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Restaurant owners searching for garden answers

Cotton Alley Cafe owner Guy Bass looks over his garden Monday morning, a day after he found that someone had sprayed herbicide on portions of the garden. The chemicals killed various watermelons in one portion of the garden, but also spread to other areas. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter / The Natchez Democrat)
Cotton Alley Cafe owner Guy Bass looks over his garden Monday morning, a day after he found that someone had sprayed herbicide on portions of the garden. The chemicals killed various watermelons in one portion of the garden, but also spread to other areas. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ Two Natchez restaurant owners are cooking up a regular whodunit seeking the answer to why herbicide was sprayed on their garden.

Cotton Alley Cafe owners Guy Bass and David Browning planted a garden in May behind their Main Street restaurant and started a farm-to-table production.

The garden was producing tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, eggplant and watermelons at least until someone, Bass said, sprayed it with an herbicide killing all of the watermelons and damaging other types of plants.

Bass said they were not warned about the spraying and felt as if the action was “a slap in the face” to them and their business.

“We keep all this area that’s ours clean because no one else will, and then someone comes in and sprays all up in there to kill what we have,” Bass said. “It was completely unnecessary.”

The part of the garden that was sprayed faces the back of Adams County government offices on South Wall Street, which houses Adams County Justice Court, the Adams County Coroner’s Office and others.

Adams County Road Manager Robbie Dollar said county crews don’t spray within the city limits, but deferred specific questions about spraying in that area to the county maintenance department.

Frances Bell, purchasing clerk for the county, spoke on behalf of Johnnie Williams, who is over the maintenance department, saying the county was at one time responsible for spraying that area, but no crews had sprayed there in some time.

“When the city sold that parking lot to Cotton Alley, the county relinquished any type of activity for that area,” Bell said. “Even when it was the city’s property, the county would be responsible for it but that’s no longer the case.”

Natchez Public Works Supervisor Justin Dollar said crews haven’t sprayed anywhere in the area in nearly a week because of weather conditions.

“It rained all last week, so we haven’t done any spraying in a while,” Justin Dollar said. “We wouldn’t spray the garden anyway.”

Bass and Browning said they felt the spraying was done by county officials who are upset with the restaurant owners for putting up signs in the parking lot behind the restaurant and near the garden that specify spots are for Cotton Alley customers only and that violators would be towed.

“We haven’t towed anyone yet because we don’t want to do that, but technically we have that right,” Bass said. “We just don’t know what anyone would gain from doing this.”

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