FONTANA – When Brian and Jennifer Cornett decided to tie the knot four years ago, there was no question where the flowers for the wedding would come from.

Brian's mother, Sara, helped pick wildflowers from her son's beautiful natural prairie for the special occasion.

The 20-acre field on Brian’s land near Fontana has become a place of inspiration and relaxation for the Cornetts, and Jennifer loves the colorful natural plants just as much as Brian does.

“I married a woman who loves natural beauty,” Brian said.

Brian has owned the property for more than 30 years, and he bought it from another family who owned it for 130 years.

“We’re only the second owners since the Indians,” Brian said. “We’ve always preserved it.”

They have hayed it in the past and used it for some light grazing, but for the most part they leave the field alone to let the native plants thrive.

“It’s just the way God intended this whole country to be,” Brian said. “We as man have disturbed that.”

They do try to maintain the field by burning it off in the spring.

“The earlier you burn, the more wildflowers you have,” Brian said.

Some of the native plants include prairie parsley, Echinacea, purple leadplant, prairie phlox, daisies and milkweed that is popular with butterflies.

“There’s about any type of native plant you can think of,” Brian said.

When the native flowers in the prairie bloom, it is quite a sight to see, Brian said.

“Every three or four days it completely changes,” Brian said. “It’s always blooming.”

Usually by the Fourth of July it is done blooming and they can use it to bale hay, Brian said, but the fun begins again in the fall.

“In August or September, a whole new community of plants start blooming right up until frost,” Brian said.

They also have planted about 20 acres of monarch habitats adjoining the field, and one time they got a front row seat to the monarch butterfly migration.

“There were close to a million monarchs that roosted at our house,” Brian said.

In the spring time, goldfinches have stopped by during migration.

“They looked like a swarm of bumblebees,” Brian said. “They stayed a couple of days.”

Lesley Rigney, manager of the Miami County Conservation District, said at least 70 percent of Miami County pre-settlement was covered with diverse grasslands filled with hundreds of species of grass and wildflowers, but most of that has been eliminated for row cropping and cool-season hay and pastureland.

That’s why she is so proud of landowners like the Cornetts, who are working to preserve natural prairies. The Cornetts are being honored for their work this year by receiving the grassland award from the conservation district.

“There are many other landowners who lovingly conserve these beautiful and historic landscapes in Miami County,” Rigney said. “Most of them have participated in our recent efforts to preserve and expand prairies in our region. It is our sincerest hope that these small remnants will be permanently preserved and protected.”

Rigney has even collected seeds from the Cornett’s field for reestablishment in the Hillsdale watershed area, Brian said.

As for the Cornetts, they plan to continue to enjoy the natural beauty of their prairie. They have added a couple of picnic tables for relaxation and a rustic wagon for décor, and they frequently go on walks through the field.

“We enjoy it,” Jennifer said. “It’s really gorgeous.”

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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