Southeastern PA

Bucks County University helps Puerto Rico rebuild agriculture

NEW BRITAIN, Pa. - Many donation drives have been launched to help hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Now a local university is heading up one of its own.

The goal is to help the island rebuild one seed at a time.

Puerto Rico's devastation extends from city streets to farmers' fields. An estimated 8,000 acres of vegetable crops have been lost.

"We have a mix of culinary herbs, lettuces, more lettuce," explained Dr. Sarah Dohle of Delaware Valley University.

The Bucks County University wants to replant as many of those acres as possible.

"We take for granted the access for seeds on the mainland U.S. We have an amazing seed distribution network," she said.

Dohle is using that network for a nationwide seed donation program aimed for Puerto Rico.

Seeds of pumpkin, corn, eggplant and tomatoes have come from California, Oregon, and Florida, as well as locally.

Major seed distributors are donating too.

Dohle is working with a friend, an agronomist from Puerto Rico, along with the University of Puerto Rico, the USDA, and the state Department of Agriculture to certify the disease-free seeds.

The main requirement is the packets, which mostly cost under $5, must be suitable for a southern Florida climate.

"We have volunteers coming through and tracking so we know how much lettuce, squash, peppers we have," Dohle said.

One of those volunteers is Junior Alexis Suarez, who has family on the island.

"Farming is a huge part of their life, especially since a lot of their items are imported," she explained.

The drive also needs donations for postage. Without that, these seeds won't have their root of success.

For more information, email Dr. Sarah Dohle at sarah.dohle@delval.edu


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