redding student is state winner of cabbage contest

A Seymour youth’s green thumb recently allowed him to earn some green cash for his education from a nationwide program.

Gabe Poole, 9, son of Jason and Victoria Poole, received a $1,000 savings bond from the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program for growing one of the biggest cabbages in Indiana this past year.

When the Seymour-Redding Elementary School fourth-grader found out he was the state winner of the cabbage contest, he said he was smiling.

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“After my mom and dad found out I won the contest, they said, ‘Good job,’’’ Gabe said. “They said I usually don’t win stuff.”

His winning entry was selected at random by the Indiana Department of Agriculture. His cabbage weighed in at a whopping 39 pounds.

“We grew the cabbage last year in third grade,” Gabe said. “Mrs. (Kylene) Steward was my teacher.”

For at least the past 10 years, Bonnie Plants has sent the cabbage plants to Redding and other area elementary schools with a flier explaining the program.

“The third-grade teachers pass them out to our students,” Steward said. “They are always excited to go home and plant their cabbages.”

The plants arrive in April, and then the students take them home, plant them and are encouraged to keep a journal of the plant’s growth.

“They care for the plant all summer and take a picture of it when they harvest it,” Steward said. “Students then bring the picture to their third-grade class at the beginning of their fourth-grade school year.”

The teachers from each class then select the student who has grown the best cabbage based on size and appearance and submit a photo of the student with the cabbage to Bonnie Plants.

“I am excited for Gabe, and after seeing the effort he put into his project, Gabe definitely deserves this huge honor,” Steward said. “Gabe worked with his grandfather and kept a fantastic photo journal to document his experience.”

Gabe’s grandfather is Kenneth Lynn of Seymour. Lynn let his grandson plant the cabbage on his property, and then gave him some advice on how to care for it.

To help the cabbage grow, Gabe used fish emulsion, which is basically ground-up fish guts pulverized and put in a bottle.

“It smells to high heaven, but it sure is good fertilizer,” Lynn said.

“We used fertilizer on the plant and put leaves around it to keep the frostbite away,” Gabe said. “Then we had to water it and feed it and all kinds of stuff.”

In Gabe’s journal, he wrote that the grass clippings he used as mulch were like a blanket wrapped around his cabbage.

“The leaves and grass clippings helped to keep the soil moist so it would not want for water,” Lynn said. “Water, nutrients, sunshine and plenty of room without weeds will help cabbage to grow, and anyone can grow one that big.”

After the cabbage was fully grown, Gabe took it to the grocery store to see how much it weighed on the produce scale.

“We weighed the giant cabbage, and it weighed 39 pounds. It was the biggest cabbage I ever saw,” Gabe said. “We had to take off the leaves, and it was a giant ball of cabbage. I think my grandpa is going to turn it into sauerkraut.”

In the future, Gabe said he might like to grow some more vegetables, like tomatoes.

“I don’t want to be a farmer when I grow up, though,” he said. “I want to be a YouTuber and maybe show people how to do some gardening and gaming.”

A presentation was conducted Feb. 23 at Redding to recognize Gabe’s accomplishment. Blake Finlayson, Indiana Bonnie representative, and Ben Gavelek, communications director for the Indiana Department of Agriculture, presented Gabe with his $1,000 savings bond.

Last year, 16,313 third-grade students from 253 Indiana schools participated in the program, and 430 of those students were from Jackson County.

Bonnie Plants spokeswoman Joan Casanova said there has been only one other state winner from Jackson County. That was Pierce McCammon from Immanuel Lutheran School in Seymour for the cabbage he grew in 2010.

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Number of Jackson County students participating in the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program in 2016

Margaret R. Brown Elementary School: 108

Emerson Elementary School: 72

Immanuel Lutheran School: 48

Seymour-Redding Elementary School: 106

Seymour-Jackson Elementary School: 96

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The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program unofficially began in 1996 in Union Springs, Alabama, where Bonnie Plants is headquartered. The company distributed O.S. (oversized) Cross cabbage plants to third-graders in the area. By 2002, the program had gone national.

The mission of the program is to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people and grow the next generation of gardeners.

Bonnie Plants awards a $1,000 savings bond to one student in each participating state.

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