April 19, 2005 While many people have seen Josephine's Greens on numerous restaurant menus and in gourmet grocery stores, if you trek out to Coral Bay Garden Center on St. John, you can buy them fresh from the farm.
Josephine and Hugo Roller sell organically-grown arugula, bok choy, lettuce, mixed greens, collard greens and much, much more at their nursery located in the Coral Bay area.
Josephine said she developed an interest in organic food gardening because she has asthma. She said the chemicals found in food not grown organically make her sick.
They also sell lots of plants perfect for landscaping.
"We have lots of orchids," Josephine said.
And she said they have customers lined up to hire them to landscape their property.
The store also carries a big variety of pots, potting soil, fertilizer, and other items needed by home gardeners.
She said that some of the plants come from Florida, but more than half are grown right at Coral Bay Garden Center.
Josephine said trial and error produced the right mix of greens and vegetables to grow.
"I tried over 100 different varieties of plants," she said.
She said it's hard to make money on tomatoes, and that the birds eat papayas as soon as they start to turn ripe.
She said her husband fenced the property early on because the neighbor's goats ate everything in sight.
"That's a lot of money because of the goats," she said, noting that fencing comes with a high price tag.
They opened the retail store about five years ago after two decades selling wholesale.
Hugo started the farm more than 20 years ago after a real estate career in Connecticut. He met up with the Philippine-born Josephine in Malaysia, where she worked on a plantation that grew cacao, rubber, coffee, and oil palms.
Josephine said the oil from the palm trees is used for cooking oil.
"Not healthy," she said.
Josephine, an agricultural engineer by trade, served four years as deputy agriculture commissioner under former Gov. Roy L. Schneider.
She said she and Hugo married 16 years ago in Malaysia.
They have two children, Mimi, 14, and Hugo Jr., 15.
Coral Bay Garden Center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
To find the center, turn inland off Route 107 in Coral Bay near the Domino gas station. Keep on going even though the road turns from paved to dirt. Coral Bay Garden Center is located on the left before you start uphill. You can contact the Center at 693-5579.