Ernie Grimo loves nuts. He was not always a nut tree farmer. Ernie was born and raised in Niagara Falls. His parents immigrated to Canada from Italy. His father worked for the city in the 1920’s and slowly built up his business, Niagara Block and Sand. Ernie had a different goal. He wanted to be a teacher. He taught elementary school in Niagara Falls for 35 years. Ernie married his first wife, Mariam Smith in 1963. Mariam passed away in 2010. They have 4 children – Linda, who works with Ernie on the farm has 3 sons, Joanne who is married, has 3 children and teaches in Iowa, Cheryl who is also married with one son is a public health nurse and the youngest Andrew, an IT specialist for Canadian Tire and teaches at Seneca, is married and has one child.
They lived in Niagara Falls. That’s were the dream began. Ernie’s mentor, Horace Troup provided Ernie with seed nuts and grafting ideas in the 1960’s. At that time little was known about suitable cultivars or seed sources of nut trees. Ernie purchased land in Welland along the canal to plant his orchard. In 1972 Ernie purchased the farm in Niagara on the Lake and built a house on the property in 1973. The farm had peaches and seedless grapes on it but Ernie’s passion was producing nut trees so he slowly transitioned the farm to a nut experimental farm and orchard. Over the years Ernie has grafted and propagated to make a stronger, heartier, productive variety. His orchard was established to determine what nut trees and clones would be successful in the Niagara area and beyond. Experimental orchards were established to discover the best seed sources and cultivars for nut production qualities. Collections have been brought in from Canadian, United States and European sources that have been tested on the 10 acres of orchards. The orchards are testing grounds to make selections best suited for nursery production as seed grown trees (seedling) and grafted stock. The best selections are listed in his catalogue and sold to his customers. Any nuts harvested are a bonus. They are dried, and quickly sold to customers directly off the farm.
Ernie also grows persimmons, mulberries, figs, pah pahs and quints.
Ernie is also an author. He has written a 125 page book entitled Nut Tree Ontario, A Practical Guide. This guide was developed to assist new growers just getting started. He also contributed to a cookbook solely dedicated to the heartnut.
When Ernie is not out developing the perfect nut or writing, he is volunteering his time. He has held office for both the Northern Nut Growers Association and the Canadian Chestnut Council. In 1972, Ernie established the Society of Ontario Nut Growers. He was President and now is the treasurer for the organization. Ernie was also involved with the American Chestnut Foundation and the Independent Order of Foresters.
Last year Ernie married Bernice. Bernice has 3 children. They have purchased a home in Florida and plan on spending the winter months enjoying the warmer weather.
Sometimes Ernie must think that he is nuts to dedicate so much time and energy into the nut tree industry. He has accomplished a lot over the years. In a nutshell, he always believed that his driving goal has always been science first and business second.