May 2021 Alger Delta

Page 1

May/June 2021


COUNTRY LINES Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association

Registration Open Online For June 16 Annual Meeting

Saving The Gators At Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary

Four Generations Contribute To The Swanson Pickle Co.



Not hearing is believing.

Many homeowners have come to accept that a noisy A/C is a fact of life. But with WaterFurnace, you don’t have to settle. Nothing can disrupt a perfect summer afternoon in your backyard more than a loud air conditioner. Geothermal users are never disturbed from outside HVAC noise because there’s no outdoor equipment to make any. All the complicated work takes place underground—out of earshot. With WaterFurnace, your peace and quiet is assured. To learn more, contact your local WaterFurnace dealer today. Geothermal is the only renewable that provides reliable operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Your Local WaterFurnace Dealers Bad Axe/Cass City Thumb Clg & Htg (855) 206-5457 thumbcooling Berrien Springs WaterFurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmich Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717

Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 Indian River M & M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201

Mancelona Top Notch Htg, Clg, & Geothermal (231) 350-8052 Michigan Center Comfort 1/Aire Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 southern-michigan Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822

Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665

Traverse City D & W Mechanical (231) 941-1215

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906

Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000

Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138

visit us at

The Reliable Renewable is a trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.


May 2021 Vol. 41, No. 5



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: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power 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 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.

Michigan Country Lines, Your Communications Partner For more than 40 years, our co-op members have received Michigan Country Lines because it is the most effective and economical way to share information. Michigan Country Lines keeps members up-to-date about everything going on within their electric co-op. Issues contain news about co-op services, director elections, member meetings, and management decisions that members need to know about as owners of the co-op. The magazine also includes legal notices that would otherwise have to be placed in local media at a substantial cost. Sending Michigan Country Lines helps the co-op fulfill one of its essential principles—to educate and communicate openly with its members. The board of directors authorizes the co-op to subscribe to Michigan Country Lines on behalf of each member at an average cost of $4.15 per year, paid as part of members’ electric bills. The current magazine cost is 52 cents per copy. Michigan Country Lines is published, at cost, by the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association in Lansing. As always, we welcome your comments at

6 THE MICHIGAN STATE CAPITOL WENT GEOTHERMAL–– SHOULD YOU? Geothermal power helps you save money, be greener and earn tax credits. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Garden Fresh: These scrumptious dishes make fresh veggies the star of the show.

14 FOUR GENERATIONS CONTRIBUTE TO PICKLE LEGACY For Swanson Pickling Co. in Ravenna, growing and distributing cucumbers is a family affair. 18 GUEST COLUMN Hidden Northern Michigan Treasure For All Ages: The history of beautiful Kitch-iti-kipi spring in the U.P.


Spring is in the sky! @abeardedshooter (Matt Hunter)

Be featured!

Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.


To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit


Win a $50 bill credit! Up Next: Around The World, due Aug. 1; Instant Pot & Slow Cooker, due Sept. 1. Go to for more information or to submit.


Win $150 for stories published! Submit your fondest memories and stories at community.


Win a $50 bill credit! Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo. See page 18.


3 /algerdeltaelectric BOARD OF DIRECTORS

District 1—Big Bay Darryl Small 906-345-9369 •

District 2—Harvey/Deerton Karen Alholm 906-249-1095 •

Looking Forward To The

2021 Annual Meeting

District 3—Grand Marais Mike Lawless 906-494-2080 •

District 4—Cedar River/Palestine Dave Prestin 906-424-0055 •

District 5—Gourley/LaBranche/Cornell Ivy Netzel 906-639-2979 • District 6—Nathan/White Rapids Jesse Betters 715-923-4946 •

District 7—Stonington/Rapid River Kirk Bruno 906-399-1432 • District 8—Nahma/Isabella Don Johnson 906 280-0867 •

District 9—Hiawatha/Maple Ridge Doug Bovin 906-573-2379 • GENERAL MANAGER: Mike Furmanski HEADQUARTERS: 426 N. 9th St, Gladstone, MI 49837 906-428-4141 • 800-562-0950 Fax: 906-428-3840 • OFFICE HOURS Monday–Thursday 7 a.m.–5 p.m. (EST) Alger Delta Cooperative is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

By Mike Furmanski, General Manager

he 2021 Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association’s Annual Meeting is scheduled for June 16, 2021, at the Island Resort and Casino. While it is being planned as an in-person meeting, the unfortunate current normal makes any plans subject to change. Assuming all goes as planned and we can meet in person, I would like to encourage you to attend the Annual Meeting, though we may be limited to how many people can attend. This is a great opportunity to meet your fellow member-owners, directors, and some staff members. In addition to meeting others associated with your cooperative, there will be dinner and giveaways.


Leadership will also give an update on cooperative operations. This update will cover the cooperative’s financial strategy, system improvements, work plan, improving service quality and reliability, and wholesale power costs and availability. System upgrades and maintenance such as tree trimming are always necessary to help keep the lights on through all sorts of weather conditions. I am really looking forward to the Annual Meeting as it will be my first one. I hope to see you there. Though I am new to the cooperative, I do have 20 years of experience in the utility industry to provide me a solid base. That experience, plus my innate desire to tinker with things, has me looking at all aspects of what we do here at the cooperative. The things we do well, I hope we can do better on. The things that need some changes to them will be changed with the members’ best interest at the forefront of any changes. One of the areas the cooperative has made great strides in over the last few years is tree trimming. Whether is it trees touching the lines or falling onto the lines in heavy winds, trees lead to a great many of our outages. The plan is to have all lines cleared on a 10-year rotation. We are now about five years into our more extensive trimming, and the extra effort is paying off in fewer outages.



4 MAY 2021


Alger Delta 2021 Summer Office Hours Effective May 3 to Sept. 2, the summer office hours are Monday–Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Alger Delta Mourns Passing Of Director Paul Sederquist ongtime board member Paul Sederquist, 80, of Daggett, Michigan, passed away on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, at home, surrounded by his family. Paul was born on May 11, 1940, in Daggett to the late Harry and Hildur (Lindberg) Sederquist. Paul was a dairy farmer his entire life in Daggett. He was an avid sports fan who loved playing sports and watching his favorite teams, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs. He further enjoyed snowmobiling and bowling. Most of all, Paul enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. Paul was a member of St. Stephens Lutheran Church and a sexton of Bethesda Cemetery for many years. He proudly served on the board of directors for Alger Delta Electric Cooperative for more than 31 years. Many co-op members will fondly recall Paul, at each Annual Meeting, making an effort to visit every table of members and greet all in attendance.


Alger Delta General Manager Mike Furmanski knew Paul his entire life, and in his youth, worked for him on his farm. “Paul was a great guy to know and work for. Besides the ordinary farm work of picking rocks, milking cows, maintaining fences, he taught me many other skills like roofing, painting, pouring cement. But the biggest thing I learned from Paul was to persevere when things were not

always going your way. If you had a bad day or were not feeling the best, you still had to keep going as the cows had to be milked every day. And even through some bad days, he always had a smile on his face and some kind words for anyone who needed them,” Mike said. Fellow board member David Prestin said, “Paul’s service on the Alger Delta Board of Directors spanned over 31 years, and during this time, he was an integral part of the decisions made by the board. All will miss Paul’s presence on the board and the wisdom he brought.” Survivors include his wife of 60 years: Janice of Daggett; three daughters: Sandy (John) Beardsley of Wallace, Michigan, Kim (Fred) Belec of Daggett, Michigan, and Pam Sederquist of Daggett, Michigan; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Paul was preceded in death by his parents and two great-granddaughters.

Online registration is open at for the

ANNUAL MEETING—June 16 Alger Delta’s 82nd Annual Meeting is Wednesday, June 16, at 5 p.m. at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan. Alger Delta is treating you to a delicious dinner, prizes, and a special guest speaker. There is a twoperson per membership limit, and due to COVID-19, space is limited to the first 200 members. Register online at Reservations will be accepted up until May 30. The business meeting is an important part of our Annual Meeting as we introduce you to newly-elected directors, talk about the cooperative’s past performance and future expectations, and more. So, mark Wednesday, June 16, on your calendar and plan to have a wonderful time!

The Michigan State Capitol Went Geothermal—Should You? By Larry Kaufmann, Michigan Geothermal Energy Association


he Michigan State Capitol in Lansing recently went geothermal. I was involved at the beginning of this process five years ago. The Capitol is 138 years old and probably had its original heating and cooling system, which had many problems. The system was blowing out hot and cold air at the same time, and it was costly. Most importantly, it was not providing proper circulation—especially in the dome, where it was causing damage to the artwork and artifacts in the Capitol. A committee saw going “green” with geothermal heat pumps as the solution to all these problems. Geothermal will lower the cost of heating and cooling in the Capitol by an estimated $300,000 per year. It will provide more comfort to the people in the building. It will provide better air quality and humidity control to protect the valuable artwork and artifacts. This 2½-year infrastructure project cost $70 million, with part of this cost being paid for by the Tobacco Settlement. This geothermal system design involved


MAY 2021

drilling 224 loops about 500 feet deep. Michigan now joins Colorado, Oklahoma, and Idaho as states with a geothermal Capitol. Notice that we are ahead of California and New York in going green. Some of you may be unfamiliar with geothermal heat pumps, so this information will help you to understand the system and how it can be beneficial for your home. Geothermal has been installed in residential homes since the early 1970s. There are more than 1 million geothermal units in the United States and about 40,000 in Michigan. They work just like your refrigerator. On the bottom of the refrigerator is a coil. Geothermal uses a much bigger coil called a “loop,” which “plugs” into the ground. The ground is a constant temperature between 50-60 degrees year-round, six feet below the soil. Geothermal uses this constant temperature to heat your home in the winter (with compression and a refrigerant) and cool it in the summer. Because the ground is heated by the sun, it is considered renewable energy in Michigan.

Homeowners primarily purchase geothermal systems for three reasons:




Because we are starting with a constant temperature, most geothermal units are four to five times more efficient than a gas, oil, or propane furnace and twice as efficient as an electric air conditioner. This results in big savings for you! Geothermal costs more to install but saves you money every year. When included in the mortgage of a new home, the savings from geothermal will be larger than the increased cost of installation. Therefore, you will have a positive cash flow from Day 1. Once you install a geothermal system, you will have about a three- to five-year payback versus propane or oil heating. Against gas furnaces and air conditioning, geothermal will have a five- to 10-year payback. These are only estimates, and you should contact a Michigan Geothermal Energy Association (MGEA) approved geothermal contractor to get a quote for your home. Many people are concerned about sustainability. Here is your chance to go green and save money! You will also reduce your carbon footprint. There is no open flame in geothermal, which is a great safety feature. You will also have better air quality with a more consistent temperature.

Construction at the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan.

Some great recent news is that Congress has just renewed the Geothermal Tax Credit! The tax credit will be 26% in 2021 and 2022 and will be reduced to 22% in 2023. So the time to act is now! To find a qualified MGEA-approved geothermal dealer, go to Click on the “Contractors” button at the top and enter your ZIP code. You will get a list of all approved MGEA contractors in your area. I do not recommend using a non-MGEA contractor. Many are not fully trained in geothermal, and MGEA cannot help you if the job goes wrong. I have had a geothermal system in my home for over 20 years. The temperature in my 2,600-square-foot house plus 1,000-squarefoot basement has always been 72 degrees. My average heating and cooling bill over these 20 years has been about $70 per month. Geothermal is cost saving for everyone.

The Farmington City Hall complex in Farmington, Michigan, is all geothermal.



Spring Into Recycling Season T

his year, make your spring-cleaning season all about decluttering and recycling unwanted items in your home—you may even save some money.

The basement or garage is a great place to start, especially if you are using that space for a secondary refrigerator or chest freezer. It may be convenient, but if your extra appliance is older than 15 years, it may cost you several hundred dollars or more per year to keep it running. The good news: You can recycle your old refrigerator and/ or chest freezer through the Energy Optimization program. You can add an old window air conditioner or dehumidifier for recycling as well (items must be in working condition). The better news: There is no cost to you. Simply call the Energy Optimization team at 877-296-4319 to schedule a FREE pickup, and a representative will come to your home for removal. The best news: Earn a $50 cash incentive for recycling a refrigerator or chest freezer. After your appliance is picked up, you will receive a rebate check within six to eight weeks. It’s that easy!

Qualifying Appliances

Pickup or Ride-Along Item

Recycle Incentive

Refrigerator (Full-size, 10 cubic feet or larger)



Chest Freezer (10 cubic feet or larger)



Window Air Conditioner






Save even more. Replace your old, outdated refrigerator or freezer with a new energy-efficient ENERGY STAR® model. You may qualify for additional rebates. For more questions, or to schedule a free pickup, please visit or call 877-296-4319.

An outdated refrigerator uses nearly twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR® certified model. Recycle it and earn cash incentives!  Refrigerator: $50 rebate  Chest Freezer: $50 rebate  Window Air Conditioner: $15 rebate (ride-along item)  Dehumidifier: $15 rebate (ride-along item)


Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Incentive applies to qualified items purchased and installed between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021. Other restrictions may apply. For complete program details, visit


Mom & Me 1. Winter birthday outing to Wagner Falls. Dianna Bell  2. 1969 Lake Superior Shore. Jan Gilson  3.Snuggles from Mommy can fix everything! Hazel Jandrin  4.Next best thing to a Hawaiian trip! Lois Corcoran  5.My granddaughter’s horse, Cat, and her three-day-old foal, Chevy, enjoying some “mom and me” time on the first day of spring! Diane Lang  6.Mom and me enjoying Au Train Beach. Janet Kersten  7.Shakey Lakes, summer 1994. Janice Gratteau








Submit a photo & win a


energy bill credit!

Submit Your Photos & Win A Bill Credit! Alger Delta members whose photos we print in Michigan Country Lines will be entered in a drawing. Four lucky members will win a $50 credit on their December 2021 energy bills!

Upcoming Photo Topics And Deadlines: Show Your American Pride, due June 20 (July/Aug. issue) Water, due July 20 (Sept./Oct. issue) Santa Photos, due Sept. 20 (Nov./Dec. issue) To submit photos, go to We look forward to seeing your best photos!



MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

GARDEN FRESH Put your seasonal produce to good use.



Shelley Ehrenberger, Cherryland 4 large tomatoes 1 small cucumber, chopped (1 cup) 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (½ cup) 1 stalk celery, chopped (½ cup) 1 small onion, finely chopped (¼ cup) 1 clove garlic, minced 1 (13¾-ounce) can chicken (or vegetable) broth 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best) 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon oil, to taste 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper • dash hot pepper sauce, to taste • croutons


Win a


energy bill credit!

10 MAY 2021

Around The World due Aug. 1 • Instant Pot & Slow Cooker Favorites due Sept. 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

Plunge tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds, then into cold water. Slip off skins, then coarsely chop. In a large bowl, combine all vegetables and garlic. Stir in broth and remaining ingredients. Cover and transfer to the fridge until chilled. Serve with croutons. Variation: Whirl in blender in batches until preferred smoothness (I blend about half), then stir together. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at


Valerie Donn, Great Lakes Energy 2 ²⁄ ³ ½ ½ 2 1 1 32 1½ 1 1 1

tablespoons olive oil cup white onion, diced cup celery, diced cup carrots, peeled and diced teaspoons garlic, minced cup green beans, freshly cut up (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes ounces vegetable stock teaspoons oregano bay leaf tablespoon diced fresh parsley (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 zucchini, diced ½ cup small pasta (elbow macaroni, etc.) • salt and pepper, to taste Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Cook green beans in small separate pan with water until half cooked; drain. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano, bay leaf, and parsley to the pot. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Add kidney beans, green beans, zucchini, and pasta. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pasta and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving and season with salt and pepper to desired taste.


Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy • fresh ears of corn • sour cream • Mexican seasonings (seasoning blend or mix of garlic, oregano, cumin, & chili powder)

FRESH POPPERS Kris Hazeres, Alger Delta

1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped (or precooked bacon) 2 pounds sweet mini peppers 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 2–3 jalapeños, finely diced 1½ cups finely shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese Cook bacon until crispy. While the bacon is cooking, cut the peppers in

half lengthwise (stems on) and clean out seeds. Once the bacon is done and cooled a bit, use a large knife to chop into small bits. In a medium/large bowl, use a spoon to mix all ingredients except for the mini peppers. Using a small spoon or mini spatula, stuff the mini peppers with the mixture. The sweet mini peppers are even better grilled for a few minutes before stuffing. This recipe can easily be made the night before.

• butter • shredded Asiago cheese Cook or grill fresh ears of corn. Mix sour cream and Mexican seasonings to taste. Coat cooked ears with butter. Roll in sour cream mixture. Roll in Asiago cheese. Enjoy.

Alger Delta Welcomes New Finance Manager lger Delta Electric Cooperative Electric Association is pleased to welcome Lynn Labadie as its new finance manager. A native of Gladstone, Lynn attended Bay de Noc Community College and graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in accounting. She previously worked at Clare Bedding as an accountant and office manager and Engineered Machined Products as a payroll coordinator and finance manager.


“ The Alger Delta Board of Directors welcomes Lynn to the co-op. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that aligns with Alger Delta’s vision of growth and cost control, ensuring future success in providing affordable and reliable power to all of its members.” —Dave Prestin, board liaison

Lynn’s overall duties at Alger Delta will be to develop an annual operating budget; assure accurate and timely reporting of operating costs, revenues, and the cooperative’s financial condition; administer benefits; prepare documents for the annual audit; and develop both short- and long-term financial plans. She will also be working closely with General Manager Mike Furmanski in developing overall growth and efficiency plans for the co-op. Lynn and her husband, Mike, live in Bark River on their hobby farm and have three children, Curtis, Tyler and Kassey. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, walking, and kayaking.

Meet Your Newest Director lease join us in welcoming Donald O. Johnson of Isabella to the Alger Delta Electric Cooperative Board of Directors. Director Johnson is stepping into the board position for District 8—Nahma/Isabella, left vacant by Ray Young’s passing, which occurred in September 2020.


Director Johnson brings significant experience to the position, having served as a board member of the Delta County Mental Health Board, Pathways Mental Health Board, and Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards. These positions have allowed him to participate in strategic planning, fiduciary responsibility, and setting policy. These positions also allowed him to engage with elected officials and government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels and have given him a working knowledge of political and governmental processes. Director Johnson has 30 years of experience as an educator. He started the Don Johnson Agency and managed it for 22 years. It is now owned by his daughter, Jennifer (J.J.) Johnson-Reeves. “ We are very excited to welcome Director Johnson to Alger Delta and look forward to working with him in the years to come.” —Dave Prestin, board liaison

12 MAY 2021

Johnson and his family have been longtime members of the co-op. “I have been a member of the co-op since 1969, and my parents were charter members before that. As a director, I look forward to being available to and serving all members of the co-op,” he said.

Tree Planting Guide Spring is here and that means it’s time to

plant flowers, gardens and trees. Please use this guide to plant trees that will not someday interfere with power lines. Trees interfering with power lines can become a hazard that causes injury, raise rates due to the cost of having to be removed, and even cause power outages if they were to fall into power lines. Alger Delta has been working with tree issues for many years. As a result, outages are significantly down, as trees and storms are a significant contributor to outages.

Tree Removal Schedule In 2021, power line clearance crews will be mowing and trimming in the Cornell/Watson area, the Stonington Peninsula, and Grand Marais. Crews will also be clearing small areas throughout the system that pop up as trouble areas that need to be addressed. Please contact the Alger Delta office with any questions or concerns.

50' 40' 30' 20' 10' 0'




30' Small Tree Zone: Trees less than 25' tall/spread at least 25' from line


50' Medium Tree Zone: Trees 25'–40' in height/spread at least 40' from line


70' Large Tree Zone: Trees larger than 40' in height/spread at least 60' from line


Four Generations Contribute To The Swanson Pickle Co.


By Emily Haines Lloyd

From left to right: Matt Swanson, Wes Swanson, Katie Hensley, John Swanson.


ichigan is one of the most diverse agricultural growers in the country, second only to California. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s the number one producer of cucumbers, specifically those grown for pickles. For such a tiny vegetable, pickles make for big business. At Swanson Pickling Co. in Ravenna, Michigan, pickling goes back a long way, starting with John Wesley Swanson, who began by marketing and selling pickles grown in the state after World War II. Four generations later, the Swanson family grows, grades, and ferments pickles that find their way onto grocery shelves across the country.

from four to six weeks. Pickles are then removed from tanks and shipped to client companies throughout the Midwest. These clients include big names as close as Holland, Michigan, where the Kraft Heinz Company uses these pickles as the base for many of its various products. “We’re a company that knows how to pivot and grow based on what our customers want and need,” said John. “In the ‘60s, it was getting into farming. In the ‘80s, we needed to expand our tank yard. In 2000, it was sorting for customers who wanted to stop handling the raw product. You have to be nimble in any business.”

“We grow almost 1,500 acres of pickling cucumbers, which yields about 200 bushels of pickles per acre,” said John Swanson, president of Swanson Pickle Co. “That’s just a third of what we brine, so the rest we’re getting from other farmers around the state.”

John has seen his grandfather and father ride the ebb and flow of the pickle industry, and he’s worked with a lot of family over the years. The dynamics of working with his dad, brothers, and even cousins over the years has been a unique experience. Now, John watches as his three children take on their own roles in the family business.

The company, which is a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member, has more than 1,300 fiberglass tanks, each able to hold 905 bushels of cucumbers, with fermentation taking

The middle of John’s brood, Wes, manages that massive fiberglass tank yard with more than a thousand vessels to watch over. The youngest son, Matt, oversees the farming

14 MAY 2021

Swanson Pickling Co. has more than 1,300 fiberglass tanks, each able to hold 905 bushels of cucumbers, with fermentation taking from four to six weeks.

“Maybe it’s that there are a lot of family businesses in pickles, or the longstanding relationships we seem to have with one another. Or maybe it’s just a happy business. I mean, you can’t even say ‘pickle’ and not smile.” —John Swanson

and growing operations that his own grandfather, Don, moved the business into. Finally, John’s daughter, Kate, who got her MBA from Spain’s IESE business school and used to work for Syngenta in Switzerland, functions as CFO, looking after the financials and sales. “We’re honored to be a fourth-generation business, and luckily it’s never felt like a burden,” said John. “But even if the kids had decided not to take over the business, I wouldn’t have been upset. I’m still proud of what we’ve all built together.” John says he doesn’t carry the burden of the business, the struggles of unknown factors in farming, or even the weight

that could be felt in keeping the family business going, as he speaks of the work the family does. Warmth and friendliness exudes from the present patriarch, and he notes that it feels small and tight-knit like a family within the pickle industry. He mentions moments of discovering “your grandpa knew my grandpa.” “Maybe it’s that there are a lot of family businesses in pickles, or the longstanding relationships we seem to have with one another,” said John. “Or maybe it’s just a happy business. I mean, you can’t even say ‘pickle’ and not smile.”



Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary Is



By Emily Haines Lloyd Photos Courtesy of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary


hen we think of alligators, we’re flooded with imagery of sunbathing crocodiles on southern golf courses or Evergladesdwelling animals we’d just as soon not have a run-in with. But in Athens, Michigan, alligators are not only living and thriving, but people are actually hoping to have a real-life encounter with these prehistoric-looking beasts. When David Critchlow was a FedEx delivery man, he enjoyed chatting up people on his route, and while there were always interesting stories to hear and packages to deliver, a weird, but common, thread started to arise. “Dad would see a package from an exotic pet supplier and realize he might be delivering a snake,” said David’s daughter, Lina Kelly, the director of animal care and enrichment of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary. “As time passed, he’d start chatting to folks, and the conversations changed to ‘hey, do you know anyone who wants a snake?’” Peter Critchlow with Godzilla, an 11-foot-long, 500-pound alligator.

16 MAY 2021

Unsurprisingly, many people who thought a snake would be an interesting pet were less interested when that same pet began to


outgrow its habitat. David was always an animal lover and outdoorsy sort, and he eventually started offering to take in the newly homeless reptiles. “At some point, we had dozens of snakes,” remembers Lina. “Growing up, there were always reptiles around. It felt super normal.” One day, a new request came in, as someone asked David if he knew anyone who could take in an alligator. While David had never owned an alligator before, his heart couldn’t take the idea that the animal would be put down because its owner hadn’t thought through the consequences. David figured out what it would take to make a suitable environment for an alligator and become a new foster owner. Little by little, word spread that there was a guy who would take in alligators, and the family eventually had 10 to 30 of them housed in fenced-in areas in the backyard at any given time. “Eventually, people would just drive up to the house and ask if they could go take a look at the alligators,” said Lina. “We’d give them these little tours and tell them about each alligator’s story and what we knew. That’s how the sanctuary got started.” In 2007, David made his informal reptile shelter into a fulltime sanctuary. The family learned about alligators, snakes, and even tortoises, as new members continually found their way to the Critchlows. It involved extensive research, along with reptile-related workshops and conferences, to understand the animals, as well as finding out how to best feed, house, and even train them. The Critchlows never buy or sell any of the animals in their care—all are rescues. “We’ve learned so much over the years,” said Lina. “And it’s important always to be learning more, so we can help as many animals as we can.”



“WE LOVE WHAT WE DO, BUT IN SOME WAYS, WE’D RATHER NOT BE IN THE REPTILE RESCUING BUSINESS. WE’D RATHER HAVE PEOPLE MAKE SMARTER DECISIONS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY’RE CAPABLE OF THE COMMITMENT.” —LINA KELLY The sanctuary has grown into a home for turtles, tortoises, snakes, and nearly 200 alligators in the past decade. All the alligators are given names, but training them to learn their names happens when they are around 5 feet in length. These include Godzilla, an 11-foot-long and 500-pound fella, and Medusa—named because she’s not exactly attractive and is a little on the cranky side. Another, named Grace, is a 100-pounder who came to the sanctuary with a missing left foot. She’s been trained to lie still for medical treatment, a positive sign for some additional training David looks to do. If it sounds like a lot to do, it’s because it is. So, to round out the crew, Lina, along with her nephew (Alex) and her brother (Peter), all came on board to help with the family business. They’re committed to making education a huge arm of their mission, with David doing hundreds of school and community presentations a year. “A little baby alligator is cute. There’s no denying it. But you have to think of the animal and be ready for when that baby grows up,” said Lina. “We love what we do, but in some ways, we’d rather not be in the reptile rescuing business. We’d rather have people make smarter decisions about whether or not they’re capable of the commitment.” For now, the need is still there, and the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary remains a safe space for displaced reptiles. It’s an unlikely place where these animals can live out their lives while enriching the lives of those who make the visit and are willing to learn.

For more information, visit 1698 M-66, Athens, MI 49011  •  (269) 729-4802


MI CO-OP Community

Guest Column

Hidden Northern Michigan Treasure For All Ages By Doug Jerue


orth on M-149, 12 miles from Manistique, lies gorgeous Kitch-iti-kipi (Big Spring), Michigan’s largest spring. It’s an oval spring measuring 200 feet in diameter and is 42 feet deep with an emerald green bottom. From fissures in underlying limestone flows 16,000 gallons of crystal clear water per minute of spring water throughout the year at a constant temperature of 45 degrees, so it never freezes. In any season, it’s quite a sight to see and to take in the color of the water, huge fish, and the water bubbling up from the floor of the spring. After taking a 50-yard paved path to the shoreline, a selfoperated observation raft guides visitors to enjoy the fascinating underwater features. The state of Michigan acquired Kitch-iti-kipi in 1926. History records indicate that John I. Bellaire, owner of a Manistique Five and Dime store, fell in love with the black hole spring when he discovered it in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s thick wilderness in the 1920s. The spring was hidden in a tangle of fallen trees, and loggers used the nearby area as a dump. Bellaire saw its potential as a public recreation spot. He could have purchased the spring and adjoining property himself. He persuaded Frank Palms of the Palms Book Land Company to sell the spring and 90 acres to the state of Michigan for $10. The property deed requires the property to be forever used as a public park, bearing Palms Book State Park’s name. The state of Michigan has since acquired adjacent land, and the park now encompasses over 300 acres. A fun fact about the fish you see in the emerald waters of Kitch-iti-kipi is that some are “retired” moms and dads to all the fish that get released from hatcheries, which we enjoy throughout the upper and lower peninsulas in our

Win a


energy bill credit!

lakes and rivers. These are the fish hatcheries that supply millions of trout (lake, brown, rainbow and brook) to be bred and raised, and released into Michigan lakes. Kitch-itikipi is where the trout live out their days. You’ll know which fish these are, as they may have only one fin, where others have two fins. These fish are typically over 25 years old! Make Kitch-iti-kipi a stop on your next adventure, it will not disappoint. A great pure Michigan beauty for all ages to enjoy!

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit to submit.

WIN $150!

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by May 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at March 2021 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Ruth Bailey, a Cherryland Electric Cooperative member who correctly identified the photo as Boekeloo Lodge, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo by Karen Farrell. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/December.
















YOUR HOME IS A GOOD FIT FOR WELL-CONNECT IF YOU... Have a well Heat your home with propane, fuel oil, electric, or burn wood Have ductwork, or have room to add ductwork

Call for a FREE home visit.


Stop worrying about fluctuating propane costs or the hassle of burning wood. With Well-Connect geothermal heating and cooling, homeowners reduce their carbon footprint, save money and keep their home at a comfortable temperature, year-round.

(989) 356-2113



Join us on June 16

Attend Your Co-op’s

ANNUAL MEETING Wednesday, June 16, 5 p.m. Island Resort and Casino W 399 US 2 & 41, Harris, MI 49845

Register online at Alger Delta is treating you to a delicious dinner, prizes, and a special guest speaker. There is a two-person per membership limit, and due to COVID-19, seating this year is limited to the first 200 members that register. Reservations can be made online at Reservations will be accepted up until May 30. The business meeting is an important part of our Annual Meeting as we introduce you to newly-elected directors, talk about the cooperative’s past performance and future expectations, and more. So, mark Wednesday, June 16, on your calendar and plan to have a wonderful time!

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.