Dr. Viviana Medina, the founder of Seed Relief Puerto Rico, is a plant physiologist dedicated to local, sustainable food production in Puerto Rico.
We discovered Dr. Medina (a plant physiologist), Dr. Sarah Dohle (a plant breeder), and their organization Seed Relief Puerto Rico on the website of Delaware Valley University. A small team from the University, where Dr. Dohle teaches, is helping the relief organization collect seeds and donations for Puerto Rican farmers, families, community gardens, and school gardens that have lost everything after Hurricane Maria. The University put together the following video to explain the goal of the relief organization.
Impressed by the work of Seed Relief Puerto Rico, we reached out to Dr. Medina in Puerto Rico to discuss the possibility of collaborating with the Paloma del Carmen Fund (PDCF). We immediately hit it off with this bright and passionate woman who is volunteering so much of her time and effort to the recovery of Puerto Rico.
Since that first phone call, Dr. Medina has become an invaluable partner to our organization, helping us craft an effective application for farmers, vetting those applications, and serving as a trusted liaison between our organization and the local farming community. She has also begun interviewing chefs, distributors, and government officials involved in the Puerto Rican food industry to find out why the island imports 85% of its food, instead of sourcing that food locally, and how PDCF can help local farmers become better entrepreneurs.
"It has been a privilege to work alongside the Paloma del Carmen Fund. The connections we have established with the growers and the impact we have had on the island's agricultural recovery is invaluable. The most gratifying part is seeing the farmers' smiles and the sight of hope in their eyes as we hand them the awards." – Dr. Viviana Medina
Dr. Medina was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She completed her undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences, with a minor in Agricultural and Natural Resources Law, from the University of Florida, Gainesville. During this time, she was an active volunteer for numerous social efforts, and served as an Ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Her doctoral degree is from the University of California, Davis in Horticulture and Agronomy, specializing in crop physiology. Her thesis centered on identifying bean cultivars that resist anticipated climate change, focusing on genetic and physiological variation of drought and heat tolerance in bean species.
Dr. Medina completed her post-doctoral year in Costa Rica, where she focused on cacao climate resilience and played a key role in the development and coordination of a strategy to evaluate the current state of research on drought and heat tolerant cacao planting material as well as the methodology for evaluating such material.
Dr. Medina has worked on local and international projects addressing the scientific and social aspects of crop cultivation, including a public-private industry collaborative project in the Dominican Republic using cacao production as an economic relief effort for the local community. She has also assessed the local cacao production systems in Puerto Rico.
After Hurricane Maria, Dr. Medina and two friends who met during their doctoral studies initiated Seed Relief Puerto Rico, a collaborative initiative that was able to gather more than 12,000 pounds of donated seed for free distribution to farmers, schools, and community gardens around the island. This work was the bridge that led Dr. Medina to team with PDCF, continuing to support the efforts to restore sustainable food production on the island.