URI Cooperative Extension expands seed give-away nationwide

Ocean State Job Lot donates more than 445,000 packets of seeds

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 19, 2018 – For more than 20 years, the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener Program have teamed with Ocean State Job Lot to give away hundreds of thousands of packets of vegetable, flower and herb seeds to local schools, youth groups, community gardens and other non-profit organizations in the state, as well as to individual residents.

In 2019, about 445,000 seed packets will be available – more than twice as many as were available last year. As a result, the program has been expanded to allow anyone in the continental United States to order seeds, thanks to the continued generosity of Job Lot, which donates the seeds they don’t sell the previous year to URI.

“Seeds are labeled for a certain year and can’t be sold the following year, but there’s nothing wrong with them,” said Kate Venturini of URI’s Cooperative Extension. “Instead of sending them back to Burpee for incineration, Ocean State Job Lot sends them to us to donate through our network. If you’re careful about how you store them, seeds can last for many years and produce a yield.

“We’re thrilled to expand the program nationwide this year, considering the sheer volume of seed packets donated by Job Lot,” she added. “We’re excited to hear about how organizations all over the United States spread the gift of growing.”

“The URI seed distribution is an important component of Ocean State Job Lot Three Square Meals and Sow and Grow programs, which encourage individuals and families to participate in community gardens and develop gardens of their own,” said David Sarlitto, executive director of the Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation. “Hats off to our partners at URI and the legion of Master Gardeners who spend countless hours sorting hundreds of thousands of seeds and distributing them to agencies, programs and individuals throughout New England and the Northeast.”
In addition, Job Lot has donated two vacant storefronts in Richmond to URI to allow for more space for volunteers to sort and distribute the seeds.

Individuals may request up to 200 packets of free seeds, but they must pay the cost of postage. Nonprofit organizations may order up to 500 seed packets, which can be picked up in person for no charge in Richmond on any Saturday in January. Nonprofits may also pay for postage and receive their orders by mail.

In addition, public libraries in Rhode Island may order up to 1,000 seed packets for distribution to their patrons, and they will be delivered free through the Ocean State Libraries mailing system.

Free seed-starting workshops will be offered on the designated seed pick-up dates in January.

The deadline for ordering seeds is January 18 at 4 p.m. For more information or to place an order, visit https://web.uri.edu/mastergardener/freeseeds.