Discerning shoppers at Starfish Market on St. John were thrilled this week to see the first delivery of Josephine’s Greens since Hurricane Irma.
“I’m so excited. I bought four bags of mixed baby greens,” said one former restauranteur.
Josephine Roller and her husband Hugo began growing greens 27 years ago at Coral Bay Organic Gardens, their 18-acre farm nestled in the Carolina Valley. Their produce became wildly popular—practically every upscale restaurant listed a salad containing their greens on their menus–but their operations came to a standstill when Hurricane Irma struck on September 6.
The storm took off the roof of the retail center on lower Kings Hill Road where the Rollers sold gardening supplies, plants, and fresh produce. It also destroyed the fencing around the farm’s perimeter, and soon hungry deer and donkeys came foraging for whatever they could find.
The farm’s solar system was ruined, and without WAPA power, the Rollers were not able to operate their pump for the well. “You can’t plant without water,” said Josephine.
But on Christmas Eve, power was restored to their property, and the Rollers spent Christmas day planting their first crops. The bags containing seven different kinds of baby greens that appeared on the store shelves on Monday were the first fruits of their labor.
“We’re taking little steps,” said Josephine. “We have no refrigeration, no seedbank. The well was the only building that didn’t get damaged. We’re doing a little at a time, but it’s big work.”
The Rollers got some help along the way. Six employees from the Longboard Restaurant volunteered for two days, and Kenny Chesney’s foundation sent a crew of five for a day to help the Rollers clear away debris. “We’re very grateful. The more they worked, the more they could see how much there was to do,” she said.
Although their largest customers are out of business for the time being—the Westin Resort is closed until 2019, and Caneel Bay Resort hasn’t yet stated a date for re-opening—Josephine said she wasn’t too concerned.
She’s looking forward to picking the first crops of herbs, arugula and bok choy, and bringing them to the market soon. Although their Garden Center in Coral Bay isn’t fully operational, they are selling compost, soil, and landscaping materials. Customers can reach them now at (340) 642-4008.
“People are compassionate,” said Josephine. “We can get back slowly. If we’re too negative, we can never get up.”
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