Video by Sarah Pitts

After practicing as a nurse for 30 years on St. Helena, in the UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, St. Helenian Joan Peters retired from nursing and returned to St. Helena.

In 2014, Joan began using one of the five acres of her Blue Hill property to establish one of the island’s few commercial hydroponic farming initiatives.

Joan runs her initiative, Green Wagon, with only the help of her husband; the couple try to use only organic pesticides in their two hydroponic tunnels and the small bit of land surrounding the tunnels.

Though farming commercially on the island is a financial challenge, mainly due to the cost of monopolized electricity and the need to import material that can’t be locally sourced, Joan loves what she calls her “hobby.”

Joan began using one of her five acres for hydroponic farming in 2014. Even within the hydroponic tunnels, Joan is in a constant battle against insects. Photo 1 of 15
Herbs were the first thing Joan chose to grow, as fresh herbs are scarce in shops on the island. Photo 2 of 15
Joan and her husband, through a partnership with the island’s Agricultural Natural Resources Department, began growing more than just herbs. Through trial and error, (as expertise and aid for farmers is lacking on the island), Joan has found that some crops, like the musk melon seen here, are not cost effective to produce. Photo 3 of 15
Joan spends about 12 hours a day, seven days a week in and around her two hydroponic tunnels. Photo 4 of 15
Everything in the hydroponic tunnels, including the baby lettuce, gets pumped with treated water (with a pH of 5.5-6.5) four times per day. Photo 5 of 15
Joan sells red, yellow and black tomatoes to the island’s shops, and delivers personal orders to customer’s homes. Photo 6 of 15
Joan harvests herbs twice a week. She harvests as early in the day as possible, as she says they maintain the most flavour when gathered before the sun is too high. Photo 7 of 15
Green Wagon imports coir (coconut fiber) for its hydroponic growing, and places the coir in recycled bags in the trenches within the hydroponic tunnels. Photo 8 of 15
Joan’s operation is comprised of two 25x60 ft hydroponic tunnels, the grounds surrounding the tunnels, two sheds and two water tanks. Photo 9 of 15
Joan uses the runoff from the tunnels’ trenches to water the chilies and other plants which grow just out back of the tunnels. Photo 10 of 15
Joan is one of the island’s only commercial producers of tabasco chilies, jalapenos and scotch bonnets. Photo 11 of 15
Cape Gooseberries - also known as Physalis - can last months once picked, if kept in their husks. Photo 12 of 15
Though she named her company ‘Green Wagon,’ Joan said marketing themselves as organic isn’t important on the island; since demand is so much higher than supply, people will buy whatever they can get. Photo 13 of 15
Elements of the Green Wagon farm, like Joan’s wellies hanging out to dry, lend the place a homey feel. Photo 14 of 15
Joan uses this old tub to rehydrate the dried, imported bags of coir. Joan also uses the tub to rinse and reuse coir as many times as possible, before using it as mulch. Photo 15 of 15
Photos by Emma Weaver