Giant cabbage is winner for Star City student

STAR CITY — A nine-year-old student at Jimmy Brown Elementary School will soon have the opportunity to share horticulture tips with P. Allen Smith, the Arkansas-based writer, television host and professional gardener.

Smith in the near future will present Emily McTigrit, a fourth-grader at the Star City school, with a $1,000 savings bond for her success in growing a 16-pound cabbage that measured 43.5 inches in circumference.

Emily was selected by Zachary Taylor of the Arkansas Agriculture Department for growing the humongous cabbage in a school project while in the third grade.

Smith and a representative of the department will present Emily a certificate and the savings bond at a school ceremony, said a spokesman for Bonnie Plants, sponsor of the school program. More than 22,500 Arkansas students participated in the program, the spokesman said.

Allison Dunn, Emily’s third grade teacher, enrolled her students in the program to study agriculture in Bonnie Plants’ “Kids Grow Green: Cashing in Cabbage” program, said the girl’s grandmother, Kathleen McTigrit of Star City.

More than 1.5 million third graders in 48 states received hands-on gardening experience growing colossal cabbages with hopes of winning “best in state” honors and receiving a $1,000 scholarship towards their education from Bonnie Plants, the company spokesman said, adding the firm is the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America.

Free cabbage plants have been shipped since 2002 to third grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program online. Students have grown giant cabbages, some tipping the scales at 40 pounds.

The program is designed to “engage children’s interest in agriculture, while teaching them not only the basics of gardening, but the importance of our food systems and growing our own,” said Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants.

Emily, daughter of Chris and Anita McTigrit, said she planted her cabbage plant in the spring with advice from her grandfather, Danny McTigrit. “He showed me how to do it and I sort of got the hang of it.”

Her uncle Brad gave Emily a few gardening tips, including the advice of cutting off the bottom leaves to promote growth.

She harvested her winning cabbage on June 6, Emily said proudly.

Grandmother Kathleen said the plant said the family shared the bounty. “We ate it in slaw and cabbage soup.”

Lessons gained from the program included making sure the plant had adequate sunshine, plenty of space to grow, nutrient-rich soil, fertilizer, water and weeding, in addition to keeping an eye out for moths, offspring of worms that eat cabbage.

Emily said she is looking forward to the awards ceremony at her school.