July 15, 2017 10:05:10 PM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
If you like the color green, south Lowndes County is your kind of place -- endless acres of forest and farmland. There is one exception, though, 3 1/3 acres of vibrant hues of red, orange and yellow that burst from that infinity of green.
Last Friday, Dispatch Business Manager Mary Ann Hardy made this colorful discovery.
She was taking the "back way" on Artesia Road on her way to dinner in West Point when she happened to glance to the south of Artesia Road where it intersects with Hardy Billups Road.
"My first thought was joy," she said, "followed by a little jealousy. I wondered how many seed packets from Walmart did that take."
There, on the gravel road right off Artesia Road almost directly south of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, are 3.3 acres of glorious zinnias, now almost five feet tall and in full bloom.
The creative force behind the colorful field is Matt Brignac, a 37-year-old farmer and crop-duster who turned a few acres of unused soil into a view, the news of which has been spreading by word-of-mouth since the zinnias began to bloom a few weeks ago.
Brignac, his wife, Heather, and boys Myles, 6 and Briggs, 5 months, moved onto the property two years ago. He owns almost 300 acres in the area, 200 of which he has leased out. He quickly realized the few acres that front their home weren't of much use for farming.
"The ground there is very marginal," Brignac said. "So I figured if I was going to lose money on it, I might as well make it pretty."
Brignac used his fertilizer spreader to plant about 25 pounds of California Giant zinnias near the end of April.
"The best thing about zinnias is that you don't have to do much to take care of 'em once they're planted," he said. "Last year, I planted about an eight-foot swath along the road just to see how they would do before I wasted all that seed. They did pretty well."
He said he had initially planned to plant sunflowers on the acreage.
"But with all the wet weather we've had, my crops took precedence, and by the time I was finished with my crops it was too late," he said.
In addition to his crop-dusting service, he farms 700 acres. Brignac moved the Lowndes County at age 20 from a small town in southwestern Louisiana to work as a crop duster for Floyd Lowry. Over the years, the men have become business partners. Each has their own crop-dusting service and farms, but Lowry and Brignac also operate crop-dusting services and farms as a joint business.
Brignac said the zinnias are "something nice to see when I come home at the end of the day."
For her part, Hardy was so impressed she posted photos of Brignac's field on her Facebook page. Folks are beginning to drive out to see it for themselves.
"He not only brought joy to himself and his wife, but to everyone who drives by there," Hardy said. "One of my cousins said about the only complaint was that he's sure making the other guys in the county look bad."
Next year, Brignac said, he intends to plant sunflowers on the opposite side of the road. The zinnias will return next spring.
"They've done really well," he said. "If I wasn't going to do them, it would probably be some kind of wildflowers, but people seem to like the zinnias. So I think I'll stick with them."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]