From tiny seedling, greenbacks grow

Talk about growing money.

Maggie Whelan, now a 4th-grader at Pine Run Elementary School in New Britain, turned a tiny cabbage seedling into a $1,000 scholarship.

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Maggie Whelan with her prize-winning cabbage.

Maggie was one of about 85 third-graders in her school and more than 1.5 million in 48 states who participated in the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. The program, which Bonnie Plants started in 2002 to teach children the basics of gardening, awards a $1,000 savings bond to one student in each participating state.

In May, Maggie planted the cabbage seedling provided by the vegetable and herb plant company in the flower garden in front of her house. “I watered it, but the rain did most of the work,” she says.

OS Cross, or over-sized, cabbage seedlings, are used because they produce giant, oversized heads, making the process exciting for the children. Also, cabbages were the first plants sold by the company in 1918.

At the end of August, Maggie harvested her huge cabbage, and her mother took a photo that they e-mailed to third-grade teacher Laurie Coleman. Picked as the grower of the “best” cabbage in her class, based on size and appearance (most of her friends’ seedlings died), Maggie was entered in a statewide drawing and picked at random by the Agriculture Department.   

Maggie says she’ll use her winnings to go to Penn State.