April 2023 HomeWorks

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Big Blue Business MICHIGAN’S BLUEBERRY INDUSTRY Lineworker Appreciation Day 2023 Virtual District Meeting Info! HomeWorks Connect Customer Survey Results COUNTRY LINES April 2023 MICHIGAN HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

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Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives


EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey

COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha


PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association

Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933.

Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors.

Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS.

Association Officers: Tom Sobeck, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, chairman; Gabe Schneider, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Chris O’Neill, HomeWorks TriCounty Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com

CHANGE OF ADDRESS: Please notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.


Instagram contest winner

Nature’s masterpiece on display at the Eben Ice Caves. @dougjulian (Doug Julian)


Why these fossilized formations 350 million years in the making are in such high demand.


Vegetarian: Meat-free and delicious recipes.


Ideal terrain, a generational legacy of farmers, and the Michigan Blueberry Commission help these tiny berries make a $500 million impact.

MI Co-op Community

To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community

Instagram Contest

Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account. Win $100 for photos published!

Recipe Contest

See details on page 10. One-Pan Meals due May 1; Chocolate due July 1

Win a $100 bill credit!

Guest Column

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

Win $200 for stories published!

Contents April 2023 Vol. 43, No. 4 /michigancountrylines /michigancountrylines countrylines.com




Portland office/Mail payments to:

7973 E. Grand River Ave.

Portland, MI 48875

Open 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday

Blanchard office:

3681 Costabella Ave.

Blanchard, MI 49310

Open 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday

Night deposit box available at both locations.

Electric bill/account questions:

517-647-7554 or 1-800-562-8232

Pay by phone, anytime:


Service questions/outages:

517-647-7554 or 1-800-848-9333

(24 hours for emergency calls)

Tri-County Propane:


HomeWorks Connect



District 1 — John Lord, Vice-Chairman

2276 Plains Rd., Leslie, MI 49251

517-974-2518 • jlord@homeworks.org

District 2 — Jim Stebbins

7139 Peddler Lake Rd., Clarksville, MI 48815

616-693-2449 • jstebbins@homeworks.org

District 3 — Luke Pohl, Chairman

15560 W. Hanses Rd., Westphalia, MI 48894

989-292-0427 • lpohl@homeworks.org

District 4 — Kimber Hansen

6535 N. Wyman Rd., Edmore, MI 48829

989-506-5849 • khansen@homeworks.org

District 5 — Theresa Sopocy

6996 E. Wilson Rd., Bannister, MI 48807

989-292-0295 • tsopocy@homeworks.org

District 6 — Ed Oplinger, Secretary-Treasurer

10890 W. Weidman Rd., Weidman, MI 48893

989-644-3079 • eoplinger@homeworks.org

District 7 — Shirley Sprague

15563 45th Ave., Barryton, MI 49305

989-382-7535 • ssprague@homeworks.org

Editor: Charly Markwart, CCC

Investing In Reliability Is Part Of The Co-op Difference

We speak often at HomeWorks about the “Cooperative Difference” and what that term means to us. Co-ops are a unique business model, and there are several characteristics that distinguish us from other utilities. To me, the most important thing that sets us apart is that we’re owned by you, our members, instead of some faraway investors. We were founded to serve your needs, not to turn a profit, and that means we get to invest in you and the things we can do every day to improve your quality of life.

Lately, that has meant investing in aggressive maintenance and upgrades to make your power even more reliable. It’s paying off, too. When a string of harsh winter storms in February and early March left customers of other electric utilities across the state without power for several days, did you notice that the HomeWorks system was largely unscathed? In fact, we experienced so few outages that we were able to send six of our lineworkers to help restore power at another utility. The resiliency of our electric distribution system in the face of severe weather is evidence that our investment in the daily maintenance of our equipment is working to successfully harden our system against storms, which is a key aspect of providing you with power you can rely on.

In the past five years, alone, we’ve vastly improved our system by changing out over 7,300 of our electric poles, upgrading to poles that are taller, stronger, and hardier than before. Many of these pole replacements have been part of the process of preparing our system for the buildout of our fiber internet network. That’s one of the ways our HomeWorks Connect fiber network is benefiting our entire membership, even those members who don’t ever sign up for our internet service.

Other reliability measures that we’re taking have nothing to do with our fiber buildout; instead, they’re entirely focused on keeping your power on. We make it a priority to continuously monitor our system, and our crews perform regular maintenance and upgrades on our lines and poles. And then there’s the most important piece of our reliability puzzle, which is the frequent trimming and removal of trees within our rights-of-way. Trees cause the vast majority of electric outages, so effective right-of-way clearing goes a long way towards improving reliability.

Maintaining and upgrading our system so meticulously takes a significant investment of time and resources, and like most things these days, this work is only becoming more costly. We know, however, that these daily efforts that we make to improve our system are a main reason your electricity was 99.95% reliable last year.

You’ll notice on the next page that National Lineworker Appreciation Day is this month. Our lineworkers often get the most recognition when they are restoring power after a major storm, but I am equally proud of the hard work they put in day in and day out to maintain our system. It might not be glorious work, but it is part of the investment we make every day to prevent outages before they occur, and that’s the Cooperative Difference.

4 APRIL 2023

yes, we could call them lineworkers.

but Heroes has a better ring to it.

April 18 is National Lineworker Appreciation Day, which is a great time to thank these hardworking heroes for all they do every day to keep the lights on for our members.



Petoskey Stone

When you think of searching out fossilized rock formations, you’re likely to conjure movie icons like Indiana Jones, Dr. Alan Grant, or Lara Croft. But along the coastlines in northern Michigan, you’ll see plenty of regular people flocking to the beaches and shoreline to do just that, in search of the state’s favored Petoskey Stone.

As told by the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau, well before dinosaurs roamed the earth, over 350 million years ago,

the land we know as Michigan was located near the equator. Covered by a warm, shallow, saltwater sea, the colonial coral hexagonaria percarinata thrived with other marine life in tropical reefs. The earth’s plates moved and pushed Michigan north to the 45th parallel and above sea level, which created dry land formations. More recently, about 2 million years ago, glacial action scraped the earth and spread the fossils across the northern Lower Peninsula, depositing major concentrations in the

Petoskey area. The prehistoric fossil is called the Petoskey Stone, and it became Michigan’s official state stone in 1965.

While the history lesson is cool, what makes the Petoskey Stone such a coveted treasure by visitors and residents alike?

“Petoskey Stones are unique looking, and actually quite easy to spot on the beach,” said Jim Powell, the bureau’s executive director. “But I tell

6 APRIL 2023

“While you’re busy looking down at the sand, rocks, and waterfront, don’t forget to look up every once in a while. There’s so much natural beauty to take in all around you.”

you, once you find your first one—you get hooked.”

Both the stone and the town that is home to this geological treasure are named in honor of a local chief of the Odawa Nation and well-respected businessman, Chief Ignatius Petoskey, and symbolize the area’s rich history. Whether people are walking along the water’s edge or visiting the town from out of state, the sheer number of gift shops and stores offering the stones or trinkets made out of the fossils speaks to the demand for the keepsake.

“We’ll get people in at the visitor’s center on a drizzly day wondering what to do,” said Powell. “I tell them, consider it good luck because that’s the best time to look for Petoskey Stones.”

With the faint outline on the stone, you can sometimes miss the intricate

fossilized coral imprint. However, the outline becomes clearer and easier to find when the stones are wet. Which often leads to the question—are Petoskey Stones hard to find? Powell says, “no.”

“Each spring, after the ice recedes, the weather, wind, and waves bring new stones to the surface,” said Powell. “By the end of summer, they may seem pretty picked over, but one good storm can always stir up more.”

Powell adds, “While you’re busy looking down at the sand, rocks, and waterfront, don’t forget to look up every once in a while. There’s so much natural beauty to take in all around you.”

This is just one of many tips the Visitors Bureau can offer. Powell has several helpful suggestions if you’re a newbie rock hound.


Always be careful and mind your surroundings— especially if you’re walking on rocks, which can be slippery. Also, keep an eye out for wave action, and don’t get too close to the breakwater.


Be aware of your location. While public beaches and parks offer full access to visitors, make sure you haven’t wandered onto someone’s private property. Bayfront Park or Magnus Park are good places to start.


Is there a limit if you’ve gotten the hang of Petoskey Stone hunting? According to the Michigan DNR, you are only allowed to remove 25 pounds of stones per year. So, unless you’ve got some massive plan for making a Petoskey Stonehenge—consider leaving some for other rock hunters.


As we said, spring is the optimal season, but you might find some newly turned rocks after a big storm. Bring along a bucket or other container to carry back your finds. Also, pack a garbage bag to pick up trash along the way. It’s the best way to thank the land for your treasures.


Petoskey Stones are beautiful just as they are, but they can also be sanded or polished with rock polish or mineral oil. Never put a Petoskey Stone in a rock tumbler. They are highly porous and will disintegrate— putting all your hard work to waste.

If you’re planning on being in the area, check out the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau website to help make it a trip to remember—PetoskeyArea.com.


HomeWorks’ Energy Optimization Program Drives Reduction in Carbon Emissions

Last year, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative began to track the reduction in carbon emissions achieved through our Energy Optimization (EO) program, which rewards members for energy saving efforts. A review of the 2022 results showed that member participation in the program made a significant impact. HomeWorks members reduced carbon emissions by 586,785 pounds, or more than 290 tons! That’s major carbon savings, equivalent to the emissions from 1,365 barrels of oil consumed or 115 homes’ electricity use for an entire year.

This reduction in emissions was made possible by HomeWorks members saving energy and money through participation in the EO program. From incentives for efficient ENERGY STAR® appliances, to recycling old refrigerators and freezers, the program offers residential and commercial members a wide range of opportunities to reduce energy consumption costs while doing their part for the environment. Even if members don’t directly participate in the EO program, everyone benefits in the long term from a cleaner community and state.

Our lands, waters, and forests are critical pieces of “Pure Michigan.” Reducing carbon emissions helps protect and conserve those natural resources, and fosters a healthier, stronger state. Generations to come will be able to enjoy recreational activities like hunting, fishing, and hiking, and outdoor tourism will continue to bring money to local businesses.

This year, HomeWorks continues to reduce carbon emissions and reward members participating in the Energy Optimization program. We encourage you to take part and help reduce emissions even more in 2023. Visit homeworks.com/eo to see the full list of incentives and offerings for your home, business, or farm. Together, we can save money and energy, and reap the benefits for years to come.


Call HomeWorks’ Energy Optimization team Monday–Friday from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. EST at 877-296-4319 or visit homeworks.com/eo

Energy Optimization Program Drives Reduction in Carbon Emissions

Participating HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Co-op members saved energy and money while significantly reducing carbon emissions in 2022.



1,365 barrels of oil consumed

115 homes’ electricity use for an entire year

71,727,626 smartphones charged

Save in 2023! Visit homeworks.org/eo to see the full list of Energy Optimization incentives for your home, business, or farm.

Furry Friends

Enter to win a $100 energy bill credit!

Submit Your “Backyard Farming” Photos By April 20!

We have implemented a new photo contest format for 2023! Each month, members will be able to submit photos on our website for our photo contest. The photo receiving the most votes is published here, along with some other selections from that month. Our April theme is Backyard Farming. Photos can be submitted through April 20 to be featured in our June 2023 issue. Note: The broken link issue on our website has been resolved, so you can simply follow the instructions below to submit your photo(s)!

To enter the contest, visit HomeWorks.org/photocontest. Enter your picture, cast your vote, and encourage others to vote for you, too. The photo receiving the most votes will be printed in an issue of Country Lines, along with some other favorites. If your photo is published in Country Lines during 2023, you will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of four $100 credits on your December 2023 HomeWorks bill!


1. Togo is so excited to go out on the fishing boat at Halls Lake. Steve Loomis, Remus

2. Willow and I can’t wait for the next issue of Country Lines! Interesting that she favors the recipes! Steven Smith, Mt. Pleasant

3. This is an adorable picture of Marshmallow, just chillin’ in a garden pot, one spring day. Casie Bayless, Portland

4. My brother, Kevin, and his new friends. Banana anyone? Karie Hilley, Portland

5. Chevy and Sadie are furry buddies! Mickey Burns, Eagle

6. Our cat, Grace, loves to be the center of attention. Annette Schuman, Canadian Lakes

7. Our everyday lovebug, Beau! Phyllis Snider, Barryton

8. “Don’t even think you are getting out of this truck without me.” Denise Livermore, Weidman

9. Watermelon Sugar. Richard Unrath, Lyons

10. I just came to say... “I love you!” Dmitry Erofeev, Mt. Pleasant

2 9 3 10 1 8 5 4 6 7


Meat-free and delicious.

Recipe Contest

Win a $100 energy bill credit!

One-Pan Meals due May 1; Chocolate due July 1

Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com , or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com



Katie Schneider, Midwest Energy

1 tablespoon olive oil + 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 (16-ounce) package shelf-stable gnocchi

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup white wine or vegetable broth

2 cups baby spinach

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes (use fire roasted for a little kick)

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

½ tablespoon dried parsley

½ tablespoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• vegan mozzarella cheese, optional

• fresh basil, optional

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi, stirring often, and cook until plump and starting to brown, 7–10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, onion and carrots to the pan. Stir often over medium heat for 4–5 minutes. Stir in garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add white wine or vegetable broth; stir to deglaze pan. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until starting to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, parsley, oregano, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then add gnocchi back to the pan. Cover and cook about 3 minutes. Serve immediately with vegan mozzarella and/or fresh basil on top as desired.

Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos

MI CO-OP Recipes
by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes submitted by MCL readers and tested by recipe editor Christin McKamey
10 APRIL 2023


(“Bending” the traditional with a few flavorful additions...) Dwain Abramowski, Great Lakes Energy

3–4 tablespoons organic margarine, coconut oil, or olive oil (do not overheat olive oil)

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 large celery stalk, finely chopped

1 medium onion, medium chopped

4–5 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons minced ginger

1–2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon sugar (enhances tang of the lime)

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1–2 (14-ounce) cans fire roasted tomatoes

1–1½ cup dried lentils (whatever kind you have on hand)

2½ cups water + 3 tablespoons veggie bouillon mixed in

1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk (or coconut cream, but may need to add more water)

¼–½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (several grinds)

1 teaspoon turmeric

1–3 tablespoons lime juice

In a skillet over medium heat, add margarine and/or oils, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables are a bit soft (don’t overcook). Add onion and a bit of salt; cook until onions are soft. With heat on low, add garlic, ginger, curry powder, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, 2–5 minutes. Add the cans of tomatoes, lentils, water/stock, coconut milk, salt, black pepper and turmeric. Bring to boil, cover and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the lentils are tender, 25 to 35 minutes. If soup is too thick, stir in a bit more veggie stock. Or for a thicker soup, add more coconut milk or cream to your desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Experiment to get your favorite blend of spices. Don’t skimp on the lentils (I like my soup thicker). Store leftover soup in the fridge for up to 4 days. If it thickens too much in the fridge, stir in a little more liquid while reheating. Can be frozen. Enjoy!


Kathi McGookey, Great Lakes Energy

1 cup dried portobello mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

1 (32-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 (16-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (12-ounce) bag frozen vegetable crumbles (I use Boca or Morningstar)

2 teaspoons mild chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 vegetable bouillon cube (I use Knorr), crumbled or chopped into pieces

1 (12-ounce) bag frozen corn (no thawing necessary) or 1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained

Break dried mushrooms into medium pieces and put in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over mushrooms, cover, and set aside to soften for about 20 minutes. Put all remaining ingredients, except the corn, into a 7-quart pot; also include the water that the mushrooms have been soaking in. Stir well to distribute the spices evenly. Place the pot on the stove, and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the carrots and mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the corn at the end of the cooking time. If you like a thinner chili, add a bit more water at the end of the cooking time. If you double this recipe, only one bag of veggie crumbles is enough.


2 cups marinara sauce

Kathryn Ross, Thumb Electric

9 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed

15 ounces cottage cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 F. Ladle about 1 cup marinara on the bottom of the pan. Cook noodles according to package directions. Combine spinach, cottage cheese,

Parmesan, egg, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. Make sure the noodles are dry. Take 1–2 tablespoons of the cottage cheese mixture and spread evenly over noodles. Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Ladle remaining sauce over the noodles and top each one with mozzarella cheese. Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes or until cheese melts. Makes 9 rolls. To serve, ladle a little sauce on the plate and top with lasagna roll.



As an internet provider created by a member-owned electric cooperative, the only goal of HomeWorks Connect is to effectively meet the broadband needs of our rural customers. In October 2022, we sent out our first customer satisfaction survey to a randomly selected group of HomeWorks Connect customers to gauge how well we are meeting their expectations. Here are some of the highlights of the survey results:

88% of members report being “SATISFIED” or “VERY SATISFIED” with our overall performance as an electric cooperative.

90% rating for providing reliable internet service

94% rating for friendly and courteous employees

92% rating for restoring service quickly after an outage

American Customer Satisfaction Index Score


91% rating for communicating effectively with customers

The ASCI is the only national cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction in the United States. Our score puts us 20+ points above the national average for internet providers. It also ranks us significantly higher than:

Apple McDonald’s Lowe’s Wal-Mart Facebook DISH Network and many more!

Thank you to each and every customer who took the time to fill out our 2022 survey. We appreciate the insight you provided, and will work to become a better co-op because of it!

Conducted & compiled by Inside Information® Inc.

Your Board In Action

Meeting in Portland on Feb. 27, your board of directors:

• Authorized Cooperative management to submit a $30 million grant application to the Michigan HighSpeed Internet Office’s (MIHI) Realizing Opportunities with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) program to seek to allow the Co-op to build out the HomeWorks Connect fiber internet network to nonmember areas in parts of Clinton, Eaton, and Ionia counties. Also approved a capital investment of $16.2 million as a required matching contribution on behalf of the Co-op, if the grant were to be awarded to HomeWorks Connect.

• Performed an annual review of the Co-op’s association memberships, authorizing management to renew all memberships and pay the associated annual dues for 2023.

• Received a quarterly report on the Co-op’s Energy Optimization program, showing that the program saved participating HomeWorks members a total of 832,049 kWh and earned them over $107,000 in rebates in 2022.

• Authorized Co-op management to request and apply for a grant of easements and/or rights of way from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior over, across, and upon the Waw Ba Noo Allotment and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation.

People Fund Grants Over $5,000 To Support Local Organizations And Families

Meeting remotely on March 1, our People Fund board made four grants totaling $5,378, including:

• $1,700 to The Voice of Clinton County’s Children, to purchase support group supplies;

• $1,678 to an Eaton County family, to help cover utility costs and back taxes;

• $1,500 to the Mecosta Conservation District, to support their hazardous waste program; and

• $500 to an Ionia County family, to help cover utility costs.

• Discussed and accepted Cooperative Bylaw Sections 2.8-2.9, as revised.

• Received a monthly progress update on the HomeWorks Connect fiber internet business.

• Learned there were 74 new members in January.

• Acknowledged the January safety report, listing employee training as well as minor employee and public incidents involving electric, propane, or fiber optic.

• Acknowledged the January physical & cybersecurity report, noting that there were no security breaches or incidents to report for the month.

Time Set Aside for Members to Comment Before Cooperative Board Meetings

The first 15 minutes of every board meeting are available for members who wish to address the board of directors on any subject. The next meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 24 at Blanchard and 9 a.m. on May 22 at Portland. Members who wish to have items considered on the board agenda should call 517-647-7554 at least a week in advance of the meeting.

How to Apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund Grant

The Tri-County Electric People Fund provides grants to individuals and organizations in the Co-op’s service area for food, shelter, clothing, health, and other humane needs, or for programs or services that benefit a significant segment of a community.

Write to 7973 E. Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875, for an application form and grant guidelines, or visit the People Fund page at HomeWorks.org.

Note: Applications must be received by May 9 for the May meeting or by June 27 for the July meeting.


Big Blue Business


Over 13,000 years ago, tiny azure berries were located on leafy bushes and enjoyed by indigenous Americans gathering food. Back then, blueberries were referred to as “star berries” or “star fruit” because of the five-point star that is created on the blossoming end. They were eaten fresh, as well as smoked—in order to keep for the less “fruitful” winter months. The blueberry that we know and love in our pies, muffins, and parfaits has a rich history in our country as one of the few fruits indigenous to North America.

That history continues here in Michigan, which is one of the largest growers in the United States. While final numbers from 2022 are not yet available, our 20,000 bearing acres produce somewhere between 75 and

100 million pounds annually. Those pounds of fresh fruit are grown and harvested on the nearly 600 familyrun farms across the state—many of them overseen by third- or fourthgeneration growers.

“The generational legacy of blueberry farms in Michigan is pretty impressive,” said Nancy Nyquist, executive director of the Michigan Blueberry Commission. “These growers have such an amazing commitment to the land, their communities, and to this relatively close-knit industry.”

While geographically, the blueberry industry may feel cozy, the impact on our state is far-reaching. Nyquist says blueberries have about a $500 million impact on our state’s economy.

14 APRIL 2023

“A half a billion dollars generated from this tiny berry is pretty impressive,” said Nyquist. “Especially because blueberries are only being harvested for a few months out of the year in Michigan.”

While there are blueberry farms across the state, the densest areas of growth are in the southwest part of the Lower Peninsula, where the sandy soil and climate, which are moderated by the lake, produce perfect growing conditions. Of course, there is the hope that conditions will continue to be optimal and that there may be room for growth in the industry.

This is where the Michigan Blueberry Commission comes into place. It helps to leverage funding to support testing, research, and projects that can support the industry. The organization has been able to invest back into the blueberry industry to the tune of $900,000 through research grants. They assess certain challenges like a recent spotted wing drosophila influx, an insect that damages blueberry crops. They then determine how to limit the chemistry that is used to control the pests. Nyquist says the commission is starting to see the results of its efforts.

“The commission was developed to improve the economic position and competitiveness of the Michigan Blueberry industry—and we are

“ The commission was developed to improve the economic position and competitiveness of the Michigan Blueberry industry---and we are doing this by supporting research, education, and promotional programs to ensure that Michigan has the best blueberries.”

doing this by supporting research, education, and promotional programs to ensure that Michigan has the best blueberries,” she said.

While the commission is making efforts to grow the industry, Nyquist notes that blueberry lovers can help as well by reading labels in their local grocery store for Michigan-grown berries, grabbing fresh pints at the farmer’s market, or heading out with friends and family to enjoy a local U-Pick farm.

“We want our blueberry growers to succeed,” said Nyquist. “They go out every day with generations of experience and knowledge, and they put it all on the line because they have a passion and a desire to provide food for the families they serve. They’re proud of their work, and they should be.”


Attend your brief virtual meeting for the chance to win big prizes!


As you may know, our board of directors voted in 2022 to continue holding our annual district meetings virtually going forward, in response to our members who expressed via surveys that they overwhelmingly prefer the online meeting format. That means we’re back this year to host livestreamed virtual meetings in each of our districts this May. The meetings will give you and your neighbors the opportunity to learn more about the Co-op you own, all from the comfort of your own home!

This spring’s virtual events will follow the same format as the last couple of years, with lots of fresh content and exciting new highlights. Like last year, we’ll host an actual live virtual meeting in each of our seven districts, streamed to your device via the user-friendly Zoom Webinar digital platform. Members who don’t have internet accessibility will have the opportunity to call in and attend via phone.

“We’ve had members who have attended district meetings for years and members attending for the first time, alike, tell us they really enjoy the virtual format because it allows them to attend from their living room or anywhere they happen to be at the time,” says HomeWorks CEO Chris O’Neill. “And we like it at the Co-op because it still allows us to engage with our members and meet our business meeting requirements, while reaching our traditional audience plus a whole new group of members who weren’t able to attend in the past. It’s a win-win.”

How Will The Livestreamed Virtual Format Work?

In April, each HomeWorks member will receive a meeting

invitation in the mail. The invitation will include your specific district meeting details, along with a registration link to RSVP to attend the virtual event. Once you RSVP, you’ll receive follow-up information with instructions on how to log on to Zoom Webinar the evening of your meeting.

In addition to your formal mailed invitation, we’ll also be sending out email updates, as well as posting information on our HomeWorks Facebook page and on our district meeting page at HomeWorks.org.

When Will The Meetings Take Place?

Our 2023 district meeting dates will be as follows:

• District 1: Monday, May 8

• District 2: Tuesday, May 9

• District 3: Wednesday, May 10

• District 4: Thursday, May 11

• District 5: Monday, May 15

• District 6: Tuesday, May 16

• District 7: Wednesday, May 17

All meetings will take place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Don’t worry if you don’t know which district you live in; your mailed invitation will include your district along with the date and time of your event. (You can also find this information on our district meeting page at HomeWorks.org.)

What Will My Meeting Entail?

Your district meeting will be fast-paced and brief, but we’ll

16 APRIL 2023


cover a lot of exciting ground. You’ll hear from your district’s elected representative on our board of directors, receive a Co-op update encompassing all we’ve been up to over the past year, learn about the progress of our HomeWorks Connect internet business, hear about our recent community outreach, and more.

Why Should I Attend My District Meeting?

Electric cooperatives are different from investor-owned utilities because we’re owned by you, our members. That means that you have a voice and a vote in our operations, so it’s beneficial for you to stay engaged with what we are doing on a regular basis.

Plus, we’ve got a lot of important information planned to present to you, especially regarding the Midwest electric grid concerns of the past year. We’ll also take time to update you on our services beyond electricity that members ask about the most, including high-speed internet, propane, and energy efficiency rebates.

Your meeting will be brief—less than an hour—and we think you’ll walk away with several takeaways that will make you glad you attended.

Will I Be Able To Ask Questions At My Virtual Meeting?

Just like at our traditional in-person district meetings, this year’s events will feature a live question-and-answer session. You’ll simply type your question into a chat box and our meeting moderator will pass it along to our CEO for his response.

I’m Not Tech-Savvy. Will I Have Trouble Attending?

You don’t need to have any prior experience with virtual meetings to attend your 2023 district meeting. Each member will receive an invitation in the mail including very simple instructions explaining how to log on. A few clicks, and you’ll be in! A phone number will also be provided on the invitation for any member who does need assistance logging on.

What If I Don’t Have A Good Internet Connection?

Quality broadband service is not required to use Zoom Webinar; all you need is a smartphone with decent cellular service. Even a landline phone will suffice to dial in for audio only. For any member who does experience connection issues, the meetings will be recorded and posted on our website for viewing at a later date.

Will There Be Prize Giveaways?

This year’s virtual district meetings will feature prizes galore! See the sidebar to the right for information on all of the ways to win.

Watch your mailbox and email inbox for more detailed information to come, or visit our district meeting page at HomeWorks.org.

2023 District Meeting Prizes: Three Ways To Win Big, Just For Attending!

1. Early Bird Door Prizes:

As always, the first 30 members (or more, depending on the size of your district) in each district to register for (and then attend) their meeting will receive a $25 HomeWorks bill credit!

2. Traditional Prize Raffles:

Every member who attends will be entered for the chance to win raffle prizes including a Shark robot vacuum, wireless Samsung earbuds, an RTIC cooler, a Google smart clock and charging dock, local business gift cards, Meijer gift cards, gas gift cards, $50 HomeWorks bill credits, and more!

3. Interactive BINGO Game: Members tell us they really enjoy District Meeting BINGO, so we’ve brought it back for another year! Once you register to attend your virtual district meeting, you’ll receive a BINGO card via email with instructions on how to play along during your meeting. Fill out your card and turn it in for the chance to win one of three exciting grand prizes!

“I learned so much at my 2022 virtual district meeting! It really made me feel like a part of the Co-op. I’ll definitely be attending again in the future.”
Member Mike S., Virtual District Meeting Attendee




Michigan electric cooperatives believe there should be “No Barriers” for veterans with disabilities. That’s the name and idea behind CoBank’s No Barriers initiative. Michigan cooperatives are looking for qualified veterans* from our local community to participate.

No Barriers is a five-day, all-expenses-paid expedition in Colorado, designed to help veterans with disabilities transform their lives through curriculum-based experiences in challenging environments (climbing, rafting, and hiking).

If you are a disabled veteran, or you know of a disabled veteran in our community who would like to participate in the No Barriers program, please complete the form on our website: countrylines.com/nobarriers

have VA disability rating to be eligible.

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HomeWorks.org facebook.com/homeworks.org homeworks.org facebook.com/homeworks.org Report Outages: 1-800-848-9333 Attend For The Chance To Win Big Prizes! 2023 VIRT UA L DISTRI C T M E E TIN G DATE S • Distric t 1: Monday, May 8 • Distric t 2: Tuesday, May 9 • Distric t 3: Wednesday, May 10 • Distric t 4: Thursday, May 11 • Distric t 5: Monday, May 15 • Distric t 6: Tuesday, May 16 • Distric t 7: Wednesday, May 17 Make Plans To Attend Your Virtual District Meeting! Watch your mailbox for more details to come, including a registration link to attend your livestreamed vir tual meeting! (All meetings will run from 6:30-7:30 p.m.)

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