Barbour County student wins cabbage contest

West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Walk Helmick paid a special visit to Belington Elementary School last week to congratulate Katelyn Cross, a 9-year-old student who won the 2012 Bonnie Plants Cabbage Contest for West Virginia.

Cross grew a cabbage that weighed 17 pounds. She said it was her first experience growing a plant.

Helmick said it was impressive to see the things the kids have done. He told the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in the audience that only 2 percent of the population grow the food used in the nation. He said people can do without many things, but food is a necessity.

“I challenge each and every one of you to connect what we’re all about,” Helmick said. “That’s the ground that grows the earth that grows the food products that we consume each and every day. You earn the right to participate. That’s what this is all about.”

Cross said her secret was the use of Miracle Grow and the light sprinkling of salt on the wet soil. When the soil is wet, the salt is absorbed into the roots through the damp ground.

Cross said her grandfather gave her the advice to use the salt. The salt is supposed to prevent bugs from eating away at the cabbage.

“It was cool, because it grew a lot,” Cross said.

Both of her techniques paid off with a $1,000 reward that her mother, Missy Cross, said would be used toward her college education. Bonnie Plants awarded a child in all but two states in the nation, giving a total of $48,000 in prizes.

“It’s amazing to see what happens when you feed it (cabbage),” Pam Ickes, an employee of Bonnie Plants who is responsible for watering 600,000 cabbages for distribution at one of the many facilities. She traveled from Pennsylvania to congratulate Cross.

The third-grade students all had received a plug of cabbage at the end of the school year to grow for the contest.

Cross began growing hers in June, and it reached its winning size in July.

Although all of the students were given a plug, not all of the students chose to participate in the growth of the cabbage.

“The goal for all of us is to see that we’re all a part, that we all participate,” Helmick said.

In other news, each grade chose a service project to celebrate the 100th day of school. Third-grade students collected about 50,000 soda tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald House in honor of Gabby Cook, a 2-year-old girl who recently had a liver transplant because of cancer.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students collected pennies to be given to Relay For Life in honor of Dottie Talbott, a cook at the school who has won a battle with cancer.