The Story

The Legend Begins in the Mid 1950’s . . .

Adolf Grimal, a Lithuanian American, was an inventor, engineer, amateur filmmaker, and gardener. He left his life in Detroit
for a life of adventure,ingenuity, and solitude. He traveled across the wilderness of America observing nature. He

continued his journey until he reached what he felt was his destination, the
Florida Keys, where he decided to settle on the unpopulated Big Pine Key, A
Refuge for a Recluse. At the time he was primarily experimenting with
underwater three-dimensional film, but an even older hobby would ultimately
define the man. Grimal,an avid gardener up north, would spend the rest of his
years working the land to create an unparalleled tropical fruit grove.

Grimal carved reservoirs and waterways from solid rock. He raised the elevation by
pouring 40 raised beds of concrete. He imported tons of rich soil from the
mainland in order to create viable planting conditions for his collection of
tropical fruit trees. To supplement infrequent rains, Grimal dynamited
large catchment basins to store water. His irrigation system, a labyrinth of
underground piping, connected six cisterns, wells,and
pools. He experimented by creating microclimates for the various
plants he acquired from his travels around the world. Professionals from the USDA, the University of Florida, and tropical
parks frequented this rare creation. The Old Man and the Grove was already
becoming a legend in the eyes of tropical fruit enthusiasts and his grove had
been coined the Garden of Eden.

By the time he died in 1997, Grimal was renowned worldwide
for his remarkable achievement. However he died with a fear that no one would
carry on his mission at the Grimal Estate.His fears became a fact since his family
trust was unable to manage it, and shortly after his death sold it.The new
owner was also unable to manage it and after years of misuse by tenants,
vagrants, and drifters,Monroe County put a lien on the property and this
historical landmark was all but consumed by overgrowth and invasive plant
species.

All Is Not Lost!

15 years later a government worker by the name
Patrick Garvey stumbled upon the grove while working on a food empowerment
program he was creating. By this time, county fines on the decaying property
had topped $850,000.Without any promise of return,he quit his job to save the old
grove. With support from some friends and family, he invested thousands of hours
and capital into planning a restoration endeavor, all while confronting compounding
legal issues that came along with the property. In November 2013, Garvey overcame
many initial obstacles and was able to purchase the property. It was a risky
endeavor, but it was one he was willing to take to save an historic property and ignite
a local food movement.

Over the next two years he toiled on the property, petitioned
the county, enlisted help, managed volunteers, wrote grants, redesigned the
gardens,and researched the history. With a vivid imagination, a stubborn work
ethic, and an inclusive spirit, he was able to pull off what many said was
impossible.He devoted his life and sanity to reclaim Grimal’s paradise.

Today, as it is emerging as a profitable
enterprise, it has evolved into something far greater than what many initially
saw as simply a preservation project. Three years ago the grove was a thorn in
the side of the community: a place for vagrants, drugs, violence, invasive
trees, and a dumpsite. Now it is a community resource for local agriculture,
the arts, education, and events.