Today, the Ryan Nece Foundation Student Service Program (SSP) traveled to Grimal Grove on Big Pine Key for our first service project here in the Florida Keys. We arrived to the location around 8:30 in the morning ready for a day full of hard work. Not knowing what to expect, we were full of enthusiasm and listened to Patrick, the owner of the farm. It was really interesting to learn about the history of the farm and how Patrick came to own the land. Patrick is the only one that works full-time on the farm and can really benefit from all the help he can get.

After Hurricane Irma, Grimal Grove experienced devastating loss. Before the storm, Patrick explained how the land used to be a location where people would come to learn about food and nutrition and try exotic foods such as the velvet apple and many others. Before, there were over 200 different types of trees located on the 2-acre property. After the hurricane, there are only about 56 species left on the farm. Over the next six hours, we wiped away our sweat and tears to help restore the farm to its natural state. We did various projects such as picking weeds, repairing the fences, planting trees, and many other tasks. It was very hard work but as a group we were already able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.

I found this experience to be something very eye-opening and definitely something I had never thought to try before. I loved the opportunity and only hope that Patrick and the farm are able to receive more hope in the future to keep the farm back up and running. It is a very cool location and I enjoyed getting the opportunity to help out.

– Maddie Saft