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Shaivi Bathija is the Oregon state winner for the national Bonnie Plants Cabbage program.

COURTESY PHOTO - Shaivi Bathija shows her 24-pound cabbage. Bathija is the Oregon winner in the national Bonnie Plants cabbage program.

For Carden Cascade Academy student Shaivi Bathija, growing a cabbage seemed like any other school project.

That was until Bathija's cabbage weighed a whopping 24.4 pounds — talk about a lot of coleslaw.

Her cabbage then was randomly selected by the state's agricultural department as the Oregon winner in the national Bonnie Plants cabbage program.

"I (took) care of it by only watering it," Bathija said. "No fertilizer, only water. But we did have fertile soil."

Bathija's third grade teacher Michelle VanBeeaver made sure her students knew how to successfully grow a healthy cabbage.

"They have to have a plot that's large enough because the plants get quite big," VanBeeaver said. "We talked about fertile soil in class and how important that is once they get to take their little seedling home with them."

Bathija made sure her cabbage was well tended, even while she was on a three-week vacation in India. She asked her grandparents to water the plant each day while she was gone.

"They said yes … then I kept calling them every day (asking), 'Did you water my plants?'" Bathija said.

Not only does Bathija get the honor of having the best cabbage in Oregon, she also received a $1,000 saving bond from Bonnie Plants toward her education. Keerthi, Bathija's mother, didn't know her daughter's cabbage could one day help pay for her schooling, she said.

"That was a huge surprise," Keerthi said. "All she needed was just a little reminder that it's her plant and it's her responsibility to take care of it."

Both Shaivi and Keerthi enjoy gardening as a family during the summer months. If Keethi forgets to water the plants, her daughter will be quick to remind her, she said.

As for what Bathija plans to grow next, she has many options.

"I've actually already been growing other vegetables," she said, "like jalapenos, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, mint — that's it."

It's uncertain whether Bathija will be able to grow another 24-pound plant, but she plans on watering each one until she finds out.


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