Cultivating one colossal cabbage
Austin Hoschka has proven that he has a green thumb.
The Woodbury Elementary fourth grader was chosen by the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program to receive a $1,000 scholarship thanks to the colossal cabbage he grew as part of Alana Hansen's third grade class last year.
Last spring was the first time Hansen participated in the program, as part of the third grade life science standard, so she said it was exciting that one of her students was chosen as "best of state."
"I was super shocked," she said.
Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Frederickson will present Hoschka with his $1,000 scholarship at an upcoming assembly at the school.
Every year since 2002, Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, trucks free O.S. Cross, or "oversized," cabbage plants to third grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program.
If nurtured and cared for, kids can grow green, giant cabbages.
A total of 1.5 million third graders across the United States received hands-on gardening experience last spring by growing the giant cabbages.
"It brings awareness of plants to the students," Hansen said.
At the end of the growing season, teachers from each class select the student who has grown the "best" cabbage, based on size and appearance. A picture of the cabbage and the student entry is then submitted to Bonnie Plants.
Hoschka's cabbage measured between 11 and 12 inches in size.
The student's name is then entered into a statewide drawing. The winners of each state's drawing are randomly selected by the Commission of Agriculture's office, state by state.
"I was pretty excited," Hoschka said, adding that he has developed a passion for gardening.
Growing it at grandpa's
When Hoschka first began growing his cabbage, it started out in a small pot at his house, but it began to grow so much that it had to be moved to a larger pot on his deck.
However, the cabbage continued to grow so it had to be uprooted and replanted in his grandfather's garden in Hugo.
"It was getting too big for the pot," Austin's mother Heidi said, "and every year the kids help grandpa plant his garden, so it was perfect."
Austin said he would visit his cabbage every weekend to check on its progress, water it and weed around it.
During the 10 week growing period, Austin learned a lot about how to take care of a plant to help it grow, he said - learning about the importance of soil, sunlight and space.
Shortly after his cabbage stopped growing, there was a hail storm, so unfortunately Austin wasn't able to use his cabbage for anything.
"At the time when we were going to pick it, it was rotten," he said. "It was a little disappointing."
"We had planned on getting a good coleslaw recipe from Grandma," Heidi said.
Hansen said she intends to continue offering the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program in her classroom as a way to expose students to plants.
"It's great being able to give students the experience to take something little and watch it and experience that success of it growing," she said.