Blind date with a plant: URI Master Gardeners handing out seedlings to community growers from across the state

Nearly 100 nonprofits coming to URI May 13-15 to collect baby plants grown in URI campus incubator program

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 10, 2024 – University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners are putting finishing touches, er, waterings, on the seedlings ready for distribution at the program’s annual seedling donation event.

Plant pick-ups for registered nonprofits start Monday, May 13, and take place through Wednesday, May 15, from 9:15 a.m. to noon each day at the Greenhouses at East Farm (rear of farm), Route 108, Kingston. There is additional pickup time Tuesday, May 14, between 4 and 6 p.m.

Partner agencies like the Narragansett Tribal Nation will come directly to URI’s East Farm to collect their plants. Last year, URI Master Gardeners raised more than 12,000 seedlings for community sharing.

The seedling donation program brings schools and nonprofits from across the state to East Farm in Kingston to collect their URI-grown young plants, ready for planting in beds and gardens statewide. The URI Master Gardener Program has raised 12,000 vegetable, herb and annual seedlings in greenhouses since March. Everything from broccoli to thyme, carefully tended for nearly 100 different community gardens and school gardens across Rhode Island.

The nonprofits registered for the seedling program span the state, from the Autism Project in Garden City, appropriately, to Woonsocket High School, joining the program for the first time this year.

The majority of the plants are grown with seeds donated by the Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation. Job Lot cannot resell last year’s seeds so they donate them annually to Cooperative Extension, letting Master Gardeners bring the seeds to life for community groups statewide each spring. The company – which was started by two URI alumni, Marc Perlman ’69 and his brother Alan Perlman, with friend Roy Dubs ’73 – also gives the seeds, with the help of URI Cooperative Extension, to Rhode Island residents at libraries across the state.

Since the program’s inception, thousands of pounds of fresh produce have been grown for nonprofits and residents across Rhode Island.

According to program administrator Kate Venturini Hardesty, the seedling donation program has been in place for nearly 20 years, powered by Master Gardener volunteers who also offer a separate spring plant sale for the public, which raises revenue to fund horticultural education projects and free services for Rhode Islanders, including the URI Gardening and Environmental hotline (401-874-4836 / and soil testing.