Boy’s big head of cabbage takes crown

East Olympia Elementary student Jonavin Barta takes first place in state for his wheelbarrow-filling vegetable

lpemberton@theolympian.comMarch 10, 2014 

Students at East Olympia Elementary School oohed and ahhed as 10-year-old Jonavin Barta was handed a giant check for a $1,000 scholarship Friday during the school’s award assembly.

It was for taking first place in the state in Bonnie Plants’ annual third-grade cabbage-growing contest.

Barta’s prize-winning cabbage filled a wheelbarrow.

“He listed the weight as 38.48 pounds,” said Joan Casanova, a spokeswoman for Bonnie Plants.

Last year, more than 11,000 students in the state participated in the program. And more than 1.5 million kids received Bonnie Plants’ cabbage plants through the national program in 2013. (Third-grade teachers can sign up for the program at

“It’s a fun activity,” Casanova said. “I think it provides a lot of different lessons for young kids.”

Bonnie Plants began the contest in 1995 in Alabama and expanded it to a national program in 2002, Casanova said. The company ships the plants to schools during peak growing seasons, Casanova said. Each state’s agriculture department selects a winner from “best in class” entries submitted by schools.

Barta planted his cabbage plant at his grandma’s house in Ephrata, where he stayed last summer.

Growing a giant cabbage requires the right mix of sunshine, water and good dirt, he said.

“He spent the whole summer taking care of his plant,” said his grandma Mary Catherine Koppang.

East Olympia third-grade teacher Cindy Tobeck said it’s possible to grow a humongous cabbage in South Sound too.

In fact, last spring she took one of the extra plants — and her daughter Rosalyn ended up taking first place at the Washington State Fair in September. Her cabbage was 57.5 pounds.

A first-place cabbage isn’t just about size; it’s about look, leaf color and a variety of other attributes. Tobeck said one of the reasons she selected Barta’s cabbage for best of class was because he provided excellent documentation.

“He kept really great records, with the weights, the measurements and the pictures,” she said.

So whatever happened to the colossal cabbage?

“I ate some of it,” Barta said, noting that he prefers the fresh corn and watermelon that’s grown at his grandma’s house.

“I made a lot of coleslaw,” Koppang said with a chuckle.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

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