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Local youth grow cabbages as part of scholarship contest

There's a new patch of cabbage kids in town, thanks to Culpepper Lumber Company. The company, in conjunction with Bonnie Plant Farm, sponsored a cabbage growing contest for third graders.

"I think it was a lot of fun," said Lem Brooks, the owner of Culpepper Lumber. "The kids were real excited, and we're excited about involving children in the process of growing things."

Bonnie Plant Farm, based in Union Springs, Ala,, has 40 farms located throughout the country from which they distribute garden plants to stores. In 2001, Bonnie began a Third Grade Cabbage Scholarship Program, in which the farm distributes free cabbage plants to third grade students and awards a $1,000 scholarship to the top grower in each state.

Mr. Brooks and Connie Wills, the accounts payable clerk at Culpepper Lumber, took the responsibility of contacting teachers in Thomson, distributing the plants, and keeping track of the children and their results.

The plants were distributed last spring, and the children could bring the fruits of their labor to Culpepper's anytime before Aug. 15 to be weighed, documented and photographed. The cabbages were judged not only on their weight, but also on their maturity.

Ms. Wills said she sent the list of winners, with photos of their cabbages, to be entered in the state scholarship competition.

Winners were: Thomson Elementary: Mariah Wall - 14 lbs., Dillard Norman - 6 lbs., Maxwell Elementary: Levi Johnson - 12 3/4 lbs., Eric Dowler - 6 lbs., and Dearing Elementary: Caleb Abbott - 14 1/2 lbs.

Mariah, who is the 9-year-old daughter of Mike and Sharon Wall, said she planted the cabbage in her back yard. This was Mariah's first experience growing cabbage.

"It was sort of challenging," she said. "I had to keep it alive and that kind of stuff."

To ensure her cabbage's vitality, Mariah said her father helped her "give it lots of water, and put stuff to kill the worms eating it, and let it have lots of sun."

Help from an adult seems to be the key to success, as Levi Johnson, also 9, said he tended his cabbage with the help of his grandfather, Owen Williams. Levi, who is the son of Paul and Robin Johnson, said of all the chores involved in cabbage growing, he enjoyed watering the most. While it was his first experience with cabbage, Levi is no rookie gardener.

"I help my granddaddy garden," he said. "I like to help him water it, and I like to help him plant stuff, and I like to help him pick stuff, like the beans."

The Bonnie Farm provided every third grader with the same variety of cabbage, the O.S. Cross, because it makes the largest head, according to the farm's website. The transformation from a small seedling to a large head seemed to impress Levi.

"It was really heavy," he said. "My Dad had to carry it in (Culpepper's) to be weighed."

Mariah said when she and her father walked into the store with her cabbage, "People just stared at me."

But the extra attention didn't bother the cabbage champion. The winner from each class received a $50 gift certificate to Culpepper Lumber's Ace Hardware store, so Mariah had her sights set on shopping.

"I got a rolling organizer thing with little drawers on it and wheels that you can attach to it. It's for my playhouse," she said.

Mariah houses her "Littlest Pet Shop" stuffed animal collection in the organizer. Now that she has the extra storage space, Mariah said she is planning more shopping trips. It appears her collection will be growing like cabbage.

Web posted on Thursday, September 07, 2006

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