CCE’s Seed Bank project returns to local libraries for first time since 2019

Photos courtesy of Orleans County CCE: Master Gardener volunteers sorted seeds to fill the Seed Banks back in March.

Posted 2 May 2022 at 3:02 pm

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

The Seed Bank at Lee-Whedon Library is stocked and available to the public.  Seed Banks will be available at the other county libraries after May 9.

KNOWLESVILLE – Local libraries will soon house Orleans County CCE’s Seed Banks for the first time since 2019.

The program was a huge success in its inaugural year, with educational classes and free seeds offered to the public at Orleans County libraries.

Orleans CCE has not been able to offer the program the past two years because of a lack of supplies. But thanks to a donation last fall, and the dedicated support of the Master Gardener program, the Seed Back project is back for the 2022 season!

The Seed Banks consist of a small chest of drawers that contain various fruit and vegetable seeds available free to the public while supplies last.

“We had to refill those little drawers so many times the first time we offered the Seed Bank program!” said Katie Oakes, Horticulture Educator at Orleans County CCE and coordinator of the Master Gardener adult volunteer program. “We had so many new gardeners emerge from pandemic eager to try growing their own food at home, and we just are so happy we can help support them by getting seeds into their hands at no cost.”

The Seed Bank program launched in Medina last week at the Lee-Whedon Memorial Library with a “Read and Seed” seed starting class led by Oakes and Master Gardener volunteers Mark Tucker and Melissa Greean.

The class highlighted best practices in starting seeds at home, as well as how to transition seedlings to the outdoor environment when weather conditions are right. Participants were able to browse the free seeds in the Seed Banks as well as try their hand at “Soil Blocking,” an innovative technique in planting seeds that reduces waste and produces stronger transplants.

“I like starting plants from seeds because it allows me to choose what I will grow,” said Tucker, a Master Gardener since 2019. “There are so many amazing plants that cannot be found at local nurseries. The chance to try foods that would normally be too expensive or in short supply is an added plus. The Seed Bank project provides a chance for people to try, at no cost, growing items such as herbs, vegetables and flowers.”

Photo courtesy of Lee-Whedon Memorial Library: Katie Oakes and Master Gardener Mark Tucker demonstrate how a Soil Blocker works.

Growing food at home can offer many different benefits aside from just fresh produce. Research shows that gardening can provide beneficial physical exercise, stress relief and emotional support, cost savings, and much more.

“One successful plant is usually worth more than the cost of a packet of seeds, so there is a real opportunity to stretch the food budget,” Tucker said. “These Seed Banks provide a potential source of food at little to no cost, and when combined with local supports, such as Master Gardeners, can almost guarantee success.”

There will be an additional seed starting class called “Seeds, Seeds, Seeds!” offered at the Hoag Library on Monday, May 9, at 6 p.m. Following that class, the Seed Banks will be available to the public at all four libraries within the county – Lee Whedon in Medina, Hoag Library in Albion, Yates Community Library in Lyndonville, and the Community Free Library in Holley. In addition to the small chest of drawers containing food crop seeds, each library will have a flower pot with a large selection of free flower seeds. Free seeds will also be available at the Orleans County CCE office building – inside the “Buzz Hill” Education Center and in the Free Library Box outside in the Honor Garden in front of the CCE building.  Seeds are available only while supplies last.

For information on starting seeds at home, vegetable gardening, or any other general gardening questions, contact the Master Gardeners or Katie Oakes at 585-798-4265 or

The Seed Banks will be accompanied with large flower pots full of various free flower seeds.