Young New Mexican grows giant cabbage, wins $1,000 college scholarship

NMDA applauds young grower,
encourages others to try their hand at agriculture

(SANDIA PARK, N.M.) – One New Mexico elementary school student is already growing the account for his future college expenses, thanks to the nearly 12-pound head of cabbage he grew last season.

Nine-year-old Ben Roesler was honored at a ceremony last week with the presentation of a $1,000 scholarship from Bonnie Plants, a national producer of vegetable, herb, and flower plants.  Mark Alvarado of the Bonnie Plants greenhouse in McIntosh, N.M., presented the award during a student assembly at San Antonito Elementary School, where Ben is a 4th grader this year.  Also on hand for the presentation was Anthony Parra, the deputy director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA).

“Every one of us is already a part of agriculture because we all have to eat,” Parra told the students at Ben’s school, which gathered for an assembly to kick off their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Festival.  “Ben is proof that you can play a bigger role in agriculture – all you need are some seeds, soil, water, and sunlight.”

Ben first became familiar with the program several years ago when his older neighbor participated and won.  As a 3rd grader in 2014, Ben grew his cabbage outside, setting up a small fence around it to ward off hungry critters.  But upon returning from a family trip, he discovered that his cabbage had been overtaken by caterpillars.  His advice to other young growers?  “Just try to protect it,” he said.

Still, one composted 11.7-pound head of cabbage later, Ben is undaunted; he and his family plan to plant a garden again in a couple of weeks.

“He’s a great kid – a good student – and he really gives you hope for the future because he’s so kind, conscientious, and thoughtful,” said Ben’s 3rd grade teacher Joni Lloyd.

Ben said he’d like to be an engineer when he gets older.

Ben’s name was drawn from among several finalists in New Mexico who each successfully grew a large cabbage last year while in 3rd grade.  Those students – and others like them across the country – each started out with a two-inch transplant provided at no cost by Bonnie Plants.  The company awards a $1,000 scholarship to one cabbage-growing student in each state, each year.

“The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is a wonderful way to engage children’s interest in agriculture, while teaching them not only the basics of gardening but the importance of our food systems and of growing our own,” Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, writes on the company’s website. “This unique, innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates, through hands-on experience, where food comes from. The program also provides youth with valuable life lessons in nurture, nature, responsibility, self-confidence, and accomplishment.”

The Bonnie Plants website says the mission of its 3rd Grade Cabbage Program is “to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people”.  The company says the cabbages are the O.S. Cross variety, known for producing giant, oversized heads.  To learn more about Bonnie Plants and its 3rd Grade Cabbage Program, visit www.bonnieplants.com.

Parra said NMDA is proud to work with Bonnie Plants to build young people’s interest in agriculture.