February 18, 2018 Achievements

Perry Creek student grows massive cabbage to win $1,000

Keely Christoffersen discovered she had a green thumb over the summer.

The 10-year-old Perry Creek Elementary School student faithfully tended to an oversized cabbage plant that she received at school through the National Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program.

Under Keely’s watch, the cabbage did more than thrive — it ballooned in size, tipping the scales at 38.24 pounds. Its bright green leaves stretched the length of Keely’s arm span at harvest time.

“I’ve grown some flowers, but this was my first experience growing vegetables,” Keely, now a fourth-grader, said of her cabbage, which took root on a farm in Sloan, Iowa. “It was cool seeing how big it was getting.”

Keely never imagined her cabbage, which she visited whenever she could, would reach such massive proportions and win the “best in state” title.

“Really excited,” Keely said of how she felt when she learned she had earned top honors and a $1,000 savings bond from Bonnie Plants for her efforts. “That’s a lot of money.”

The Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program dates back to 1996, when the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America sought to inspire a love of vegetable gardening among young people and grow the next generation of gardeners. This year, more than 1 million third graders in the 48 contiguous states took part in the colossal cabbage-growing experience, according to Bonnie Plants. In Iowa alone, 6,853 kids participated.

At the end of the season, teachers from each third-grade class selected the student with the “best” cabbage based on size and appearance. That student’s name was then entered into a statewide drawing and winners were randomly selected by the office of the Commission of Agriculture. The biggest cabbage ever grown on record for the national program came from Utah. That cabbage weighed a whopping 75 pounds, according to Bonnie Plants.

“We’re certainly extremely proud of our Iowa state winner Keely Christoffersen,” Bonnie Plants president Stan Cope said. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide our youth with this enjoyable and enriching opportunity and engage their interest in the art and joy of gardening.”

Third-grade teacher Rochelle Sitzman said she has handed out free cabbages through the Bonnie Plants program for around seven years, but she said Keely is the first of her students to ever reach this level of growing success.

“They may take them home and grow them, but nothing like Keely did. She’s dedicated. She’s driven. She never, ever gives up,” Sitzman said while Keely giggled in the background. “She really likes to challenge herself.”