May 2021 HomeWorks

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May 2021


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

May Is Electrical Safety Month

HomeWorks Donates $15,000 To Local Causes Members Share “Mom And Me” Photos

Four Generations Contribute To The Swanson Pickle Co.



Not hearing is believing.

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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.



Know The Steps To Avoid Potential Electrical Hazards / Portland office/Mail payments to: 7973 E. Grand River Ave. Portland, MI 48875 Open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday

Blanchard office: 3681 Costabella Ave. Blanchard, MI 49310 Open 8 a.m.–5 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: 1-877-999-3395

Service questions/outages: 517-647-7554 or 1-800-848-9333 (24 hours for emergency calls) Tri-County Propane: 1-877-574-2740

HomeWorks Connect 1-800-668-8413 BOARD OF DIRECTORS

District 1 — John Lord, Vice-Chairman 2276 Plains Rd., Leslie, MI 49251 517-974-2518 •

District 2 — Jim Stebbins 7139 Peddler Lake Rd., Clarksville, MI 48815 616-693-2449 • District 3 — Luke Pohl, Chairman 15560 W. Hanses Rd., Westphalia, MI 48894 989-292-0427 • District 4 — Kimber Hansen 6535 N. Wyman Rd., Edmore, MI 48829 989-506-5849 • District 5 — Corinna Batora 7655 N. Watson Rd., Elsie, MI 48831 517-256-5233 •

By Chris O’Neill, CEO


ow often do you think about the potential dangers of the electricity around you? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “never.” We depend on electrical energy to power our daily lives, and yet electricity, and the safety hazards it can pose, is not something that often has reason to come top of mind. That’s why it’s so important that we recognize May as National Electrical Safety Month, a great time to remind ourselves to slow down, be aware of the powerful electricity all around us, and make sure that we and our loved ones know the simple precautions that we must take to avoid its dangers. I had the opportunity to serve as the HomeWorks safety coordinator for several years, and these are some of the potentially lifesaving electrical safety tips that I often emphasized to our employees: • Always look up: Especially when you are using a ladder or long tools outdoors, it is essential that you make yourself aware of the overhead power lines around you. NEVER allow yourself or your equipment to come into contact with a power line: It can be deadly. • Avoid downed power lines at all times: If you see a downed power line, assume that it is energized and dangerous, and call us immediately at 800-8489333 to report it. Don’t go near the downed power line, don’t drive over it, and don’t drive through water that is touching it. • If your car hits a utility pole, stay inside the vehicle and call 911: A vehicle that hits a utility pole could be charged with electricity, and anyone exiting the car could come into contact with thousands of volts of power from the downed line. Unless the vehicle is on fire (in which case you would want to jump clear of the vehicle without letting your body or clothing touch the car and the ground at the same time, land with your feet together, and shuffle away until you are at least 40 feet from the car), it is crucial that you stay inside the car until emergency crews arrive and tell you that it is safe to exit.

District 6 — Ed Oplinger, Secretary-Treasurer 10890 W. Weidman Rd., Weidman, MI 48893 989-644-3079 •

• Call 811 before you dig: Before starting any digging project, it is critical that you call 811 at least three days in advance to have your utility lines marked for free. This will help you avoid the costly and potentially dangerous mistake of hitting underground electric lines when you dig.

Editor: C harly Markwart, CCC

The safety of our members and employees is our top priority here at HomeWorks, and it is very important to us that you and your family know how to stay safe around the electricity that we provide to you. If you ever have a safety question or concern, please don’t hesitate to call our office. Watch our HomeWorks Facebook page throughout this month for more electrical safety tips.

District 7 — Shirley Sprague 15563 45th Ave., Barryton, MI 49305 989-382-7535 •

Remember, safety starts with you! Always think safety first.

4 MAY 2021

KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE WITH A 911-ONLY PHONE LINE! Safety always comes first at HomeWorks: That’s why HomeWorks Connect is offering Talk-911, a 911-only landline phone option for our internet subscribers. Talk-911’s location feature ensures that your phone line comes preprogrammed with your address so that any calls made to 911 will be automatically traced to your location. And, because it’s a landline phone option, you won’t have to worry about spotty connections or dropped calls. Talk-911 provides a line that allows you to make calls only to 911. This is a perfect option for homes that need a reliable way to contact help in the case of an emergency. The location feature gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your young children or aging family members will be able to be located during an emergency that they’ve called in, even if they can’t give an address over the phone. Interested in this service? If you’re already a HomeWorks Connect internet subscriber, give our office a call at 800-668-8413 and we’ll be happy to add this to your package selection. If you don’t have our internet service yet, preregister today at by inputting your address. Find out which zone you’re in and what stage of construction your area is in. You’ll also be able to select the Talk-911 package and any of our other internet or phone packages. Have questions? Please call us today at 800-668-8413!


$ 14.95 /mo.

with autopay savings*

911 Calling Only Preprogrammed address for 911 call centers One-time $10/line activation charge not included in price

ONLY AVAILABLE FOR INTERNET SUBSCRIBERS *Non-autopay fee is $5/mo. per account


Make sure your internet speeds and phone lines are able to handle whatever life throws your way.





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 And Me 1. Calvin Miller of Farwell took this photo of his wife, Rebecca, with their son, Marion David. “Our 11-month-old son was very proud of his fish and didn’t want to let it out of his sight,” he says. 2. Alan Thelen of Fowler submitted this photo featuring three generations, including mom, Mary, daughters, Kerri and Janese, and granddaughters, Penelope and Violet. 3. Doug Schlappi of Sunfield submitted this classic photo taken by his dad, Robert, in 1949. The picture features Doug, his sister, Marilyn, and their mom, Bettie.

4. Mark Brecht of Riverdale took this photo of his wife, Terri, and their daughter, Kaylynn, enjoying a carousel ride. 5. Cindy Zavadil of Okemos (receiving service in Canadian Lakes) says, “I cherish this photo of me and my mom, Anne Tarpinian, taken at Higgins Lake.” 6. Tamra Henning of Mt. Pleasant says, “This is a photo of my mother, Cathy Smith, and me on a hiking trip we took to Pineville, Kentucky, last fall. We hiked Pine Mountain for three full days and had a blast!” 7. Cheryl Roote of Barryton submitted this photo of her making memories with her daughter, Candace Vitale.







5 Enter to win a


energy bill credit!

Upcoming Snap Shot Contest Topics and Deadlines

“Show Your American Pride,” Deadline: May 17 (July/August issue) “Water,” Deadline: June 15 (September issue) “Pet Costumes,” Deadline: July 15 (October issue) Go to, select the Energy tab, then choose Member Services>Country Lines to submit your photos and see all of the 2021 Snap Shot themes. It’s fast and easy. To send by mail: include your name, address, phone number, photographer’s name, and details about your photo. Mail to Attn: Country Lines Snap Shots, 7973 E. Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875. Photos will not be returned. Do not send color laser prints or professional studio photos.

Submit Your Photos! Members whose photos we publish in Country Lines in 2021 will receive a $10 bill credit the month after publication.



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.

Co-op Donates $15,000 To Local Causes

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single mid-Michigan resident, but the toll it has taken over the past 15 months has been especially hard on our region’s most vulnerable communities. That’s why we’re pleased that hundreds of families in need throughout the HomeWorks service territory will benefit from a $15,000 charitable donation approved by our board of directors in late March. The grant was evenly distributed ($5,000 apiece) to three worthy causes supporting at-risk residents in our local communities: Community Compassion Network of Mt. Pleasant, IM Safe Child Advocacy Center of Fenwick, and Listening Ear of Isabella County, located in Mt. Pleasant. HomeWorks committed $7,500 of unclaimed capital credit funds from 2015 to make the donation, and that amount was generously matched by our lender, CoBank, through its annual Sharing Success program. “One of the Seven Cooperative Principles that the co-op business model is based upon is ‘concern for community,’ and we try to embody that here at HomeWorks,” says CEO Chris O’Neill. “This pandemic has affected the ability of some of our neighbors to meet their basic needs, and it has caused crisis and pain for many others throughout the rural mid-Michigan area that we serve. I’m glad that we can reach out a hand to those community members in a small way through this donation, and I’m grateful to CoBank for their support.” CoBank’s Sharing Success program doubles the contributions of its customers to charities in their service areas. Since 2012, CoBank has partnered with customers to provide $56 million in combined donations to causes across the country. To learn more about your Co-op’s community outreach efforts, visit and click on the Community tab. 12 MAY 2021

Causes Supported: Community Compassion Network, Mt. Pleasant Nonprofit organization powered by volunteers who work to fight hunger throughout Isabella County.

IM Safe Child Advocacy Center, Fenwick Nonprofit focused on the protection and treatment of child abuse victims in Ionia and Montcalm counties.

Listening Ear Of Isabella County, Mt. Pleasant United Way human service agency providing 24/7 crisis services for families across mid and northern Michigan.

Your Board In Action Meeting remotely on March 29, your board of directors: • Approved allocation of 2020 margins to members based on their patronage, including $2,779,304 for HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative and $1,783,469 for Wolverine Power Cooperative. • Approved management’s recommendation that no general capital credit retirement be made at this time, as the Co-op is investing significant capital into the deployment of a fiber-optic network and the hardening of the electric distribution system to benefit the membership for the long term. • Authorized an estate capital credit retirement of $35,000 to member estates, discounted to present value. • Authorized management to donate a total of $7,500 in unclaimed capital credits from 2015 to three charitable organizations serving residents in our service area. These funds will be matched by the CoBank Sharing Success program offered by the Co-op’s lender, bringing the donation up to a total of $15,000. • Approved management’s recommendation that the remaining balance of $245,890 of unclaimed capital credits from 2015 be retired to donated capital.

• Accepted the Co-op’s annual audit report from a representative of Eide Bailly LLP, a third-party CPA firm. • Learned about the progress of 2021 livestreamed virtual district meeting plans. • Discussed and accepted Policy 401 – Assignment of Capital Credits, Policy 403 – Long-Range Financial Management Plan, and Policy 404 – Retirement of Capital Credits. • Learned there were 69 new members in February. • Acknowledged the February 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 May 24 and June 28 at Portland. However, at the time of this printing, some of our meetings are temporarily being conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members who wish to have items considered on the board agenda should call 517-647-7554.

People Fund Grants Over $5,400 To Families And Organizations In Need Meeting remotely on March 17, the Tri-County Electric People Fund board made three grants totaling $5,423, including: • $3,000 to Housing Services Mid Michigan in Charlotte, to provide housing assistance for HomeWorks members; • $1,500 to Mecosta & Osceola-Lake Conservation Districts in Big Rapids, for household waste collection; and • $923 to a Montcalm County family, to cover dental bills.

How to Apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund Grant The Tri-County Electric People Fund provides grants to individuals and organizations in the Co-op’s service area for food, shelter, clothing, health, and other humane needs, or for programs or services that benefit a significant segment of a community. Write to 7973 E. Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875, for an application form and grant guidelines, or visit the People Fund page at Note: Applications must be received by June 1 for the June meeting or by July 13 for the July meeting.

Offices Closed Memorial Day Please note that our offices will be closed on Monday, May 31, in honor of Memorial Day. While we are closed, you will still be able to reach us at 800-848-9333 to report an outage, or at 877-999-3395 to pay your bill via phone. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 13

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.”



Fuel Mix Report

Notice Of Member Access To Rules And Rates As a member-customer (member) of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative (Cooperative), the following information is available to you from the Cooperative, upon request:

The fuel mix characteristics of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ended 12/31/20.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Your co-op’s fuel mix

Regional average fuel mix







1. Complete rate schedules;




2. Clear and concise explanation of all rates that the member may be eligible to receive; and







Renewable Fuels



3. Assistance from the Cooperative in determining the most appropriate rate for a member when the member is eligible to receive service under more than one rate. For more information, visit or call 800-562-8232.

Fuel source







Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

Regional Average Fuel Mix

Emissions And Waste Comparison lbs/MWh

Type of emission/waste

Your co-op

Regional average*




Sulfur Dioxide



Solid Waste Incineration



Carbon Dioxide






Oxides of Nitrogen








NOTE: Biomass excludes wood; solid waste incineration includes landfill gas; and wind includes a long-term renewable purchase power contract in Wolverine’s mix.

High-level Nuclear Waste

* Regional average information was obtained from the MPSC website and is for the 12-month period ending 12/31/20. HomeWorks purchases 100% of its electricity from Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., which provided this fuel mix and environmental data.

Tri-County Propane • • • • • •

Comfort & reliability for your home Same great HomeWorks service Capped winter rates with no hidden fees Metered service option Auto-fill service available Convenient payment options

Seeking a propane service that delivers on its promises? This service is not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

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Congratulations to HomeWorks members Chester and Myrta Smalley, whose family farm was recently certified as an official Centennial Farm by the Historical Society of Michigan. The 20-acre property, located in Edmore, produces mostly alfalfa and corn. It was originally purchased by the Smalley family in 1919, when Chester’s grandparents, Edward and Anna, moved onto the land.

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

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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!

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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 Report Outages: 1-800-848-9333

Don’t Forget To Attend Your District Meeting!

2021 VIRTUAL DISTRICT MEETINGS: (All meetings will run from 6:30-7:30 p.m.)

• • • • • • •

District 1: Tuesday, May 11 District 2: Thursday, May 13 District 3: Wednesday, May 19 District 4: Tuesday, May 18 District 5: Monday, May 10 District 6: Wednesday, May 12 District 7: Monday, May 17

Log On For The Chance To Win Big Prizes! For more information on how to attend your livestreamed virtual meeting, visit the 2021 District Meetings page at!

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