May 2021 MEC

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May 2021


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

Pre-buy Your Propane And Save

Summer Energy-Saving Tips Our Community Solar Program

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.







Fiber Growth On The Horizon

ST JOSEPH /teammidwest CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER 60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER 59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIAN SOLUTIONS CENTER 1610 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. CONTACT US Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989 Email: BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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

Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590 Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443 John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816 Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164

James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762



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

4 MAY 2021

Robert Hance, President/CEO

or years we’ve been known as the local electric cooperative that also provides propane and telecommunications services. Within five years, we might be better known as a regional telecommunications provider that also provides electric and propane services.


In December, we were tentatively awarded $37 million through the FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to provide fiber internet in unserved and underserved rural areas across southern Michigan. With these funds, awarded through a reverse auction format, we will construct 3,223 miles of fiber in 267 census block groups in 16 counties, making our service available to more than 40,000 new homes and businesses across southern Michigan. We’ve been in a growth mindset for several years now as we live out our mission of delivering first-in-class innovations and solutions where others won’t. Our priority was obviously our own electric customer base. Since 2015, we’ve invested about $75 million to build an advanced communications network to enhance our electric distribution grid and bring fiber telecommunications services to our electric customers. We always realized the potential beyond our electric service territory and have been approached regularly by individuals, townships, entire counties, and other organized groups with the same need and desire for robust broadband and no access to viable solutions. With a strong focus on prudent growth based on sound financial modeling and adherence to certain critical tenants, we established some metrics by which we evaluate growth opportunities without negatively impacting our electric customers. In other words, these partners must bring money to the table so that our electric customers, owners of the co-op, do not shoulder the costs. At the end of the day, growth in our fiber and propane businesses ultimately helps us better manage the financial future of the electric cooperative for our owners, the electric customers who comprise our core business. To date, we’ve worked with Lyndon Township in southeast Michigan and the villages of Marcellus and Mendon to build fiber infrastructure. We’ve also had several smaller residential and business opportunities. Rural broadband has long been a national priority, as seen with RDOF and earlier auctions. Still, the pandemic ultimately shined the brightest light on all Americans’ critical need to have access to viable solutions. MEC’s decision to build a pure fiber network has proven to be the wisest choice that we could have made for our customers. Now, even more, money is being funneled into local communities through the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus program approved earlier this year. As a known and respected provider of the fastest and most reliable service available in the region, we’re fielding many new inquiries. We’ve started work on the five-year RDOF project and will continue to consider other growth opportunities as they come along, always evaluating based on what’s best for the co-op and our owners. There is a lot of change coming our way, but the one thing that remains the same is our strong commitment to our customers’ service experience.


Community Solar Opportunity

Happy Memorial Day

Innovation is at the heart of what we do at MEC. We recognize that emerging and renewable energy sources will continue to shape, even dramatically alter, the way we power our homes. Our SpartanSolar-MEC solar array offers you the chance to be part of the renewable revolution with minimal expense and effort compared to doing it on your own.

Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 31, 2021. Please report outages or pay your bill via SmartHub. We will process payments left in our drop box on Tuesday, June 1.

When you purchase a panel subscription, you will receive a bill credit for the solar power generated from that subscription. However, the subscription will not yield significant savings on your electric bill. That’s not the intent. In fact, each panel generates roughly $40 in account credits each year. The ultimate goal is to show our commitment to the future of energy while giving you the opportunity to participate in clean-energy production. Details • Subscription costs: $600/panel upfront cost or $10/mo. for five years • 15-year lease agreement • Credit of $.10/kWh generated • Cancel at anytime Credits appear on your bill following the first full calendar month of participation and continue to accrue for each full month of your remaining subscription.

SCAM ALERT We will never call you to ask you to give payment information to one of our representatives. In fact, our employees can’t take payment information from you. You have to use our automated system to pay your bill over the phone. Bottom line: If someone calls you claiming they represent MEC, and they ask for your bank or credit card info, hang up immediately.



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

Avoid Long Hold Times On The Phone Our call volume has been very high, and because we ensure that every customer gets the time he or she needs, this increased volume has resulted in longerthan-normal wait times.

Log into SmartHub, our web portal and mobile app, to do the following activities 24/7/365. No need to wait on the phone. • Check your current account balance Viewable right on the home screen • View and print your billing history for the past 24 months (very useful at tax time) Under the Billing & Payments menu • Set up a payment arrangement/ extension Under the Billing & Payments menu • Sign up for autopay or change your autopay bank or credit card information Under the Billing & Payments menu • Report an outage Under Contact Us>Service Orders/ Inquiries>Power Outage

• Add propane or internet service or make changes to your current service Under the My Services menu • Request a nonemergency propane fill Under Contact Us>Service Orders/ Inquiries>SH-Propane Delivery Request • Check your electric or propane usage to see how much energy your house has consumed Under the My Usage menu • Ask us a question, and we’ll respond within two business days Under Contact Us>Service Orders/ Inquiries

SIGN UP FOR SMARTHUB. IT’S FREE AND EASY TO USE. Register for SmartHub via your web browser at Download the SmartHub Mobile App from your app store, and search for Midwest Energy & Communications under Providers.

MOVING? If you are relocating and will no longer be a MEC customer, you can request a disconnect through SmartHub under My Services. Please make sure to update your contact information with your new address to ensure we mail your final bill and/or refund payment to the correct location. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


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.

Summer Energy Savings Help keep your cooling costs in check this summer with these tips from


Prevent Heat Gain From The Sun

• Sun shining in through windows and doors literally warms your home like an oven. Use window coverings to keep the sun out and your home’s temperature cooler.


Maintain Your A/C Unit

• For central air, have a professional check the unit annually. He or she will perform a proper tuneup and can spot some potential problems before they become emergencies. • Change the filter on your HVAC unit regularly all year long.


2 Run Ceiling Fans • Run ceiling fans at a fast speed in a counterclockwise direction to create a wind chill effect. Turn the fan off when you leave the room; fans cool people, not rooms.



Use Your Thermostat Wisely

• Try to keep your thermostat as close to the outdoor temperature as possible. The Department of Energy recommends at least 78 degrees when you are home. Turn up the thermostat even higher when you are away to prevent your A/C unit from running unnecessarily. A programmable or smart thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature to ensure you are cooling your home when you need to and not when you don’t. • When first turning on the air conditioner, don’t turn the temperature way down to jumpstart the cooling effect. Your A/C unit doesn’t work faster because the temperature is lower, but it could cause it to run longer than necessary.

6 Be Smart About Appliances • Only run full loads in your washer and dishwasher.

Seal Leaks • Cracks and leaks around windows, doors, and utility cutouts allow warm air to enter the home and cause your A/C unit to work harder. Seal or caulk leaks and holes.

• Let your dishes air-dry instead of using the heat setting. Prop the door open once the final rinse is complete for faster drying. • Cook or grill outside when you can to avoid running your stove or oven. • Buy Energy-Star certified appliances; these appliances are guaranteed to run more efficiently than noncertified ones.

Michigan customers: This website is your one-stop-shop for all things energy efficiency. Learn about ways to save money and apply for rebates on energy-efficient appliances. You can also participate in free programs to help you assess and improve your home’s overall efficiency. Business and farm programs are available as well.

Save Yourself From



id you know that many of your household electronics continue to use electricity even when they aren’t on? Additionally, device chargers that are left plugged in after the device has been removed from the charger also continue to utilize electricity. This means that your household is still using electricity even if you aren’t. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, this wasted energy adds up to roughly $200/year in electricity costs. Here are some tips to reduce the drain: • Unplug devices and chargers when they aren’t in use. • Put your computer into sleep mode when unplugging it isn’t practical. • For devices that aren’t easy to unplug, consider using an advanced power strip that can automatically shut off the power for you. Here are some of the types available: Timer power strips shut off the power at a set time º every day.

Activity monitor strips use motion sensors to look º

for signs of activity in the room. If no activity is detected, it shuts off the power. While convenient, this type isn’t always reliable—especially if Fido roams around the room.

Master-controlled strips turn off the power for º

the entire strip when the item designated as the “master” gets turned off. These power strips also often have an “always on” outlet in case you want to plug something in, such as a wireless router, that should always have power even if other devices plugged into the strip are turned off.

Masterless power strips cut the power when all º the devices connected to it are turned off.

Remote switch strips allow you to turn off the º power via a remote. However, you have to remember to shut it off.

• When replacing or adding new electronics to your home, select ones that are energy efficient to reduce the amount of power consumed while in standby mode.

Michigan Residents Purchase an advanced power strip at one of our solutions centers for as little as $10, and save money and energy. We also have LED night-lights and light bulbs to help you save even more.


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.”



Propane Rate for June 1, 2021 – May 31, 2022, is $1.599/gal.



ccording to ABC57 Meteorologist Tom Coomes, this past winter was normal, but one thing wasn’t for some propane customers with other providers: their supply. Unfortunately, many customers found themselves in the cold when their provider couldn’t get them the gas they needed. After hearing a horror story from friends that they had to keep their house at 45 degrees to conserve gas while they waited—and waited—for a delivery, Cheryl B. took the matter into her own hands. She contacted her provider immediately. “My tank was at 20%. I’m a widow, and I live way out in the boondocks. I was not about to run out of gas,” she said. However, she couldn’t get ahold of anyone. So after 50 years with her previous supplier, she called us. Your MEC home team did what we always do: We delivered. Literally. Within a few short days, she had her new tank set and filled with MEC propane. In fact, it’s our guarantee. Cheryl also commented, “Your employees were so nice to talk to. They always are, and since I have your electric and internet services, I like that all three services will come on one bill.”


$1.499/gal Buy your gas in advance and save $.10/gal. while eliminating monthly payments.


Sign up by July 31, 2021, at

We like that too. We have nearly 150 employees serving customers like Cheryl and delivering first-in-class innovations and solutions where others won’t.

Pump-Down Credit For New Propane Customers Switch to MEC, and we’ll include a credit of up to $250 for any pump-down fees you pay to your old provider.

Fuel Mix Report

The fuel mix characteristics of Midwest Energy & Communications as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ending 12/31/20.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Fuel source

Why Does My Power Blink Sometimes? ave you noticed your power blinking a few times prior to an outage? Alternatively, have you experienced blinking one or two times, and then your power returns to normal? These occurrences are evidence that the system is working as it should when a temporary fault happens on our lines.


Your co-op’s fuel mix

Regional average fuel mix
















Renewable Fuels












Solid Waste Incineration









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

Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

We follow the industry-wide practice of utilizing Oil Circuit Reclosers (OCR) to act essentially as breakers on the system. When things like lightning, animals, branches and vehicles come into contact with our lines, an OCR opens to stop the fault and then closes again quickly. Hence, the blink. If the disturbance on the line remains, the OCR will continue to trip two more times. If, after the third blink, the disturbance remains, the OCR remains open, resulting in a power outage. Overall, OCRs help protect the entire system, and they also isolate outages to reduce the number of impacted customers.

Regional Average Fuel Mix

Access To Rules And Rates Please be advised that the following information is available to Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) customers: 1. Complete rate schedules; 2. Clear and concise explanation of all rates that the customer may be eligible to receive; 3. Assistance from MEC in determining the most appropriate rate when the customer is eligible to receive service under more than one rate; 4. Clear and concise explanation of the customer’s actual energy use for each billing period during the last 12 months. The information can be obtained by contacting MEC at 800-492-5989.

Emissions And Waste Comparison lbs/MWh

Type Of emission/waste

Your co-op

Regional average*

Sulfur Dioxide



Carbon Dioxide



Oxides of Nitrogen





High-Level Nuclear Waste

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


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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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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.
















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