When Loyd Brigance got out of the military, he wasn’t really sure exactly what he wanted to do until he realized he knew a little bit about sod farming. His sister was in the sod business and he started working with her for a while before slowly branching out on his own, with his wife Linda Brigance, in the early ‘70s. Together the two incorporated Loyd Brigance Grass Sales in 1975.
“We didn’t have a farm right off, we sold sod at the retail price for several years and then sometime in the 1980s we got a farm and started growing and selling,” Loyd said.
Their first sod farm was in Bailey, Texas. They later moved to Ravenna, TX before finally buying land in Greenville, Texas where they moved their business operations in 1997 and still remain today.
As Loyd approaches 50 years working in the turfgrass industry, he said while the machinery has changed a lot over the years, the price of sod hasn’t changed nearly as much as he’d like.
Currently, the sod farm is still owned by Loyd and Linda along with their oldest daughter Tamara who is the CEO of the business. They have two other children, Tricia and Nicholas. Tamara grew up on a grass farm and even worked in the horse industry for a while before returning to a career in sod.
“I remember being on the farm with my dad when I was five. We had one of those push along sod cutters and I was too little to pick up the grass and hand carry it to the pallet, so I would just go along and pull the blocks out of the ground and stack them so the ‘big people’ could come and carry them to the pallet,” she recalled.
Now a mother of seven children between the ages of 16-35, Tamara has both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Masters Degree in Agriculture Science from Texas A&M University-Commerce. Tamara, alongside husband Jim Dodson, a few of their children and her parents operate the nearly 1,000 acres of land they own.
“Some days my kids run the forklifts when we’re shorthanded,” she said.
Tamara said as a woman running a sod farm, some days are challenging but she doesn’t let much bother her. She said as long as she is direct with people and knows her grass, she hardly runs into problems.
“If you know what you’re talking about, you don’t get too many questions. And of course, you’re always learning,” she said.
Loyd said Tamara has used her degrees and expertise to transform their business in many ways. She helped transition their operations from paper receipts to managing everything with computers and technology.
When it comes to turfgrass varieties, Tamara and Loyd both really know their sod. Five years ago, Tamara attended a Texas Nursery & Landscape Association tradeshow in Dallas where she saw Latitude 36® Bermudagrass and NorthBridge® Bermudagrass on display at the Sod Solutions booth for the first time.
“I loved (the grasses) so much that I came back and told my dad how much I liked them and he let me purchase the licensing for them before he’d even seen the grasses in person,” she said. “We watched them for six to eight months and then we expanded.”
They grow 15.5 acres of Latitude and have 243 acres of established NorthBridge with additional acres to be planted soon. Currently, the Brigance family is developing a new farm where they plan to put in another 120 acres of NorthBridge. As for other new grasses, the farm is growing eight acres of Innovation™ Zoysia, a very cold-tolerant variety developed by researchers at Kansas State University and Texas A&M University, and by the end of the year, they aim to have another 60 acres planted.
“I’ve left picking new varieties up to Tamara and I think she’s done a great job,” Loyd shared. “It’s been some of the best grasses we’ve ever grown. I’m a little partial to NorthBridge. I know the Latitude is neck-and-neck but when we started growing NorthBridge, it seems we just liked it better.”
“They’re just superior grasses. The NorthBridge is consistent, every time you cut it, it turns out beautifully. We love it. You never worry about a roll when you harvest, it’s always consistent,” Tamara said.
She said they’ve only had Innovation Zoysiagrass for two years and really like the recovery of this variety. “Innovation’s appearance is beautiful and it harvests well which makes a big deal for producers,” she said. “We really like it, for a zoysia, it’s up and coming. People are going to be very pleased with it and it has a nice deep green color too.”
While rain has been an issue on the farm and at several installation sites this year, the farm fared well through the winter storms in February. Tamara said they lucked out when arctic temperatures hit their farm earlier because they already had three or four inches of snow as insulation on top of the turfgrass.
“In our soil, I think the NorthBridge just has a denser root system closer to the soil surface which really helps in harvesting. We have one farm that is sandy loam soil and another farm that is dark soil. Our new farm will be dark soil as well, she said. “Primarily everyone wants the NorthBridge that’s on the sandy loam farm, but the dark land soil, I’ve sent a lot of that (NorthBridge) to athletic fields.”
They work with a baseball field construction company, owned by former baseball groundskeeper Jim Anglea, who completes a lot of sports field renovations in the area. In particular, Tamara mentioned providing Northbridge from the dark soil farm to Texarkana Middle School’s football field this summer. She said they also sent NorthBridge down to a football field in Terrell, Texas.
For the past two years, Tamara has worked frequently with Kevin Carpenter at NorthWood Country Club in Dallas to supply NorthBridge for their course renovations along with a few other high-profile golf projects.
“They were saying this (NorthBridge) was just going to be for golf courses and athletic fields, but there are a lot of people out there that really like to manicure their lawns. So we’ve been pushing a lot into the residential because there are a lot of people that want to brag on their yards,” Tamara said. “I’ve sent a lot of NorthBridge to residential homes. I think it looks good in yards.”
Currently, Loyd Brigance Grass Sales is supplying approximately 120 acres of NorthBridge to Braeburn Country Club in Houston, Texas.
In 2018, PGA of America announced its headquarters was moving from Palm Beach County, Florida to Frisco, Texas where it will anchor a 600-acre, mixed-use development with an initial investment worth more than half a billion dollars.
Tamara shared that in April 2019, she started receiving emails for sod price quotes for the new headquarters and courses from subcontractors. “I think some of it involved the fact we’d been taking NorthBridge to some golf courses in Dallas, like Royal Oaks and NorthWood. We also took NorthBridge to the golf course at Circle T Ranch, which the Perot family owns, in Westlake this year.”
Recently, they’ve also supplied Latitude36 for Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler, Texas and sent sod to Labar Golf for the renovation of a golf course in Oklahoma City.
Following negotiations, Loyd Brigance Grass Sales was selected to provide NorthBridge Bermudagrass for the PGA Frisco project. Last year they supplied 120 acres of turfgrass in big rolls, mini rolls, small blocks and sprigs. This year they’ve sent more and anticipate there will be even more in the future.
Tamara said they had to resod some areas the sprigs washed away due to heavy rains, but for the most part, the PGA Frisco team’s feedback has been that the sprigs are performing well.
“This was our first time we had dealt with harvesting sprigs and we liked it. You have such quick recovery in your harvesting area,” Tamara shared.
She believes the PGA Frisco will be completed sometime this year and shared the Omni Hotel going in next to the golf course will have matching NorthBridge Bermudagrass supplied by the Brigance family.
“We’re very proud, we’re very excited and we like to put out a good product,” she shared. “Now we don’t play golf personally because we’re always too busy but I think it’s great.”
She said her dad is very humble and just wants to work, make a good living and make a good product. “But this is just great. When you talk about expanding your clientele and things like that, that really does help. It’s very exciting,” she said.
Aside from Sod
About 20 years ago, when the Brigance family was living in a small Texas town called Bonham, Loyd realized their kids and friends were driving almost 30 miles to Sherman, Texas to the nearest movie theater. After realizing there was nothing closer, Loyd made the decision to purchase two movie theaters, called Majestic Cinemas, to diversify his business.
“There are times where the theaters have done better than grass and times grass has done better than the theaters,” he said.
Tamara said that it’s good for them not to have all of their eggs in one basket all the time.
Loyd also has an impressive car collection made up of about 15 vehicles ranging from resto-mods and to originally restored models. The oldest is a 1954 and he owns models made from then up until 2003.
Loyd’s car collection consists of:
- Corvettes: 1954, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 2003, 2015
- Chevy Bel Air: Two 1955, 1956
- 1963 Chevy II Nova
- T-Birds: 1957, 2004, 2005
- 1956 Chrysler New Yorker
- 1956 Oldsmobile
- 1965 Malibu
“I’ve always liked cars and never really could afford them so when we got to have a little bit of money to buy some we kind of bought some every now and then,” Loyd said. “We do a lot of the maintenance work, but the bodywork we don’t do.”
Working with Sod Solutions
Going on over half a decade of business together, Tamara said she is pleased with how Sod Solutions keeps them educated on their turfgrass varieties and that she can pick up the phone any time to call territory managers Roberto Gurgel and Joel Lane.
“They’re both so knowledgeable on everything,” she said.
Tamara also complimented the way Sod Solutions Professionals promotes its products and how Executive Director of Business and Professional Development Erin Wilder connects sod farms with people who need turfgrass supplied.
“I love working with Sod Solutions. They’ve been very helpful for contacts and sending people our way. I brag about them to my dad and explain how they promote their products,” Tamara shared. “We have about 350 acres ready to go in at our new farm and most of that will be either NorthBridge or Innovation. Part of that reason is because of how Sod Solutions handles business and helps us.”
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.