ITHACA, N.Y. — Free vegetable seeds are being shared with residents across Tompkins County through the generosity of regional seed companies and the efforts of Master Gardener Volunteers and staff from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCE-Tompkins). Organizers hope to reach individuals and families who are experiencing food insecurity and who wish to start a garden to grow a portion of their own fresh produce.
Beginning on May 22nd, packets of seeds will be found alongside food pantry items in the Tompkins Mutual Aid Free Food Cabinets now at 34 sites in Ithaca and surrounding rural communities. Locations of the cabinets are online at: https://mutualaidtompkins.com/
In a planned “Master Gardener Grow-along,” the same volunteers who have sorted, packed and delivered the seeds to the Free Food Cabinets will plant some of the same vegetables at home, so that they can chart their progress and troubleshoot possible growing issues for new gardeners who contact them at Cooperative Extension’s GrowLine at email@example.com. This popular free call-in service has continued to take gardener questions online while the CCE-Tompkins Education Center is closed to the public.
More than 4,000 packs of free seeds have been shared with the community by the CCE-Tompkins Horticulture program this year. In March, a self-serve seed giveaway at the Education Center distributed the bulk of donated seeds that would normally be given to the public through the agency’s free seed cabinet program. Additional generous donations from Seedway of New York and Fedco Seed of Maine have made it possible to share more seeds with vulnerable populations through the Tompkins Mutual Aid Free Food Cabinets, at Southside Community Center Food Pantry hours in May, at Ithaca Community Gardens, through school lunch deliveries to free and reduced lunch recipients in some districts, and through Cooperative Extension’s Healthy Food For All and FVRx program by request.
For questions about this seed donation effort, contact Mila Fournier, Agriculture Educator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (607) 272-2292 ext. 194. To learn more about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and their programs, please visit us online at http://ccetompkins.org .
–Sandy Repp, Cornell Cooperative Extension