Patrick Garvey owns and operates Big Pine Key’s 2-acre fruit farm Grimal Grove, billed as the first breadfruit grove in the continental United States. (Breadfruit, by the way, is a starchy cantaloupe-sized fruit that can be used like a potato, bread or even as a custard when it’s ripe.)

Patrick Garvey Grimal Grove Big Pine Key

After discovering a neglected Big Pine Key fruit grove, originally designed by a reclusive man named Adolf Grimal, Patrick has brought it back to life as a fruit farm and educational attraction.

Tucked away at 258 Cunningham Lane, Grimal Grove is scheduled to reopen Jan. 11 as a Florida Keys breadfruit research site, agritourism attraction and educational park.

Patrick was born on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, and as a child often stared out at the sea, dreaming of adventure. Later he graduated  from Ohio’s Franciscan University  and did post-graduate studies at New York’s St. Vladimir’s Theological Institute.

In 2006, two years after coming to the Florida Keys to visit his brother, Patrick  began working as an analyst for Florida’s Department of Children and Families.

In 2011, he founded Growing Hope Initiative, a nonprofit community food movement with educational programs, retreats, dinners and festivals. Today the organization manages Grimal Grove’s community activities.

Patrick bought Grimal Grove, once owned by hermit Adolf Grimal, in 2013 and slowly restored it, planting a variety of rare and unusual trees. While much of the grove was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, that ultimately became the catalyst for a greater vision.

In addition to overseeing Grimal Grove, the Big Pine Key resident  also manages Key West restaurant Blue Heaven’s mainland tropical fruit grove in Florida City. He recently took the time to discuss his environmental passion and projects.

Keys Voices: When did you first come to the Florida Keys and why?

Grimal Grove Big Pine Key

With its rich history and focus on sustainable agriculture, Grimal Grove is a unique Florida Keys treasure.

Patrick Garvey: February 2004. It was freezing in Canada when an opportunity to work at a watersports company serendipitously popped up. I didn’t know much about the Keys, but I figured it beat the alternative.

KV: What aspects of the Keys environment or way of life matter most to you?

PG: Being an islander, I love the laid-back lifestyle, water and the weather. The discovery of tropical fruit trees growing in the Keys sparked a new adventure.

KV: Who or what inspired you to become passionate about respecting and protecting the Keys’ natural world — and how does that influence your work?

PG: My passion is to grow food sustainably and to educate others. Sustainable agriculture is necessary to meet our food needs and protect the environment. I discovered a legendary tropical fruit grove known as the “Old Grimal Estate,” designed by a reclusive genius, Adolf Grimal. Once upon a time, it was an agricultural wonder in the Keys. I coined it Grimal Grove and took the biggest risk of my life. Because of my work, I’ve met many interesting and amazing people who are passionate about our environment and our food culture.

KV: What keeps you energized, challenged and focused on your path?

One of Patrick’s great pleasures is watching kids explore Grimal Grove’s green space and taste the fruits grown there.

PG: The awareness that being responsible stewards of our environment is our duty for the next generations. We must leave our children a healthy environment, and we must engage and teach them this practice. It’s really amazing to see the kids enjoying the green space at Grimal Grove. Seeing their expressions when they taste and learn about fruits we grow at the grove is priceless.

KV: What’s your favorite natural or eco-friendly activity in the Keys?

PG: Before tackling Grimal Grove, I loved to sail. Now my time is devoted to growing and teaching about tropical fruit. I also love fruit hunting in the Lower Keys.

KV: What do you hope your positive environmental actions will accomplish?

PG: I hope more people will plant more trees in the Florida Keys and elsewhere. The planting of trees is one of the best practices to reduce climate change. I hope people will plant more fruit-producing trees and discover the delicious tastes and health benefits.