BY PATRICK GARVEY
Sunday morning, June 26th I opened my eyes exhausted and in awe of life. The night before I celebrated an early 40th birthday party with a few visiting friends, after a long fun day in the sun. The main event of the day wasn’t my birthday but the 2nd annual Tropical Fruit Fiesta. The event was simply amazing. A whopping 1200 people showed up during the 5 hour long tropical fruit extravaganza. We had tropical fruit tastings, fruit and fruit trees for sale, a wide array of vendors, lots of activities for the kids, and lectures by top researchers in tropical fruit. We had over 50 exceptional volunteers and the event was almost completely trash free! I was humbled to see all the smiling faces. It was like I received a clean bill of health, stating “PATRICK GARVEY IS NOT COMPLETELY INSANE.”
You see, it wasn’t that long ago that I was contemplating the purchase of the grove. Less than 3 years ago I sat in my attorney’s office reviewing the closing documents for the property. My attorney clearly articulated, “Patrick, I will help you get to the cliff, and then you can jump off it”. As some remember, purchasing the old Grimal Estate was considered a horrible business move; one only an insane man would do. I was told by many it couldn’t be done.
To be fair I was a little naïve, but I knew I was going to suffer. I knew it would bring hardships on my family. I knew I would need to beseech others for help. The one thing I didn’t know was how we were going to financially survive. Nine months before closing I told my wife, “whatever we decide to do the next couple years, we definitely don’t want to have a baby. Best to wait until we know how this endeavor unfolds.” We closed on the property 2 days after my wife gave birth to twin girls.
There hasn’t been a day since then I haven’t felt like giving up. Usually it crosses my mind 5 to 10 times a day. There is just so much work, so much to learn, so many obstacles, so many responsibilities! I sometimes wonder why I haven’t given up. I mean there’s been stretches where I haven’t received a pay check for six months, many of those days toiling in the hot sun by myself, deflecting legal issues, trying to raise money and pay the bills; an overwhelming feeling that I’m always behind personally and professionally . . . on that precipice of failure I was warned about.
There have been many days when I might have given up if random acts of kindness didn’t fall from the sky like a cool refreshing rain, washing away my sorrows and doubts, and giving me the courage and strength to carry on.
During the past 2 ½ years this has happened many times. Family, friends, and strangers have lifted me up when I thought all was lost. Many have no idea how their selfless acts impacted me, and the gratitude I have for them. So many people both local and afar have given their time, money and support to advance the grove. Now the grove has evolved as the community resource I’ve always envisioned thanks to all the wonderful believers and doers.
For me the Grimal Grove is a symbol of hope in a society bent on profit at the expense of others and the environment. In a world where mass violence, environmental calamity, political and financial corruption is so riotous, it is the people like you, who bring a calm into my life.
I often told myself, “I’ll give this ‘til I’m forty. If our life isn’t financially stable by then, I will return to a more ‘rational existence’.” Well, I’m forty. We’re still broke, but we’ve always managed to find a way. These puzzling midlife thoughts permeated my mind as I lay in bed that Sunday morning, while giggling daughters jumped on me as if my body were a trampoline.
I can honestly say risking everything to save a forgotten grove has made our family stronger, our community more resilient, and in a small way our world a little more sustainable. Money alone cannot do this. It takes passion and cooperation.
No man is an island, not even on Big Pine Key. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child; well I say it takes a community to Save the Grimal Grove. Thank you, Thank you for helping me revive the grove! ▪
Grimal Grove is a non-profit Tropical Fruit Farm in Big Pine Key. Once owned by a man named Adolf Grimal, it fell into disrepair after he died. Ten years later, Patrick Garvey, founder of Growing Hope Initiative, discovered this overgrown land and had the vision to restore it to its natural beauty and re-open the park to the community. For more information visit thegrimalgrove.org