April 2023 MEC

Page 1

Big Blue Business MICHIGAN’S BLUEBERRY INDUSTRY COUNTRY LINES April 2023 MICHIGAN Midwest Energy & Communications Board Election Results and Redistricting Horses Teach Life Lessons at Reins of Life How to Identify an Online Scam

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Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark

EDITOR: Christine Dorr

GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird

RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey

COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

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.

#micoopcommunity

Instagram contest winner

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

6 NORTHERN MICHIGAN’S NATURAL TREASURE: THE PETOSKEY STONE

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

10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN

Vegetarian: Meat-free and delicious recipes.

14 BIG BLUE BUSINESS: MICHIGAN’S BLUEBERRY INDUSTRY

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
3 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER

60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031

M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER

59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079

M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Tecumseh Solutions Center 5050 South Occidental Hwy., Tecumseh, MI 49286

M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

CONTACT US

Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989 teammidwest.com

Email: info@teammidwest.com

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233

Clarence.Barth@teammidwest.com

Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590

Ben.Russell@teammidwest.com

Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443

Ron.Armstrong@teammidwest.com

John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816

John.Green@teammidwest.com

Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007

Dan.Bodette@teammidwest.com

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164

Gerry.Bundle@teammidwest.com

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088

erika.escue-cadieux@teammidwest.com

Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762

Fred.Turk@teammidwest.com

Jim Wiseley, Bloomingdale 269-760-4619

Jim.Wiseley@teammidwest.com

PRESIDENT/CEO: Robert Hance DIRECTOR, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING: Amy Pales

COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: Grant Zamora

Midwest Energy & Communications is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

can’t believe it’s been a year since Norsk Hydro broke ground on the first development in our Southwest Michigan Advanced Research & Technology (SMART) Park. Hydro’s $150 million aluminum recycling plant is expected to bring 70 new jobs and economic opportunities to Cass County. It’s exciting to watch the progress as the SMART Park transforms from a field of dreams into reality.

Hydro’s facility is taking shape, and we’ve started working on infrastructure. Construction has begun on the commercial entrance, which will connect to the park’s industrial road that will run between Follett and Decatur. Utilities are being laid, rail work is will commence this summer, and all infrastructure will be in place for Hydro to open this fall.

While we move forward with bringing this much-needed economic boon to Cass, we aren’t doing it without consideration for the way of life here that so many treasure. We are taking steps to preserve that:

• The Michigan Department of Transportation will add turn and deceleration lanes on M-60 to mitigate traffic at the commercial entrance.

• We are requiring all businesses to be dark-sky compliant. This means that all outdoor lighting must only be on when needed, only light the area that needs it, be no brighter than necessary, minimize blue light emissions, and eliminate upward-directed light.

• Our thorough development covenants are in place to support our vision of creating vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities.

The ultimate goal of the SMART Park is to create a space that Cass can be proud of, a place that offers stable employment opportunities and provides economic benefits for years to come. It’s what Ed Lowe wanted, and it’s what Cass needs.

I’ll continue to keep you updated on progress as new developments happen.

VAN BUREN KALAMAZOO CASS ST JOSEPH LENAWEE MONROE
/teammidwest
I SMART Park Construction
Along
teammidwest.com
is Coming
Nicely
4 APRIL 2023
Robert Hance, President/CEO

Board Election Results 2023

One of the guiding principles of cooperatives is democratic control. Midwest Energy & Communications is governed by a nine-member board of directors responsible for establishing corporate policy and strategic direction, hiring and evaluating the CEO, monitoring and evaluating organizational performance, and representing cooperative customers. Directors serve three-year terms and are elected by and represent customers living in their districts.

In 2023, Districts 1, 2, and 5 were up for election for threeyear terms. All three board members representing those districts ran unopposed for reelection.

Fred Turk of Decatur represents District 1 in MEC’s service territory. District 1 includes customers in Decatur, Hamilton, Penn, Porter (Van Buren County), Marcellus, and Volinia townships.

District 2 is represented by Jim Wiseley of Bloomingdale, and includes customers in Almena, Arlington, Bainbridge, Bangor, Bloomingdale, Coloma, Covert, Hartford, Keeler, Lawrence, Paw Paw, Pipestone, Silver Creek, Watervliet, and Waverly townships.

District 5 is represented by John Green of Dowagiac, and includes customers in Howard, LaGrange, Milton, Pokagon, and Wayne townships.

In 2024, Districts 3, 4, and 8 will be up for election. District 3 is represented by Ron Armstrong of Lawton and includes Antwerp, Oshtemo, Portage, Prairie Ronde, and Texas townships. District 4 is represented by Clarence “Topper” Barth of Three Rivers and includes Brady, Fabius, Flowerfield, Leonidas, Lockport, Mendon, Newberg, Park, Schoolcraft, and Wakeshma townships. District 8 is represented by Erika Escue-Cadieux of Onsted and includes Cambridge, Clinton, Franklin, Raisin, Ridgeway, Tecumseh, and Woodstock townships.

For more information about serving on the board of directors, please call us at 800-492-5989. We will share election information in the September issue of Michigan Country Lines.

Redistricting Notice

From time to time, our board of directors reviews the number of customers in each district to ensure that each board member represents the same number of electric customers. After a recent review of the districts, the board determined some changes needed to be made to ensure each director supports around the same number of electric customers.

Almena Township will move from District 3 (Ron Armstrong) to District 2 (Jim Wiseley).

Adrian Township, Rollin Township, and Rome Township will move from District 8 (Erika Escue-Cadieux) to District 9 (Dan Bodette).

Fred Turk, District 1 Jim Wiseley, District 2 John Green, District 5 LENAWEE MONROE VAN BUREN
CASS 5 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
KALAMAZOO ST JOSEPH

NORTHERN MICHIGAN’S NATURAL TREASURE The

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.

SAFETY FIRST

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.

PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE

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.

HOW MANY IS TOO MANY?

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.

WHERE TO BEGIN?

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.

WHAT NEXT?

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.

7 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

Moving Your Meter Base: Do It Right or Do It Twice

Need to move your meter base? There’s only one right way to do it: contact MEC.

While it can be tempting to try it yourself, this will only create problems for you down the line. We highly recommend hiring an electrician. Here’s why.

1: You Don’t Own the Meter

The guide below shows you the equipment you are responsible for on your home.

Note that while you’re responsible for the meter base, you don’t own the meter itself. That’s because, in order to move the meter, we have to shut off its power first. Not doing so puts you and others at incredible risk of shock. For this reason, it’s illegal and unsafe for someone other than MEC to move the meter.

2: You Risk Committing Theft

Tampering with our meter or service line entrance without informing us is not only unsafe, but can be considered theft, and you may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties as outlined in our bylaws at teammidwest.com/bylaws.

3: It Requires an Inspection

All changes to your electric service require inspection by the designated electrical inspector for your area to ensure your service is safe and up to code. This usually requires a permit. Contact your township or city office for specific info.

Do It Right or Do It Twice

When someone is found to have moved their meter base without first contacting MEC, we have to start the process over. That means they wasted their time doing it without notifying us, plus they’re responsible for any related civil or criminal consequences.

Trust us—it’s not just easier to make the call; it’s also the law.

Permanent Meter Bases Available for Free

Permanent 200-amp meter bases for new services and upgrades can be picked up (at no cost) at our offices. You or your electrician need to supply the electrical entrance either on the home or on a temporary service pole. We do not supply or sell meter bases for temporary services. Those should be supplied by the electrician or purchased at a home improvement store.

To begin your project, visit us at teammidwest.com/changeservice. There is a non-refundable $100 engineering fee for assessing your project. For current pricing on overhead and underground construction, please meet with an engineer. Overhead and underground specification sheets are available upon request from your engineer.

Fees are payable upon receipt of invoice. There is no fee for a same-day disconnect and reconnect as long as we receive 24 hours’ notice.

Please call us at 800-492-5989 if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to assisting you with your energy needs.

8 APRIL 2023

C Reins of Life

an a horse teach you life skills? For Reins of Life riders, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Reins of Life, Inc. is a nonprofit based in South Bend and Michigan City, Indiana. The organization provides therapeutic horseback riding sessions to children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities.

As of 2023, more than 500 riders from 11 counties in Michigan and Indiana participate in Reins of Life’s programs. The organization needs lots of money and equipment to meet that kind of demand—so when it came time to purchase a new, reliable horse trailer, they turned to MEC’s Building Vibrant Communities grant program. Thanks in part to one of our community grants, funded by partnership dollars through our power supplier Wolverine Power Cooperative, Reins of Life was able to buy a new trailer that would help minimize interruptions to therapy sessions and guarantee timely transport to the veterinarian in case of emergencies.

Horses are the basis for all the important work that happens at Reins of Life. Riders with physical disabilities get to strengthen muscles they wouldn’t otherwise use, while those in need of behavioral support are able to practice skills like empathy, self-confidence, and communication. A sizable team of volunteers, some of whom are program alumni themselves, ensures that each rider gets the attention they deserve. Riders are encouraged to participate actively in caring for the horse they choose—for example, as part of her treatment, one rider developed a new, more efficient feeding process that the organization uses to this day. Even the most mundane aspects of caretaking are treated as a teaching opportunity, with saddles organized by a system that helps riders work on their color identification and counting skills.

Currently, the organization is spearheaded by Dorota Janik, Ph.D. Initially just a volunteer, Janik quickly realized she had stumbled onto something special.

“I was working with a girl who was nonverbal,” Janik said. “She would give her horse one tap for ‘walk’ and two taps for ‘whoa.’ On her last week, she was getting ready to ride, and she said out loud, ‘Walk.’ I was crying; her parents were crying when we told them.”

While demand for Reins of Life’s programs continues to grow, Janik says her focus for the immediate future is to continue attracting volunteers while making smaller, necessary upgrades like the horse trailer along the way.

To learn more about Reins of Life, including how to get involved, visit reinsoflife.org or find them on Facebook at Reins of Life—Therapeutic horseback riding, Twitter at @reinsoflifeinc, or Instagram at @reins_of_life_inc

BUILDING VIBRANT COMMUNITIES
9 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
Reins of Life’s classroom is equipped for many different needs and learning styles.

VEGETARIAN

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

WINNING RECIPE!

WHITE BEAN GNOCCHI SKILLET

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
Photos
by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes submitted by MCL readers and tested by recipe editor Christin McKamey
10 APRIL 2023

BENT LENTIL SOUP

(“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!

VEGETARIAN BLACK BEAN CHILI

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.

SPINACH LASAGNA ROLLS

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.

11 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

Final Round Winners

In January, we awarded local nonprofits serving customers in our electric service territory with Building Vibrant Communities (BVC) grants. The program was made possible by partnership dollars from our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative.

• Adrian Diversity Parade and Street Fair Fund: Costs are increasing to close the streets for this annual event celebrating Adrian’s people and cultural history. A BVC grant will help to cover these costs so the celebration can continue as planned.

• Rebicycle Lenawee—Electric Bicycle Project: Funds for this project by the Adrian-based Rebicycle Lenawee will help the organization provide bikes, equipment, and repairs to residents facing financial difficulties.

• United Way of Southwest Michigan—Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library: The United Way of Southwest Michigan brings this service to Cass County families. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides children under 5 with a free, age-appropriate book each month, preparing them to enter kindergarten. While the program costs nothing for families, a BVC grant will help United Way continue to offer the service to local families.

• Outside of Sunday Ministries—Food Pantry Project: Funds will help Outside of Sunday Ministries provide food to Cass County and St. Joseph County families in need once per month.

Though we've enjoyed the opportunity to fund projects such as these, in order to focus our support in other ways, we are suspending our Building Vibrant Communities program until further notice.

Thank you for participating in Building Vibrant Communities! We’ve loved helping your projects and programs come to life.

How Do I Sign Up for Outage Notifications?

You can sign up to get notified about electric outages via SmartHub.

We’ll text or email you about outages and restoration updates when we have more than 1,000 people out. Follow the steps below to register.

Via Web Browser

1. Log into your account on our website.

2. Register the email or phone number that will receive texts.

1. Go to Settings > Contact Methods.

2. Click “Add Email” or “Add Phone,” and write required information. For phones, select “Yes” under “Receive Text Message.”

3. Agree to the Terms & Conditions.

4. Click "Save." Enter the verification code you receive at your contact and click "Save" again.

3. Sign up for notifications.

1. Go to Settings > Manage Notifications > Service.

2. Find the drop-down menus next to “Power Outage,” “Power Outage Restored,” and “Power Outage Update.”

3. Choose your phone number and/or email address from the drop-down menus. Click “Save.”

Via SmartHub Mobile App

1. Log into your SmartHub Mobile App, free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

2. Register the email or phone number that will receive texts.

1. Go to Settings > Contact Methods.

2. Under “Add New Contact Method,” choose “Phone” or “Email.”

3. Write required information. If adding a phone, make sure the “Receive Text Messages” toggle is ON.

4. Agree to the Text Terms & Conditions.

5. Enter the verification code you receive at your contact and choose “Verify.”

3. Sign up for notifications.

1. Go to Settings > Manage Notifications > Service.

2. Find the “Power Outage,” “Power Outage Restored,” and “Power Outage Update” boxes.

3. On all three, tap “Edit Contacts” and select the phone number and/or email address you want to receive alerts at. Click “Save Settings.”

BUILDING
VIBRANT COMMUNITIES
12 APRIL 2023

How to Ruin a Scammer’s Day

What would you do if a caller said they were from your bank and told you there was a problem with your account? If they asked to verify your information so you could continue using your debit card, would you give it to them?

Sudden, high-pressure situations can catch you off guard. Scammers know this and use it to take advantage of people. Here’s how experts say you can stop them in their tracks.

Be Skeptical

A classic setup for a scam involves calling you out of the blue, posing as a representative of a trusted organization, and pressuring you to pay or give out personal information without hanging up.

Resist the pressure to act immediately, and instead exercise skepticism. Ask yourself these questions:

• Were you expecting this organization to reach out to you?

• Is the caller giving you time to make a decision?

• Are they asking you to pay via gift card, money transfer service, cryptocurrency, or other unusual payment methods?

The Michigan Attorney General says legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text demanding your payment information; they will give you time to decide. They might be trying to scam you if they insist you pay in a way you normally wouldn’t.

Verify Their Story

This applies to more than just phone calls. The Michigan Department of Attorney General says you should always double-check the information someone gives you before taking action.

If you receive an email or text that says it’s from a company you do business with, and it’s asking you to pay, double-check the email address or phone number that it comes from. Do you recognize it? And if not, does it make sense?

Legitimate organizations have their contact information posted publicly. Visit the website of the business that’s supposedly trying to get ahold of you and try to find the email address or phone number that reached out to you. If you don’t see it, it never hurts to contact the organization via the information on their website and ask if they’re trying to reach you.

Be wary of suspicious email attachments—for example, file types

you don’t recognize or attachments you didn’t ask for. These files often contain computer viruses that can steal your personal information.

Make a Report

Reporting scams helps keep others from falling victim and can provide you with a way to take legal action. To file a complaint with the Michigan Department of Attorney General, visit michigan.gov/ag/complaints.

Scammers Pretending to Be MEC

MEC representatives cannot take payments over the phone, and they will not call you to ask for money. If your bill is past due, you will receive an automated phone call and a paper and email notification.

The email address that we use for billing communication and e-bills is teammidwest@smarthub.coop

Look for the MEC logo on our employees’ and contractors’ trucks. If you’re concerned about someone on your property, call 911.

13 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

Big Blue Business

MICHIGAN’S BLUEBERRY INDUSTRY

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.”

15 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

Am I Getting Ads for Things I Google?

You’re not going crazy. Your phone really did serve you an ad based on your search.

This is ad personalization. It's intended to show you ads of things you're interested in or looking for. And frankly, it’s how sites like Google and Facebook stay free to users. They survive on advertising revenue.

It’s not possible to completely stop it, but you can set some boundaries. The most popular browsers (Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox) as well as other, less popular ones all offer various privacy settings. The Federal Trade Commission recommends going into your browser’s help center (usually found next to or near the settings menu) to learn what you can change and how.

Be aware, however, that the measures you take on one device usually don’t carry over to your other devices. You may even need to adjust multiple browsers (for example, changing your privacy settings on Google Chrome won’t stop companies from tracking you through Firefox).

Your smartphones, laptops, and other internetcapable devices have their own system-wide privacy options in their Settings menus. Many devices include a short explanation next to each setting to tell you what it does. For assistance, look in the manual that came with your device or find the manufacturer’s help center online. Again, changing a setting on one device won’t change it on another.

In addition to privacy settings, the FTC says you should consider the information you volunteer online. Remember that your likes, comments, and shares on social media all provide information about your interests—whether you’re using your real name or a handle. If you spend lots of time on Facebook or similar platforms, you may want to consider cutting back.

Finally, many websites offer an option to create an account using your Facebook or Google login. Before you connect an account on one website to an account on another, the FTC says you should consider whether you want those two websites feeding your data to each other.

Want some extra peace of mind? While Amazon knowing your Google searches doesn’t threaten your network security, hackers do. The free CommandIQ app comes with automatic hacker blocking that notifies you when a threat or intrusion is detected. If you have MEC fiber internet, it’s available now through your phone’s app store.

You need a GigaSpire router to take advantage of CommandIQ’s automatic hacker blocking. If you don’t have one, we’ll send you one for free. Visit teammidwest.com/which-router to see which router you have.

16 APRIL 2023

HOW ELECTRICITY REACHES YOU

In the March 2023 issue of Country Lines, we talked about the power grid on Page 9. This graphic provides more visuals on how the process works.

Country Lines can be viewed online at countrylines.com.

Generation

Electricity is produced at a generation facility either by renewable or non-renewable energy sources. MEC relies on Wolverine Power Cooperative, a Michigan-based generation and transmission company, to make the electricity that we deliver to you.

Transmission Lines and Substations

After the electricity is generated, it travels through high-voltage transmission power lines to electric substations, where the voltage is lowered. MEC does not own most of the transmission lines we use. Outages on these transmission lines can ultimately cause outages for you, and unfortunately, when this happens, we don't have control over restoration.

Distribution Lines

Once the voltage is lowered, the electricity travels over distribution power lines, owned by MEC, which ultimately deliver the electricity to our homes and businesses.

Two of the substations within our territory are owned and managed by Wolverine. We own and manage the rest.

17 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

NO BARRIERS 2023

ADVENTURES FOR RURAL VETERANS—APPLY BY MAY 19

IN-PERSON EXPEDITIONS WILL TAKE PLACE IN JULY AND AUGUST

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.
*Must

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