Edible South Florida — Winter 2014
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IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH NOW. But barely two decades ago, the two-acre tract on Big Pine Key was a thriving paradise of tropical fruit trees – mango, banana, macadamia, kwai muk, breadfruit, sugar apple, to name a few – meticulously planted by Adolf Grimal, a reclusive and determined inventor. To plant his exotic collection, Grimal dug huge holes in the island rock that he refilled with black soil trucked in from upstate Florida. He devised an elaborate irrigation system, using underground piping that connected multiple cisterns, ponds and pools. But after he died in 1997, the property fell into ruin.

"It looked like an invasive jungle," says Patrick Garvey. He spent the past two years as a volunteer cleaning and clearing the property in an effort to unveil the forgotten fruit trees. His organization, Growing Hope Initiative, made a short video about the importance of the property. They managed to get the county to reduce outstanding fines, allowing them to buy the property in late November. Thanks to a grant from Americorps, the community service organization, workers came in to help clear one section of the property. Their goal – to transform the Grimal Grove into an education center and edible community park for sustainable projects in the Florida Keys – is still a ways off. But it's on its way.

For 2014, Garvey says they're planning community events, including an upcoming weekend of chocolate workshops (see details on page 31). "We hope to have Americorps to return March to May and we plan to host a little festival in May to celebrate all the volunteers who have helped restore the grove." The Grimal Grove, a true community project, is calling for donations as well as volunteers to help clean, prune and propagate trees, and identify plants and birds, among other tasks. "Everything so far has been achieved solely through volunteerism," he says.

Ready to roll up your sleeves? Visit growinghopeinitiative.org for more.

Top photo: Mark Yasenchak. Before and after pictures: Aaron Harrigan