Box of seeds from CCE-Tompkins Master Gardeners in the Tompkins Mutual Aid free food cabinet
Image by Mila Fournier

Box of seed packets from CCE-Tompkins in a Tompkins Mutual Aid free food cabinet

Mila Fournier distributes seedlings and seeds at Southsice Community Center
Image by Sandy Repp

Mila Fournier (right) distributes seedlings and seeds at Southside Community Center

Vegetable seedlings donated by Robin Bem for the seed distribution event
Image by Sandy Repp

Robin Bem donated vegetable seedlings to share at Southside

Seed potatoes and instructions for growing, donated by Matthew Spano
Image by Sandy Repp

Matthew Spano brought seed potatoes and instructions for planting

boxes of seeds in paper bags

Seed packets ready for pickup in March 2020 self-serve giveaway

Sharing Seeds with the Community

ITHACA, NY – 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 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.

On May 22 and June 1, Master Gardener volunteers and staff from CCE-Tompkins placed packets of seeds 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: Seed collections offered on May 22 included a root vegetable (radish or beet), mild and bitter salad greens, a cooking green and an Asian green. Seeds placed in the boxes on June 1 included summer and winter squash, turnip or beets, beans, dill, salad greens, and a flowering annual, all of which could be planted immediately.

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 popular free call-in service has continued to take gardener questions online while the CCE-Tompkins Education Center is closed to the public.

Our Horticulture Program distributed free seeds during the Southside Community Center Food Pantry hours on Saturday, May 9 & 23.. On the first date, seeds that could be grown on a windowsill for fresh leafy greens or micro-greens were distributed. On the second date, seeds that could be planted immediately were shared. Robin Bem dropped off a selection of vegetable starts she had grown, and Mathew Spano provided a box of seed potatoes and instructions on how to grow them. A limited number of containers donated by Ithaca Agway wer given to folks who wanted to grow their own food but needed to grow it in containers or on a patio or porch. CCE-Tompkins staff members were on hand to answer questions (from an appropriate distance).

For questions about this seed donation effort, contact Mila Fournier, Agriculture Educator, at or call (607) 272-2292 ext. 194.

Last updated December 1, 2022