- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

WALTON, Kan. (AP) - Fourth-grader Mayce Cashman knows what Jack felt like with his beanstalk.

“At school they gave us a baby cabbage plant and we had to take it home and grow it as big as we could,” 10-year-old Mayce told Kansas Agland (http://bit.ly/1nZKu7k ). “What I didn’t know was it was going to grow as big as a baby.”

Actually, at 27.8 pounds, Mayce’s cabbage was more than the size of a toddler and the Kansas winner in the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. She recently learned that the Kansas Department of Agriculture selected her to receive a $1,000 savings bond toward her college education from Bonnie Plants.

Mayce’s third-grade class at the Walton Rural Life Center was among 1.5 million third-graders in 48 states who got hands-on gardening experience growing colossal cabbages with the hopes of being the best in the state.

For the first week, the plant, which was only 3 inches tall, grew in the kitchen window. Mayce even forgot to tell her mother it was a contest.

“Four or five days later I found a note in her backpack about the contest,” said Jennifer Cashman, Mayce’s mother.

The next week they took the cabbage to Mayce’s grandparents’ garden on the eastern banks of Cheney Lake. It’s where the family spends the summer and gardens together.

The cabbage began growing and growing. They soon had to pull out the other cabbage plants growing beside it to give the plant space.

The entire neighborhood took an interest in the plant. It became a topic of conversation. People would stop by and stand around the mammoth plant, discussing it in wonder, Jennifer Cashman said.

“We all called it the million-dollar baby,” Jennifer said. “Every time it looked like the weather might turn nasty, or it might hail, neighbors would call or come over to protect the million-dollar baby. It survived three hailstorms.”

They babied the plant and fertilized it so it would grow even bigger.

The colossal cabbage survived a brutal battle with green cabbage worms. Mayce had to pick off the worms and then stomp on them.

“It was a lesson in responsibility for Mayce,” Jennifer Cashman said.

Mayce learned patience as she tended the cabbage through to harvest.

Because the project came at the end of the school year, at first they had no idea how the other students’ cabbage plants were doing. But they learned only Mayce’s survived. She believes she has a green thumb. Add perseverance to her traits and she grew a winner.

When the plant was ready to harvest in early July, it took five members of the family to tackle the job.

“We had to hold our arms around it to hold it up while grandpa cut it,” Mayce said.

Then they put it in a wagon to haul it to the house, where they weighed and measured the plant and took photos. Mayce wrote an essay about growing the cabbage and submitted all the information to Bonnie Plants.

They steamed some of the cabbage leaves. However, most of the plant went to a neighbor who used it to make many bierocks.

Mayce’s love of gardening was enhanced by the experience of growing the colossal cabbage. Plus, she was rewarded for her effort.

“It feels good to be a winner,” Mayce said.

___

Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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