June 2023 HomeWorks

Page 1

THE MICHIGAN DAIRY INDUSTRY'S COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY 2023 Director Election Results Learn About Our Solar Energy Programs HomeWorks Shines In 2022 MPSC Standards Report COUNTRY LINES June 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.

/michigancountrylines /michigancountrylines countrylines.com

#micoopcommunity Instagram contest winner

It's beginning to look like spring in Michigan! @sarah-smith.180 (Sarah Smith)

6 PLAN YOUR NEXT VACATION WITH THE GREAT LAKES FISHERMAN'S DIGEST This TV show/website/trade show exhibit is a one-stop shop for those who want to go where the fish are biting.

10 MY CO-OP KITCHEN Polish: The flavors of Poland straight to your kitchen.


The unique relationship between Michigan farmers and their cows makes our state the sixth-highest milk producer in the country.

18 GUEST COLUMN Spring Gardening: The rich tradition of her family's garden preparation is one of this GLE member's fondest memories.

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. 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 June
No. 6




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

989-506-1639 • eoplinger@homeworks.org

District 7 — Shirley Sprague

15563 45th Ave., Barryton, MI 49305

989-382-7535 • ssprague@homeworks.org

Editor: Charly Markwart, CCC

Record Attendance, Engagement At 2023 District Meetings

One of my favorite things about leading a rural electric cooperative owned by the members we serve is the opportunity to engage directly with the folks at the end of our electric lines. Perhaps at no time is this grassroots engagement more evident than at our annual district membership meetings each May.

I’m excited to report that you showed up to our 2023 virtual district meetings in record numbers. Over 750 members logged onto their meeting last month to participate in the democracy of their Co-op and receive an update on everything we’ve been up to over the past year. And you didn’t just show up; you were engaged! The abundance and insightfulness of your questions during our Q&A sessions this year told me two things: 1) You are truly invested in your Cooperative, and 2) there are a few common topics that many of our members are very interested in learning more about, including:

• Solar Energy: At every district meeting this year, members wanted to hear more about their solar energy options. We offer three solar programs for members, and since June is National Solar Energy Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to highlight them in the feature you’ll find on the following page.

• Electric Grid Reliability: This has been a hot topic in the Michigan media of late, and many of our members are rightfully concerned about the potential for the state to experience rolling blackouts this summer and beyond. During district meetings this year, we shared a very informational discussion that I had about this topic with Zach Anderson, chief operating officer of our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative. You can check out the video at HomeWorks.org/powersupply.

• Costs and Rates: During district meetings this year, I discussed the fact that our cost to serve you has gone up exponentially over the past few years, and that as a result, it will likely be necessary for us to ask your board to consider a rate increase at our July board meeting, which, if approved, would take effect in October. As a not-for-profit cooperative, you can be sure we will keep any increase as minimal as possible to adequately cover our cost of service, and we’ll provide more information before any rate adjustment takes effect. You can learn more about your electric bill and our rates at HomeWorks.org/rates.

• HomeWorks Connect: Of course, our mission to deliver reliable fiber internet access to every HomeWorks member was an exciting point of discussion at our meetings again this year. We finished up mainline construction of our fiber internet network in May, and now we’re working to complete splicing in the remaining areas of our northern service territory so that we’re able to open up contracts in all zones as soon as possible. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can learn more at Join.HomeWorksConnect.org.

Thank you to every member who attended their 2023 district meeting! If you missed your meeting, you can watch a recording of it at HomeWorks.org/districtmeetings.

4 JUNE 2023

Building A Brighter Future, Together

Did you know that HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative and other Michigan electric cooperatives powered by Wolverine Power Cooperative lead the state in providing members with electricity that is more than 60% carbon free and 20% renewable? Those percentages continue to grow, too, because we are committed to finding innovative ways to source energy that is not only renewable, but also reliable and cost efficient for you. One way we achieve that is through solar energy. Since June is National Solar Energy Month, we thought we’d highlight the three solar programs we offer to help our members support bringing more renewable energy to their communities and save money at the same time.

Distributed Renewable Energy Community Solar Buy-All/Sell-All

Think of community solar as a way to have the benefits of rooftop solar, without the cost and hassle of installing solar panels on your roof.

How Does It Work?

You purchase a panel subscription in our Spartan Solar community solar array, which entitles you to a share of the energy produced by the array. We continue delivering your energy, and you’ll receive solar credits on your bill each month. There is nothing to install or maintain on your end, and you can cancel at any time.

Offset your energy usage with your own electric generation at your home. Use what you need; sell what you don’t.

How Does It Work?

After you complete the installation of a renewable energy generation system, we’ll install a special twoway meter that records how much electricity you use and how much you are putting on the grid. Every kWh you produce and use at your home is a kWh you don’t have to buy from us. If you use more than you produce, you’ll be billed for your usage. If you produce more than you use, a credit will be placed on your bill for the excess.

Become a generator. Install a solar or wind system on your property and sell all the energy it produces to us.

How Does It Work?

You install an energy generation system on your property. We’ll install a meter on your system that tracks all the energy you produce. We then buy all of the energy the system generates. With this option, you are a true energy supplier to your Co-op. If your goal is to generate more energy than your annual usage, buy-all/sell-all is the way to go.

Interested in learning more about any of these programs? Call us today at 800-562-8232 and we’ll put you in touch with our energy advisor, Nick Simon. 5 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

Plan Your Next Vacation With

The Great Lakes Fisherman's Digest

or the many Michiganders who live and breathe for fishing, the Great Lakes Fisherman’s Digest could very well be the only resource you need. The Digest was started in 2015 by champion angler John Bergsma, who competed in tournaments for nearly 20 years. His goal for the digest was three-fold: to provide guidance to viewers/readers on where and when to fish, give instruction on how to catch the fish, and introduce people who love the outdoors to potential new vacation destinations. “I ultimately want to help people have a better experience on the water,” John said.

The Great Lakes Fisherman’s Digest is comprised of a television program of the same name, a website, and a portable display that John or his cohorts transport between several sporting trade shows. The TV show broadcasts on a weekly basis, rotating between Midwest regions on major market channels. John himself is in

many of the shows, but his partners also serve as hosts. Each show features a fishing segment and a spotlight on the town. “Our idea is simple: Identify the best locations for fi shing the Great Lakes and then highlight not only the fi shing, but the host community as well,” he said.

The website, in addition to airing the TV show, features fi shing reports and more detailed tourist information such as lodging, dining, recreation, shopping, and maps. The 60x10-foot travel center takes brochures, travel guides, and photos from each partner locale to the trade shows so that people can collect information from all destinations in one place.

The Digest also has an active Facebook page, with posts that are updated daily. “People visit our website or Facebook page to determine where they want to fi sh that same weekend—wherever the fi sh are biting drives people to destinations,”

John said. “They rely on our advice because of my tournament experience and because I only work with people I know and trust.” His Digest partners include bait store employees, fi shing guides, and charter captains—all local to the corresponding area.

John, who said he fishes about 120 to 140 times a year, tapes his excursions on most occasions, but some trips are just for pleasure. He is the rare man whose job also happens to be his passion. “The stress of life and anything that’s wrong just goes away on the water. You get an ever-changing canvas—from sunrise to sunset, clouds moving through, wind or no wind, birds on the water—you can just forget about everything,” he said.

John chose the Great Lakes region as the backdrop for his passion for a simple reason—“It’s the greatest single fishing destination in the world,” he said. “There are so many different species and types of fish

“Our idea is simple: Identify the best locations for fishing the Great Lakes and then highlight not only the fishing, but the host community as well.”

6 JUNE 2023

you can catch here, and because of ice fishing, you can fish every single day of the year. And in my opinion, it offers the three most desirable fish to eat: salmon, walleye, and perch.” The areas he advertises are generally chosen for two reasons—they have an abundance of fish and they’re some of his favorite spots. John says some of the best places for fishing are the most underutilized, so you won’t necessarily see hot vacation havens on the Digest. “I recommend that people pick a destination you haven’t gone to and spend three or four days there," he said. "Try new lakes and new adventure. Instead of saying ‘let’s just

drive an hour and go to the tourist trap we always go to,’ try somewhere you haven’t been. You’ll have a great time exploring.” John also recommends that people go on a charter fishing trip. “It’s a great deal for five or six hours on the water. You get to have a fun family excursion, and often, they’ll cook for you at the end whatever you catch. I think people who try it once will get hooked,” he said (no pun intended).

Watch the “Fisherman’s Digest” TV show.

Available locally and nationally on these networks and times (EST).

CBS Sports Network (Sat., 7:30 a.m., Jan.–June)

Pursuit Outdoor Channel (Sat., 4:30 p.m., Jan.–June & Wed., 6:30 p.m., Oct.–Dec.)

As for John, he’ll continue exploring as long as he’s healthy. “I can’t imagine a day that going out and exposing great destinations and fi shing will not be fun,” he said. For

WILD TV Canada (3 weekly airings. Prime/Fringe Prime/Off Peak, Jan.–June )

AT&T Sportsnet Southwest (Weekends between 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Jan.–June)

Comcast Sportsnet Chicago Plus (Mon., 12:30 p.m., Jan.–Dec.)

WKBD-50 Detroit & All Suburbs (Sat., 7:30 a.m.)

WBSF-46 Midland/Saginaw/ Bay City (Sun., 6 a.m.)

WOTV-4 Grand Rapids/ Kalamazoo (Sat., 11 a.m.)

Fox-32 Traverse City Northern Lower (Sun., 7:30 a.m.)

WBKB-11 NE Lower Alpena (CBS 11, Sat., 12 a.m.) (NBC-11, Sun., 5:30 a.m.) (Fox-11, Sat., 6 a.m.)

Fox-6 Marquette & U.P. (Sun., 8:30 a.m.)

Also available on YouTube, Facebook, Sling-Live, Hulu-Live, Pluto, Pursuit UP, and fishermansdigest.com

information /fi

Electric Vehicles Come With Several Perks

Americans bought more electric vehicles (EVs) last year than ever before—U.S. EV sales went up 65% in 2022 compared to 2021 (Kelley Blue Book). There is an ever-growing number of reasons why some drivers are making the switch from gas-powered to electric. They include:

Financial incentives

HomeWorks’ Energy Optimization program currently offers a $1,500 incentive for the purchase of a new EV, a $750 incentive for the purchase of a used EV, and a $600 incentive for the purchase of an ENERGY STAR-certified Level 2 charger. Federal tax credits may be available for additional savings—visit fueleconomy.gov for the most up-to-date information.

Cheaper to operate

Charging an EV is cheaper than filling up an equivalent gasoline- or diesel-powered car, especially with HomeWorks’ competitive rates. Plus, EVs lack conventional engines and have far fewer moving parts and fluids to change (no more oil changes!), so they typically require less maintenance than conventional vehicles.

Stable fuel costs

Over the past 10 years, average gasoline prices in most of the United States have fluctuated from below $1.50 to more than $5 a gallon. In contrast, electricity prices are much more stable, helping to keep fuel costs predictable and easier to fit into your budget.

Environmentally friendly

EVs have no exhaust coming from a tailpipe. And with HomeWorks’ increasing carbon-free and renewable energy portfolios, charging an EV is cleaner than ever!

Find incentive details, additional EV resources, and more ways to save through HomeWorks’ Energy Optimization program at HomeWorks.org/EO


Save time, energy, and money when you make your next car purchase an electric vehicle.

Cheaper to operate

Stable fuel costs

Environmentally friendly

No more gas stations

Better performance

The latest technology


New EV $1,500

Pre-Owned EV $750

Level 2

Charging Station $600

VISIT: homeworks.org /eo
CALL: 877-296-4319

Enter to win a $100 energy bill credit!

Submit Your “Porches” Photos By June 20!

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 June theme is Porches. Photos can be submitted through June 20 to be featured in our September issue.

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. Tim Judge baling hay and giving his dad a smile in heaven. Ronda Judge, Shepherd

2. Josh & Sadie during fall harvest. Megan Winters, Mulliken

3. Fly on a daisy. Machelle Rose-Evans, Stanton


. Harold says, “What?” Jan Marsh, Mulliken

5. Everyone needs a hug. Breann Bonga, Stanton

6. Our son Cooper harvesting his first watermelon from his very own garden. Mandie Hoppes, Portland

7. Some random Tuesday. Emma Storey, Remus

8. The Bayless family starting seeds for the garden during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Casie Bayless, Portland

9. Happy chicks! Stephanie Erickson, Lake Odessa

SNAP SHOT Backyard Farming 3 9 1 5 8 2 4 7 6


The flavors of Poland straight to your kitchen.



Dave Smith, Presque Isle

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil + 2 teaspoons if needed

1 pound smoked kielbasa, diced

2 cups chopped onions

1½ tablespoons minced garlic

1 green or red bell pepper, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 cup diced potatoes

1 pound white navy beans (soaked overnight in brine, then rinsed, or use precooked for faster cooking)

8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ tablespoon dried 5–8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (depending on desired thickness of the soup)

3 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less depending on desired “hotness”)

1 squirt yellow mustard

• pinch ground cinnamon

• Additional ingredients depending on individual tastes: red wine, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, cilantro, rosemary, allspice, balsamic vinegar

Add oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add sausage, stirring occasionally. Remove when browned. Add onion and additional 2 teaspoons oil (if needed) and cook until soft. Add the garlic, green/red pepper, celery, and potatoes, and continue to cook until soft. Add the sausage back into the pan. Stir in the beans. Add the mushrooms, bay leaves, thyme, stock, water, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper (if using), yellow mustard, and cinnamon. Add any remaining spices, wine, and sauces. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Cooking times will vary from 1½ to 3 hours, depending on what type of beans are used. Cook until beans are soft. Serve with hard, crusty bread or cornbread.

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

Recipe Contest

Win a $100 energy bill credit!

Chocolate Desserts 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

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


Jennie Lewandowski, Presque Isle

1 (16-ounce) box shell noodles, cooked according to package directions

1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix

2 cans mushroom soup

1 stick butter

1 pound bacon, cut & fried (or sub with Polish sausage or kielbasa)

1 (32-ounce) bag/jar sauerkraut, drained

3 tablespoons milk

In a large pot, mix everything together and heat through. Or add to a crockpot until heated through (on high for 4 hours). Can also add sautéed onion and fresh mushrooms to add more flavor.


Jennifer Sylvester, Great Lakes Energy

4 slices bacon, cut into pieces

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

8 cups water

1 pound yellow or green split peas

1 meaty ham bone

1 bay leaf

1 cup cooked ham, chopped

1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into ½ -inch pieces

• salt & pepper, to taste

Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat. Once cooked, add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots. Cook until veggies soften, about 2–4 minutes. Add water, peas, ham bone, and bay leaf to vegetables. Bring to boil; skim foam from top of pot. Add chopped ham and rutabaga. Return to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for 1 hour. Remove ham bone and let cool about 5 minutes or until able to handle. Remove bay leaf. Pull any remaining meat from bone and add back to pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Judy Dembny, Great Lakes Energy


Deanne Quain, Great Lakes Energy

2 large heads cabbage


2 cups flour

2 eggs

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup water

Mound flour on flat surface. Make a hole in the center, volcano-like. Drop eggs into hole and cut into flour with a knife. Add salt and water; knead until firm. Let rest 10 minutes, covered with a towel in a warm bowl. Divide dough into halves and roll thin. Cut circles with a large biscuit cutter. Place a small spoonful of filling (choice of cheese or meat, as listed to the right) a little to one side on each round of dough. Moisten edge with water, fold over, and press edges together firmly. Be sure they are sealed. Drop into boiling, salted water. Cook gently, 3–5 minutes. Lift out carefully with slotted spoon.

Cheese Filling:

1 cup cottage cheese

1 teaspoon melted butter

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons currants

1 egg, beaten

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Cream together cottage cheese and butter; add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Meat Filling:

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup mushrooms, chopped

½ cup cooked beef

• salt & pepper

2 tablespoons sour cream

Fry onion in butter until transparent; add mushrooms and meat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in sour cream; cool before filling.

8 ounces long grain rice, cooked according to package directions, drained

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork or veal

1 egg

½ cup melted butter, divided

1 (10½ -ounce) can beef broth

1 (16-ounce) can tomatoes, undrained, cut up

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (10¾ -ounce) can condensed tomato soup, if desired

• salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 F. Parboil cabbage and drain. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, onion, ground beef, ground pork/veal, and egg. Pour ¼ cup butter over mixture. Mix well with your hands. Core cabbages, separate leaves, and cut thick ribs out of each leaf. Put a large tablespoonful of meat mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf. Fold in sides, roll up, and place seam-side down in large roasting pan. In large bowl, combine beef broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato soup, and remaining ¼ cup butter. Pour over rolls. Bake for 1½ hours. Baste with tomato mixture occasionally during baking.


Notice to Members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

A Special Member Meeting is set for June 26, 9 a.m., at the Cooperative’s Portland office

The board of directors will consider the item(s) listed below at its meeting on June 26, 2023, to be held at the Cooperative office at 7973 E. Grand River Avenue, Portland, Michigan. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. and is open to all members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative.

The session will begin with an opportunity for members to provide direct input to the board of directors, without filing a formal request under the Cooperative policy. Interested members are asked to come to the lobby by 9 a.m. and request to speak to the board; staff will direct members to the meeting room. Time constraints on each member’s comments will be at the discretion of the board president, but members are asked to keep comments to less than five minutes.

The following item(s) will be discussed and considered:

1. Participation in the State of Michigan’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program at the cost of a surcharge, to be determined by the state, on each residential customer’s monthly energy bill.

Notice of changes or additions to the Cooperative’s rates or service rules shall be sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines at least 30 days prior to their effective date.

Participation: Any interested member may attend and participate. The location of the board meeting site is accessible, including accessible parking. Persons needing any accommodation to participate should contact HomeWorks Tri-County Electric at 800-562-8232 at least a week in advance of the meeting to request mobility, visual, hearing, or other assistance. Comments may also be made prior to the meeting date by calling CEO Chris O’Neill at 517-647-1284, or contacting him by email at coneill@homeworks.org. Notice of the board meeting shall be sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines.

Attended By 750+ Member Households Excellent Engagement & Participation 150+ Prizes Given Away Didn’t get to attend? We’ve got you covered! Watch a recording of your meeting at HomeWorks.org. This was the most professional vir tual meeting I’ve ever attended! I am a rst-time district meeting attendee this year, and I learned so much about my Co - op. Thank you, HomeWorks! “ ” - Hannah T., HomeWorks Member THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING OUR 2023 VIRTUAL DISTRICT MEETINGS!

Borton, Sopocy, Stebbins Elected To HomeWorks Board

The results of HomeWorks’ 2023 director elections in districts 2, 4, and 5 are in, and thanks in part to a convenient electronic voting option implemented this year, a record number of members made their voice heard by casting a vote.

In District 2, which includes 2,873 members residing in Barry and Ionia counties, Jim Stebbins (incumbent) of Clarksville retained his seat in an uncontested election, receiving 100% of the 174 votes cast (6% of the district’s membership). Online ballots accounted for 114 of the votes submitted, while 60 votes were cast via mail-in ballots. Stebbins has been on the board since 2017. He also represents HomeWorks on the board of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association.

In District 4, which includes 3,445 members residing in Montcalm County, except Boomer, Crystal, and Evergreen townships, challenger Jake Borton of Vestaburg defeated incumbent director Kimber Hansen of Edmore in a tiebreaker, which was determined by the agreed upon method of drawing a name from a hat. A total of 358 ballots were cast (10.4% of the district’s membership) in the election, with Borton and Hansen each receiving 179 votes. Online ballots accounted for 216 of the votes cast, while 146 votes were submitted via mail-in ballot.

In an uncontested special election in District 5, which includes 1,037 members in Gratiot and Saginaw counties, as well as Bingham, Duplain, and Greenbush townships in Clinton County, and Boomer, Crystal, and Evergreen townships in Montcalm County, interim director Theresa

Your Board In Action

Meeting in Blanchard on April 24, your board of

Reviewed HomeWorks’ 2022 Michigan Public Service Commission Standards Report, showing that the Co-op met and exceeded all performance standards measured

Authorized the use of 5.78% as the weighted average cost of capital to discount estate capital credit retirements made in 2023, based on methodology developed by a joint National Rural Electric Cooperative AssociationCooperative Finance Corporation task force.

• Reviewed a quarterly report on the HomeWorks Energy Optimization program, indicating that participating members had saved over 350,000 kWh and earned over $50,000 in energy efficiency incentives so far in 2023.

• Reviewed a quarterly report on the Co-op’s Tri-County Electric People Fund, showing that the program had paid out over $9,000 in grants to organizations and individuals in need so far in 2023.

• Received a monthly update on the HomeWorks Connect fiber internet business, noting that the subscriber count had exceeded 9,000 as of April.

Sopocy of Bannister was officially elected to fulfill the remainder of the current term. She received 100% of the 86 votes cast (8.4% of the district’s membership). Online ballots accounted for 46 of the votes, while the remaining 40 were cast via mail-in ballot. Sopocy was appointed interim director in February after the seat was left vacant by the resignation of former director Corinna Batora, who moved out of the Co-op’s service territory.

The winning directors will be officially seated at the Co-op’s annual meeting of delegates in August. Borton and Stebbins were elected for three-year terms, while Sopocy was elected to complete the current term, which ends in 2025.

In 2024, elections will be held for the districts 3 and 6 board seats, currently held by Ed Oplinger of Weidman and Luke Pohl of Westphalia, respectively. Watch Country Lines magazine, HomeWorks.org, and the HomeWorks Facebook page for information on the nomination process, which begins in January.

• Discussed and accepted Cooperative Bylaw Sections 3.5-3.6 and 7.5-7.7, as revised.

• Learned there were 95 new members in March.

• Reviewed the March physical and cyber security report, noting that the Co-op’s third-party energy optimization partner recently experienced a malware infection on their network, but an in-depth investigation revealed that no HomeWorks member data had been breached.

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

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 June 26 at Portland and 9 a.m. on July 31 at Blanchard. 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.

Theresa Sopocy Jim Stebbins Jake Borton


Michigan is certainly known for its agriculture, with varying growing seasons and products. But one of our state’s farming industries loves all four of our unpredictable seasons and is quick to tell you moo about it.

Bad puns aside, the Michigan dairy industry is the sixth largest in the country, which is nothing to laugh at. With over 11.6 billion pounds of milk produced annually by over 900 family farms, it takes more than luck to create this level of success.

“One of the reasons Michigan ranks number six in milk production is our cows actually give more milk than the industry average,” said Jolene Griffin, vice president of industry relations at United Dairy Industry of Michigan. “That’s due to the passion for the work and the commitment to improvement by our farmers.”

The relationship between dairy farmers and their cows isn’t one that simply sees the animals as a commodity. Many of these farms are owned and run by third- or fourthgeneration farmers who deeply connect to the land and the animals that feed and produce on it.

“To me, being a dairy farmer is a privilege. Being responsible for the care of the land, animals, and people, and then to use those resources to produce dairy products is simply indescribable,” said Brian DeMann of Clearview Dairy Farm in Martin. “For half my life, I have had the opportunity to wake up and call myself a dairy farmer. Each day is as exciting as the next, and I am blessed not to consider this a job.”

Aubrey Lettinga-Van Laan, third-generation owner and operator of Walnutdale Family Farms in Wayland, echoes that sentiment.

“It’s my way of life, and I don’t know a world without cows and manure. It means that every day the cows and what they need come first—that I don’t get a day off because the care of our cows and their needs come before other

14 JUNE 2023

things,” said Lettinga-Van Laan. “I am blessed because the work I do feeds the world.”

Lettinga-Van Laan is right about feeding so many people. The surplus that isn’t bought and sold right here in Michigan is exported to states with high demand. Michigan's dairy industry provides a livelihood for more than just the farmers. It generates jobs employing local veterinarians and nutritionists, equipment dealers, electricians, plumbers, contractors, and additional farm staff. One dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy.

Additionally, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan is invested in helping to educate citizens, particularly students, about the industry. Whether it’s about the cows themselves, habitats, food chains, nutrition, or how to be good stewards of the land, the farmers know that they are a part of something much bigger and are eager to share that their cows are front and center of their daily decisions and lives.

“What drew me to dairy farming is that the job is a perfect mix of keeping me both physically and mentally active. I get to work outside while still having the challenge of solving the problems that come with owning a business and caring for animals,” said Katelyn Packard of Horning Farms in Manchester. “I am proud to be part of a business where I can work with my family each day to provide healthy and nutritious food for my community.”

Community seems to be at the very heart of our dairy industry. So, maybe look for Michigan-made dairy products next time you’re in the store. Grab the extra half-gallon of ice cream or pint of sour cream. And when you’re ordering your next pizza, you can thank a dairy farmer by splurging and going for the extra cheese.


How can I tell if the gallon of milk I purchased was processed in Michigan? Each container of milk is identified by a 5-digit code. The code includes a 2-digit state code followed by a 3-digit processing plant code. Milk packaged in Michigan is identified by the state code 26.

“To me, being a dairy farmer is a privilege. Being responsible for the care of the land, animals, and people, and then to use those resources to produce dairy products is simply indescribable.”
Brian DeMann, Clearview Dairy Farm
SELL BY NOV 19 OO:55 DP #26-784

CLEARING THE WAY TO MORE RELIABLE POWER: Maintaining Rights-Of-Way Prevents Outages Before They Occur

At HomeWorks, our top priority is providing you with safe and reliable electricity. That commitment shows in the fact that the power we deliver to you was over 99.95% reliable in 2022! A major reason for that reliability is the investment we make year in and year out in clearing trees and other vegetation from the rights-of-way around our electric lines. Since the maintenance of our rights-of-way is such a crucial factor in keeping your lights on, we wanted to answer some of your most frequently asked questions about our vegetation management program.

Why Do You Clear Trees On Member Property?

Trees encroaching into the right-of-way have the tendency to make contact with or fall on electric lines during storms. This is the number-one cause of power outages during severe weather events and a leading cause of electrical injuries and fatalities from downed power lines. Even low-growing vegetation in the right-of-way affects safety and reliability by making it difficult for our line crews to access our electric lines to quickly restore power after an outage. The rigorous maintenance of our rights-of-way is the only way we can ensure electric safety and reliability for our members.

Where Are You Allowed To Trim Trees On My Property?

When you become a HomeWorks member, you are required to provide the Co-op with a private utility easement around the power lines on your property. This easement extends 15 feet beyond the outside electric wire along either side of the length of our lines. This easement allows us to trim or remove any vegetation within that right-of-way area that is encroaching on our lines and threatening the safety, reliability, and efficient restoration of the electricity that we provide to you. Dead or dying “danger” trees outside of the right-of-way with the potential to fall on our lines may also be removed.

Will You Trim Or Remove Trees Without Notifying Me?

We notify members via postcard when our contracted tree

crews are going to be working in their area, and if there is going to be any significant trimming or removal of vegetation on a property, we strive to work with the property owner to clear the easement in a way that maintains safety, reliability, and our ability to efficiently restore power after an outage while still fully respecting the aesthetics of the property. We only trim or remove vegetation that is deemed to be a threat to electric safety, reliability, and/or our ability to restore power efficiently.

Do You Clean Up The Debris After Trimming Trees?

When it comes to cleaning the property after we clear our right-of-way, we strive to do everything we can to reasonably accomodate the member’s needs. Our practice is to chip up any trimmed limbs that are under four inches in diameter and block up any wood that is under 18 inches in diameter. The wood is then left to be handled at the member’s discretion.

What About My Fruit Trees Or Ornamental Vegetation?

We try to stay clear of any fruit tree or ornamental vegetation on a member’s property unless it is encroaching into the easement in a way that is affecting safety or reliability. If this is the case, we strive to work with the property owner to trim or remove the vegetation in a way that still respects the aesthetics of the landscaping.

What Can I Do To Help?

You can help ensure electric safety and reliability by taking into consideration the location of each tree, how tall it will grow, and the diameter of its mature canopy before planting on your propery. Certain species grow too large to be planted under overhead lines, which may result in removal by our contracted tree crews. Avoid planting trees within 20 feet of overhead power lines. Trees that have a mature height of 40 feet or less should be planted closer to 50 feet from power lines. Tall-growing trees (with a mature height of 40 feet or more) should be planted well away from the lines.

16 JUNE 2023

HomeWorks Shines In 2022 Electric Distribution Performance Measures Report

HomeWorks distributes electricty to 23,000 members spread across 13 counties of rural mid-Michigan. This sparsely populated service territory requires our line crews to respond to outages and service requests that are often located farther apart than the meters of larger investor-owned utilities (IOUs) serving more densely populated metropolitan areas of the state. This presents a challenge, but our employees work efficiently to deliver prompt service and get the job done for you. This is reflected in our 2022 Michigan Public Service Commission Performance (MPSC) Measures Report, shown below, which indicates that HomeWorks far exceeded the standard in every category measured. We’re proud to provide this level of service to our members!

MSA Wire Down Relief Factor Number of minutes until guarded downed wires reached Non-MSA Wire Down Relief Factor Number of minutes until guarded downed wires reached Meter Reading Percentage of meters read 15 Days New Service Installation Percentage of new services installed 3 Days Complaint Response Percentage of formal complaints responded to Average Call Answering Time Outage Restoration in Normal Conditions Percentage of customers restored Outage Restoration in Catastrophic Conditions Percentage of customers restored Outage Restoration in All Conditions Percentage of customers restored Same Circuit Repetitive Interruption MPSC Standard 90% within 240 minutes or less 90% within 360 minutes or less 85% or more 90% or more 90% or more 90 seconds or less 90% or more restored in 8 hours or less 90% or more restored in 60 hours or less 90% or more restored in 36 hours or less 5% or less of company circuits experiencing 5 or more outages per 12 months Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) Performance Measure 100% within 240 minutes or less 100% within 360 minutes or less 98.4% 100% 100% 9.4 seconds 98.6% restored in 8 hours or less 100% restored in 60 hours or less 100% restored in 36 hours or less 1.5% of company circuits experiencing 5 or more outages per 12 months Neighboring InvestorOwned Utility 74.4% within 240 minutes or less 83.5% within 360 minutes or less 99.2% 86.3% 92.3% 40 seconds 85.6% restored in 8 hours or less 97.6% restored in 60 hours or less 97.6% restored in 36 hours or less 4.68% of company circuits experiencing 5 or more outages per 12 months

Spring Gardening

One of my fondest memories growing up was coming home from school in the spring on the day my parents would be planting the garden. Usually, sometime during the third week of May, we would come home from school, step off the bus, run into the house, and find no one there! We found them outside, starting the garden. Our dad would have the ground worked up, and my parents would be beginning to stake things out and be ready to go when we got home. My two older brothers usually stake the lines for the sweet corn by running a piece of twine between two metal stakes. Then they would fill the little corn planter and roll it down the row! I always wanted to plant the corn, but they enjoyed it and kept the job. I usually got to help my dad plant the potatoes—starter potatoes cut in half (with six kids, you had to economize!). My dad would push the pointed end of the potato planter into the ground with his foot. I would toss in the potato—he would open the planter by pressing the handle to one side and lift it out. The potato remained in the hole (usually), and he would swipe his foot full of dirt over the hole and stomp it down. Then we would all work at planting the rest—lots of green beans, yellow beans, onion sets, carrots, radishes, and summer squash, among other veggies. Then we would set out tomato and cabbage starts.

Mom always liked to have the first row saved for some flowers. She always allowed us girls to plant “our” zinnias.

She planted dahlias, gladiolas, and canna lilies from the rootstock she had saved from the previous year. My mother always had beautiful flower beds, but she liked a little pop of color in her garden to look at out the patio window. It was a great learning experience about faith, waiting for all those seeds to sprout and grow, with the rain coming when it needed to (hopefully), and using the sprinkler when it didn’t. We learned to anticipate the future when we could eat all the delicious vegetables we harvested from the garden. Happy planting!

Guest Column

Win $200 for stories published!

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

MI CO-OP Guest Column
18 JUNE 2023
Kris works in human resources and enjoys camping, reading, gardening, and cooking.


• Attaches to your home’s existing heating system, it does not replace it.

• Delivers 90% on average of your home’s heating needs and 100% of your home’s cooling needs.

• If you have a well and are heating with propane, fuel oil, electric or wood, your current heating and cooling cost is likely greater than it would be to fully finance and heat & cool with a Well-Connect.

• Installs in one day, any time of year. No drilling or excavation is required.


Geother mal Made Af for da ble
WITH WELL-CONNECT IS LIKE PAYING 70¢ Per Gallon of Propane Financing, 30% tax credit, and rebates up to $2,000 available. SCAN HERE TO SCHEDULE A PHONE CALL 833-436-9355 wellconnectgeo.com ENJOY YEAR-ROUND COMFORT HOW DOES THE SYSTEM WORK?
HomeWorks.org facebook.com/homeworks.org homeworks.org facebook.com/homeworks.org Report Outages: 1-800-848-9333 Ice cream, giveaways,games, and the chance to meet your Co-op staff! JOIN US AT YOUR FIRST-EVER HOMEWORKS PARK PARTY THIS SUMMER! • District 1: July 20 at Bennett Park, Charlotte • District 2: June 8 at the Flats, Portland • District 3: Aug. 2 at Eagle Park, Eagle • District 4: Aug. 3 at Curtis Park, Edmore • District 5: Aug. 10 at Motz Park, St. Johns • District 6: July 13 at Mill Pond, Mt. Pleasant • District 7: June 29 at Fork Twp. Community Center, Barryton THE ICE CREAM’S ON US! Drop by anytime between 1-3 p.m., and bring the family!

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