LEWIS CENTER — A local third grade student has been selected as the Ohio winner of Bonnie Plants’ annual cabbage growing program.
Lola Robenstine, a 9-year-old student at Arrowhead Elementary in Lewis Center, will receive a $1,000 savings bond to be put toward future education after her cabbage plant was randomly selected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Robenstine’s cabbage plant weighed in at 18 pounds, 6 ounces before it was finally harvested last summer.
Bonnie Plants began the 3rd Grade Cabbage Program in 1996 as a way to inspire vegetable gardening in younger generations and teach kids where their food comes from. Students in participating classes receive free O.S. Cross or “oversized” cabbage plants that they can take home to grow over the summer.
Teachers from each class select the student with the biggest and best-looking cabbage, which are then entered into a random statewide drawing for the $1,000 prize.
Robenstine had no prior experience growing cabbage, although she said she did garden with her parents in the past, growing produce such as carrots, snap peas, broccoli and cucumbers. However, because her parents, Kyle and Jessica, were welcoming a baby boy to the family at the time and were not able to plant their normal garden, Robenstine had the garden free to herself with all the space she could need to grow the cabbage plant.
“It worked out to her benefit because had we planted our normal garden, I don’t know how much space she would have had,” Jessica Robenstine said. She added any help her or her husband gave was more along the lines of suggestions; it was Lola who did the physical work.
Asked if she ever anticipated her cabbage growing so large, Robenstine said, “No, but I had confidence that I might just win (the contest).”
Robenstine said the high amounts of rain aided her cause in growing the massive cabbage, which didn’t need to be watered quite as often. In addition to the watering, she said weeding the garden was also important to the process.
Toward the end of the grow cycle, Robenstine even had to get creative in snuffing out unwanted invaders in her garden.
“Towards the end, my cabbage started getting cabbage worms,” Robenstine said. “To get rid of them and stop them from destroying my cabbage, we put cornmeal and water on the cabbage to keep those bugs away.”
Jessica Robenstine said that because they had no prior experience growing cabbage, they had no idea when to harvest the plant, which just kept growing with every week they waited. The decision of when to harvest the cabbage was left up to Robenstine, who decided it was time around the Fourth of July.
Robenstine said she required the help of her father to get the cabbage out of the ground at harvest due to its size. After it was harvested, she said her family made coleslaw with the cabbage. She added they were only able to use half of the plant and even gave some to the neighbors.
Her favorite part of the process, she said, was when it finally came time to harvest the plant. As for what her advice would be to future third graders who will take part in the program, she said, “Give your cabbage a lot of space. And don’t forget the cornmeal and water.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.