Wild Seed Project Executive Director Andrea Berry at the nonprofit’s new location in North Yarmouth. Berry took over almost a year ago and Wild Seed Project moved into the space in September. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

The past year has been an eventful one for Wild Seed Project. The nonprofit has introduced a new executive director, doubled its members to 1,500, more than doubled its staff and moved from Portland to North Yarmouth, all while juggling multiple community partnerships and events.

The organization, which raises awareness about the importance of native plants, has seen a spike in people interested in gardening and learning more about Maine botany, according to Executive Director Andrea Berry.

The heightened interest is likely a result of the pandemic, she said.

Wild Seed Project stores hundreds of native plant seeds at its headquarters in North Yarmouth. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

“The number of people birding and planting vegetable gardens went up, and the same is true for native plants,” Berry said. “People have … gotten more satisfaction out of the butterflies and other creatures that are flying around their gardens than the blooms themselves a lot of the time.”

Native plants encourage “genetic diversity in landscapes,” she said, attracting insects and local wildlife and ensuring the environment is more adaptable to climate change.

The organization went from 700 members to 1,500 in the past year, and it will soon have nine staff members, up from four.


That’s big growth, Berry said, but the group’s focus is still the same.

“It doesn’t matter how big we get, it’s still all about those tiny things. It’s about individuals getting excited about native plants and being willing to take the time to care for seeds to support our ecosystem,” she said.

Wild Seed Project recently partnered with Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland to offer “take and make”  kits containing soil, native seeds, planting instructions and information about indigenous plants. Youth and Teen Services Librarian Jennifer Benham said the 109 kits that were distributed to families “were a big success” and the library hopes to work with Wild Seed Project in the future on more community projects.

The nonprofit also partnered with Children’s Odyssey in Portland to teach preschoolers about local flora and fauna and create seed balls to plant on the grounds of the daycare center.

“The students used soil and clay and their fine motor skills to roll the soil into balls and then they pressed the seeds into the balls,” Educational Technician Ryan Eastman said.

The activity also incorporated vocabulary lessons, such as learning the meaning of words like “germinate” and “pollinate.”


“The students really enjoyed it,” Eastman said. “Wild Seed Project was wonderful to partner with, I hope other students throughout Portland are able to have these learning experiences with them.”

The educational aspect of Wild Seed Project’s work is an important part of what they do, Berry said.

“When I think about the ‘project’ part of Wild Seed Project, that’s really about how we do what we do,” Berry said. “We believe that everyone can play a part in responding to climate change.”

Berry added: “The beauty of Wild Seed Project is that we give everybody an easy way to take a stand or to make a difference in the face of climate change by planting a seed in their own backyard, a pot on their stoop, in the grassland they drive by, or at their job. We are creating these easy-to-do, accessible avenues for anyone to get involved.”

Berry took over as executive director last May, and the organization moved from the home of the previous executive director and founder, Heather McCargo, to 21 Memorial Highway in North Yarmouth in September.

Native plants will be incorporated on the grounds as the group settles in, Berry said. Plans include planting a demonstration garden on the property, which includes the Toots Ice Cream shop.


A native seed center with garden beds and a greenhouse is also being built, although Berry said they are not yet disclosing its location. The seed center will allow the group to expand its seed production.

“We’re now going to have a space where we’ve intentionally planted what we call living seed banks, spaces where we’re maintaining the genetic diversity,” Berry said. “We’re bringing in a constant supply of new plants grown from a variety of different species; we expect over 100 species of native plants.”

The goal is to have the seed center up and running by September.

The Wild Seed Project staff, meanwhile, is fielding calls from towns, land trusts, gardening clubs and conservation and sustainability groups looking to partner with them for educational sessions, workshops and events. On May 3, it will host a native planting workshop at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s store in Freeport. More information can be found at mofga.org.

“We’ve just been riding this wave of people paying more attention to nature and connecting the dots between the climate crisis and planting native plants and how that is something they can do to really make a difference,” Berry said.

More information on Wild Seed Project, including upcoming events, can be found at wildseedproject.net.

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