Big Pine Key, FL,
21
January
2016
|
07:00 AM
America/Chicago

Tropical Treasure

An Edible Garden

Imagine growing and learning in a secret garden time has forgotten. A peaceful, tropical, edible treasure – the Grimal Grove.

The Grimal Grove in Big Pine Key, Florida was designed by a reclusive, engineering genius, Adolf Grimal in the 1950s. Mr. Grimal carved fresh water ways, ponds, cisterns, and built raised garden beds. He formed a lush tropical garden from limestone rock with his bare hands.

After he died in 1997, the two acre paradise, filled with edible plants, was forgotten and tuned into a place of drugs, violence and trash. The Growing Hope Initiative purchased the property in 2013 to restore it.

“This is a community-engaged, edible park”, says Patrick Garvey, founder of the Growing Hope Initiative. “We grow and sell spices, fruits, vegetable, and crafts built by students and volunteers from the community”.

The Grove also hosts year-around community events such as fruit festivals and youth environmental education and skill building workshops.

Students and volunteers from the community learn how to make, grow, and package fruits and other products created at the park like jams, soaps, and chocolates. Proceeds get reinvested back into the youth program.

“I find many of my students really want to understand where their food comes from,” says Jen Sullivan, Big Pine Academy middle school teacher. “They love to eat the items they grow. Thanks to the Grimal Grove Park, students are also growing fruits and vegetables at our school now and at their homes.”

“I’m using the skills learned at the park to create and grow my personal garden at home,” says Alex Bailey, seventh grader at Big Pine Academy. “I’m growing mint, basil, onions, and tomatoes. I’m even learning how to make chocolate from cocoa trees and forging metal safely from a blacksmith that lives in our community.”

“There is so much to learn and do here at Grimal Grove,” says Trent Halama, a student at Key West Collegiate Academy. “And it will help me better understand and protect our environment.”

“I’m getting my high school friends to work along with the middle school students at the park,” says Annastacia Cassidy, a student Key West High School who is studying to be a food technologist. “We want to make this park productive and beautiful again for everyone to enjoy.”

“Instead of playing video games or watching TV after school, students can now learn and put into practice valuable lessons they learn at the park,” says Jen Sullivan.

“Our youth will be advocates and catalysts in the amazing restoration of a unique, edible community park. We could not have done this without the help of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board,” says Patrick Garvey. “This is a lost piece of paradise and we are bringing it back to life,”