By John Toole
---- — A bill Derry fourth-graders pushed to make the potato the state vegetable won House approval yesterday over the objections of broccoli lovers.
The House approved House Bill 535 on a 276-75 vote.
The bill has the backing of the Derry lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry.
Rep. John O’Connor, R-Derry, introduced the bill on behalf of Derry Village Elementary School students, who sat in the House gallery for yesterday’s brief debate.
Speaker Terie Norelli called for an early vote on the bill because of the students.
O’Connor, in a written report from the Environment and Agriculture Committee that favored the bill 14-1, said the fourth graders’ research showed Derry is where the first white potato was grown in North America.
“It has been confirmed that Rev. James MacGregor brought a sack of seed potatoes and planted them in 1719 in an area called Nutfield, now known as Derry,” O’Connor wrote.
But Rep. James Parison, R-New Ipswich, a member of the House panel that reviewed the bill, rose from his seat to challenge the proposal on behalf of broccoli advocates.
Broccoli, Parison said, is known as “the crown jewel of nutrition,” a fact, he confessed, he had learned from the Internet. He also said President Thomas Jefferson had grown broccoli.
“That makes broccoli a patriotic vegetable,” Parison said.
Parison pleaded for the House to designate broccoli, not the potato, as the state vegetable.
“Maybe if broccoli were the state vegetable, we could get kids to eat it,” Parison said.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
Principal Stephen Miller said teachers Amy Landry and Sandi Ward led 43 students to Concord to hear the House debate.
“It’s an exciting thing for the kids,” Miller said. “They have had the opportunity to see how things work in Concord.”
Students also have learned about the political process from legislators who came to the school to speak to them about the bill, he said.