Nov/Dec 2021 Cherryland

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November/December 2021


COUNTRY LINES Cherryland Electric Cooperative

O C HR ISTMAS TREE Michigan’s Unsuspecting Big Business

Cherryland Celebrates Capital Credit Milestone

Lighting Up The Lake: Northern Michigan’s Famous Floating Christmas Tree Meet The Newest Addition To Cherryland’s Board Of Directors


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Contents Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

November/December 2021 Vol. 41, No. 10


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


6 ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS Help is available for Michiganders struggling to pay their energy bills. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Pressure Cooking: Turn the menu planning pressure off with these delicious Instant Pot meals.

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.

14 O CHRISTMAS TREE Behind the scenes at Michigan Christmas tree farms: The year-round business of producing a seasonal staple.

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.

18 GUEST COLUMN More Than Just a Sports Jersey: How one Alger Delta member's effort and patience helped create a moment he'll never forget.

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.

Be featured!

Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation

(Required by U.S.C. 3685) 1. Publication: Michigan Country Lines. 2. Publication No.: 591-710. 3. Filing date: 10/1/21. 4. Issue frequency: monthly, except Aug. and Dec. 5. No. of issues published annually: 10. 6. Complete mailing address of office of publication: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 7. Complete mailing address of headquarters of publisher: 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 8. Full names and complete mailing address of publisher, editors, and executive editor: Craig Borr, Christine Dorr, Casey Clark, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 9. Owner: Michigan Electric Cooperative Assoc., 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 10. Known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holders owning or holding 1% or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities: None. 11. Tax status: has not been changed. 12. Issue date for circulation data: Sept. 2021. 13. Extent and nature of circulation: Avg # of copies Actual # of copies of single issues each issue during preceding 12 mo. published nearest to filing date A) B) C) D) E) F) G) H) I)

Total No. of copies................................. 243,264 ...................... 243,312 Paid and requested circulation ............ 243,264 ...................... 242,882 Total paid and requested circulation ... 243,264 ...................... 242,882 1) Free distribution by mail.......................... 160 .............................. 160 2) Free distribution outside mail ................. 809 .............................. 887 Total free distribution ................................... 969 ...........................1,047 Total distribution................................... 244,233 ...................... 244,359 Copies not distributed.......................................0 ...................................0 Total ....................................................... 244,233 ...................... 244,359 Percent paid and/or requested circ............. 98.7 .......................... 99.7%

16. Publication of statement of ownership: November 2021 17. Signature and title of editor: Christine Dorr, editor

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


Autumn leaves are proof that change can be beautiful. Hanna Wescott

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit

RECIPE CONTEST Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Sweet Treats, due Dec. 1; Italian, due Jan. 1 Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

GUEST COLUMN Win $150 for stories published!

Submit your fondest memories and stories at community.

MYSTERY PHOTO Win a $50 bill credit!

Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo. See page 18.



CO-OP NEWS Cherryland Retires $2.7 Million To Members In December /cherrylandelectriccoop @cherrylandec BOARD OF DIRECTORS

David Schweitzer, President 231-883-5860

Melinda Lautner, Senior Vice President 231-947-2509 Gabe Schneider, Secretary 517-449-6453 Tom Van Pelt, Treasurer 231-386-5234 Terry Lautner, Director 231-946-4623 John Olson, Director 231-938-1228

General Manager: Tony Anderson Co-op Editors: Rachel Johnson, Courtney Doyle

OFFICE HOURS Monday–Friday 7:30 a.m.– 4 p.m. TELEPHONE NUMBERS 231-486-9200 or 1-800-442-8616 (Mich.) ADDRESS P.O. Box 298, Grawn, MI 49637 PAY STATION Cherryland Electric Cooperative office 5930 U.S. 31 South, Grawn MI, 49637 Cherryland Electric Cooperative is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Cherryland’s board voted to retire approximately $2.7 million in capital credits to the membership this December. This amount includes the passthrough of the retirement Cherryland will receive from its power supplier, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, that same month. The amount retired to each member can be found on the December billing statements.

PSCR Adjustments Appear On Billing Statements Starting this month, members will see a $0.008 per kWh PSCR adjustment on their bills. For more information on this change, head to the PSCR FAQ page on our website.

Cherryland Cares Awards $15,025 To Three Local Nonprofits At its third-quarter board meeting, the Cherryland Cares board awarded grants to Leelanau County Cancer Foundation, Acme Christian Thrift Store, and Betsie Valley Community Center. Cherryland Cares has awarded a total of $52,105 in grants to area nonprofit agencies this year. The Cherryland Cares board is comprised of five volunteer Cherryland members. The funds distributed by Cherryland Cares result from members electing to round up their monthly bills to the nearest dollar. If you are an area nonprofit agency seeking financial help, fourth-quarter grant applications are due Friday, Dec. 10. For more information, please call Shannon Mattson at 231-486-9234 or email at

Cherryland Office Closed Over Holidays In observance of the holidays, the Cherryland office will be closed on the following dates: Thursday, Nov. 25, and Friday, Nov. 26, for Thanksgiving Thursday, Dec. 23, and Friday, Dec. 24, for Christmas Thursday, Dec. 30, and Friday, Dec. 31, for New Year’s Line crews are on call to respond to any outages or emergencies. You can report an outage by texting OUT to 800-442-8616, logging into SmartHub, or calling us at 231-486-9200. Visit our website’s Outage Center for more details.

Members May Dispose Of Christmas Trees At Cherryland Cherryland members are reminded that Christmas trees can be discarded at Cherryland’s office in Grawn. Trees can be dropped off on the right side of the Cherryland parking lot as you are driving in, just beyond where the two parking lots meet. This service is offered free to co-op members.

Last Chance To Receive Energy Efficiency Rebates For 2021 Members interested in making energy efficiency upgrades in their homes or businesses must have the measures purchased and installed before Dec. 31 to receive a rebate from the co-op. Upgrades performed after Dec. 31 are not eligible for 2021 rebates. If you have questions regarding rebates, visit our website or contact Tammy Haworth at 231-486-9261 or


Capital Credit Milestone Tony Anderson, General Manager


n September, your board of directors decided on a capital credit retirement for 2021 in the amount of $2.7 million. This will take the cooperative past $30 million returned to member-owners since 2008. This is a historic milestone.

Everyone at your cooperative is proud of our strong financial position while returning this historic amount of dollars. We are going to strive to continue the practice but do see issues on the horizon that may make it harder in the years ahead.

Member-owners using electricity in 2003, 2004, and/or 2020 will receive a portion of this retirement. If you are currently an active member taking service from us, you will see a credit on your December bill. If you have any questions about your capital credit retirement, just give our member services department a call.

First, we have inflation causing increases in everyday expenses like gasoline, poles, wages, and interest on system improvements (and everything we buy, really). Other than the power cost increase I informed people about last month, the basic electric rates we charge have not increased since April 2018. We may get through another year, maybe two, but a general rate increase due to rising costs is inevitable.

When the cooperative has positive margins/profits, they belong to each member-owner on a percentage of total revenue basis. The cooperative uses them for purchasing poles, wires, trucks, and other essential equipment for a period of time before giving them back. This reduces our borrowing and the associated interest expense, resulting in more affordable monthly electric bills. Typically, an electric cooperative will retire capital credits on a 25-year rotation. There is no magic to the number; rather, it is just a common goal. Cherryland’s aggressive return of cash to our member-owners for the past 13 years has us at a 19-year rotation. This means that we are six years ahead of the average curve.

Second, your board has a goal of keeping cooperative equity above 40%. We can grow equity quickly and easily by not giving back capital credits. Equity has been hovering around 41% for the last few years. When expenses rise higher than revenue increases, equity falls. Equity is a balancing act that we don’t have complete control over. Third, we are looking into a new generation of meters to better serve you. The present generation was installed in the 2006–2008 time frame. Changing out every meter on our system will be an investment of more than $6 million, which will be on top

of our annual system investments of $3–$5 million. This project could begin in 2023 or 2024. The more cash we have at that time, the less we will have to borrow. As you can see, everything is interconnected. One decision has an impact on another and another. We always check the numbers against our mission statement—“Memberdriven. Safe. Reliable. Affordable.” The question that I ask myself is simple: “Can we retire capital credits AND live our mission statement?” Passing the $30 million mark in money returned is a historic milestone everyone should take pride in. We just can’t let our pride cloud the core responsibilities of service to every member-owner as we move forward.

“ Everyone at your cooperative is proud of our strong financial position while returning this historic amount of dollars. We are going to strive to continue the practice but do see issues on the horizon that may make it harder in the years ahead.”



Energy Assistance Programs 2021-2022 Season Winter Protection Plan

Earned Income Credit

Contact: Your Local Utility Company

Contact: • U.S. Treasury Dept., Internal Revenue Service, • Michigan Dept. of Treasury,

Income Guidelines 2021–2022 # in Household 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal income tax credit for lowincome working individuals and families who meet certain requirements and file a tax return. Those who qualify will owe less in taxes and may get a refund. Even a person who does not generally owe income tax may qualify for the EITC, but must file a tax return to do so. If married, you must file jointly to qualify. File Form 1040 or 1040A and attach the EITC.

150% Poverty Guide Maximum Income $19,320 26,130 32,940 39,750 46,560 53,370 60,180 66,990

You may claim a Michigan earned income tax credit for tax year 2020 equal to a percentage of the federal earned income tax credit for which you are eligible.

State Emergency Relief Program (SER)

Add $6,810 for each additional member.

The Winter Protection Plan (WPP) protects enrolled seniors and low-income customers from service shut-offs and high utility bill payments during the winter months. If you are eligible, your utility service will remain on (or restored with the WPP) from Nov. 1 through March 31, if you: • pay at least 7% of your estimated annual bill each month, and • make equal monthly payments between the date you apply and the start of the next heating season on any past due bills. When the protection period ends (March 31), you must begin to pay the full monthly bill, plus part of the amount you owe from the winter months when you did not pay the full bill. Participation does not relieve customers from the responsibility of paying for electricity and natural gas usage, but does prevent shut-off during winter months. You qualify for the plan if you meet at least one of the following requirements: • are age 65 or older, • receive Dept. of Health and Human Services cash assistance, including SSI, • receive Food Assistance, • receive Medicaid, or • household income is at or below the 150% of poverty level shown in the Income Guidelines chart above. Senior citizen customers who participate in the WPP are not required to make specific payments to ensure that their service will not be shut off between Nov. 1 and March 31. Service for seniors can be restored without any payments. Note: All customers 65+ are eligible regardless of income. Customers are responsible for all electricity and natural gas used. At the end of the protection period, participants must make arrangements with their utility company to pay off any money owed before the next heating season.

Home Heating Credit

0–1 2 3

Max. Income

$14,168 19,162 24,156

# Exemp.

4 5 6

Add $4,994 for each exemption over 6.

Max. Income

$29,150 34,144 39,138

You can apply for a Home Heating Credit for the 2021 tax year if you meet the income guidelines listed above (110% of poverty level) or you qualify based on alternate guidelines including household income, exemptions, and heating costs. Additional exemptions are available for seniors, disabled claimants, or claimants with 5% or more of their income from unemployment compensation. If you qualify, you may receive assistance to help pay for your winter heating bills. Forms are available mid-to-late January wherever tax forms are provided or from the Michigan Dept. of Treasury (517-636-4486 or The Home Heating Credit claim form must be filed with the Michigan Dept. of Treasury no later than Sept. 30 each year.



You do not have to be a DHHS client to apply for help with a past due bill, shut-off notice, or the need for deliverable fuel through the SER. This program, available Nov. 1–May 31, provides most of its utility assistance during this crisis season. However, limited assistance is available outside the crisis season. If you receive a DHHS cash grant, you may use part of it toward heat and electric bills. Apply online using MI Bridges:

Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program Contact: Local Community Action Agency You may be able to receive help with weatherizing your home to reduce energy use if you meet low-income eligibility guidelines (200% of poverty guidelines) or if you participate in the Dept. of Health and Human Services Family Independence Program or receive SSI. Weatherization may include caulking, weatherstripping, and insulation. Contact your local Community Action Agency for details. Visit to find one in your area.

United Way Contact: Call 2-1-1 or 2-1-1 is a free phone service operating 24 hours daily to provide information about help that may be available in a particular area with utilities and other needs. Dial 2-1-1 or visit to find available services.

Medical Emergency Protection

Contact: Michigan Dept. of Treasury # Exemp.

Contact: Local Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS),

Contact: Local Utility Company You are protected from service shut-off for nonpayment of your natural gas and/ or electric bill for up to 21 days, possibly extending to 63 days, if you have a proven medical emergency. You must provide written proof from a doctor or a public health or social services official that a medical condition exists. Contact your gas or electric utility for details.

Shut-off Protection For Military Active Duty Contact: Local Utility Company If you or your spouse has been called into active military duty, you may apply for shut-off protection from your electric or natural gas service for up to 90 days. You may request extensions. You must still pay, but contact your utility company and they will help you set up a payment plan.

Michigan Veterans Trust Fund Emergency Grant Program

COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA)

Contact: MI Veterans Trust Fund

Administering Agency: Michigan State Housing Development Authority at

The Trust Fund provides temporary assistance to veterans and their families facing a financial emergency or hardship, including the need for energy assistance. Contact the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund at 800-642-4838 or

MI Energy Assistance Program Contact: Utility or 2-1-1 in late November The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) includes services that will enable participants to become self-sufficient, including assisting participants in paying their energy bills on time, budgeting for and contributing to their ability to provide for energy expenses, and being energy efficient. Shut-off protection is provided Nov. 1–April 15 for all residential customers. The MEAP is supported by the state’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF). An electric utility that chooses not to collect for the LIEAF shall not shut off service to customers for nonpayment between Nov. 1 and April 15. For a list of electric providers that opt out of collecting the LIEAF, go to

In addition to rental assistance, CERA provides heat, electric, deliverable fuels, water, sewer, and broadband assistance to applicants who must demonstrate COVID hardship. Some examples of accepted hardships are on the website, including qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or has experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the coronavirus outbreak; and can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability evidenced by a past due utility or rent notice. • Eligibility is 80% Area Median Income • Utility caps can range from $1,500 to $2,300 with $300–$500 for credits going forward, depending on family size • Up to 12 months of rental assistance • Broadband benefit • Online app portal and delivered through agencies (such as Community Action Agencies)

Dial 2-1-1 for more information on heating and other human services programs. As connected devices become increasingly popular, it’s important that we know how to secure our digital lives. The U.S. Department of Commerce offers the following tips for protecting smart devices:

Get creative with passwords.

Change your device’s factory security settings from the default password. This is one of the most important steps to take in the protection of internet-connected devices. Consider creating the longest password or passphrase permissible, and use familiar phrases you’ll remember, like the lyrics to your favorite song.

Keep tabs on your apps.

Security Tips For Connected Devices Today’s market offers a plethora of new gadgets and devices that claim to make our homes smarter, safer, and more efficient. But as with any new smart technology, consumers should take extra precautions to ensure these devices are secure. Convenient, connected devices are here to stay—and unfortunately, so are the hackers. But by taking extra steps to safeguard your network and devices, you can keep your digital life as secure as possible.

Most connected devices are supported by a smartphone application. Your smartphone could be filled with apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved, gathering personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. Check your app permissions and say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense.

Secure your network.

Properly secure the wireless network you use for internet-connected devices. Consider placing these devices on a separate and dedicated network.

Connect and protect.

Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, game console, camera, or other connected devices, the best defense is to stay on top of things by updating to the latest security software, web browser, and operating system. If you have the option to enable automatic updates to defend against the latest risks, turn it on. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES




The Lake

A Cherryland Engineer’s Christmas Tradition By Courtney Doyle

Find Frank’s floating Christmas tree on Glen Lake between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.


“It’s just kind of a simple, peaceful something out there. It’s fun to drive across the bridge and see it lit up out there on the lake, bobbing in the waves.”

Santa’s 2016 boat tree rescue mission.


’m going to let you in on a little secret …

Cherryland Electric Cooperative employs a pretty important local celebrity—especially around this time of year. Have you ever seen a Christmas tree, covered in lights, floating in the middle of Glen Lake? Well, that’s the handy work of Cherryland Engineering and Operations Manager Frank Siepker, and the story behind his passion project will fill you with warm holiday spirit like your favorite cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows on top. Frank’s wife loves decorating for Christmas, but, “Where we live, there’s not really an easy way to decorate the roadside of our house because there’s a big tree buffer between our house and the road—so there’s not a lot of opportunities there,” he explained. “So I had this idea to stick a Christmas tree on the boat—stick it out on the lake in front of our house,” Frank continued. That was back in 2014. The first attempt included a 4x4 post, some old artificial Christmas tree limbs, and a big, plastic Santa Claus. Over the years, Frank’s festive experiment evolved—and took him on a few unexpected adventures. In 2016, the boat went missing and required a rescue mission, Santa in tow. Then in 2017, the boat tipped over, lighting up the lake from within. And in 2018, the tree’s power source saw some upgrades.

Photo by: Taro Yamasaki

The 10- to 12-foot, high-tech tree is now sustained by three solar panels that put out about 1,000 watts of power to keep around 1,000 little lights glowing from Thanksgiving weekend to New Year’s Day. With some help from co-workers like electrical engineer Chris Vermeulen, Frank says, “We can now monitor battery voltage, and we can monitor water temperature and get real-time status on the tree lights. We can turn them on and off remotely. So it’s kind of just become a project to see what we can and can’t do and how we can be successful within the environment that we’re dealing with out there.” When asked if the tradition will continue this year, Frank said, “Yeah, of course. It’s an expectation now. It gives us something to do and keep an eye on. We’ve had a lot of fun.” Mark your calendar for the Sunday after Thanksgiving and make the trip over the M-22 bridge on Glen Lake before the new year to enjoy Frank’s commitment to spreading a little Christmas cheer. “It’s just kind of a simple, peaceful something out there. It’s fun to drive across the bridge and see it lit up out there on the lake, bobbing in the waves,” Frank said.



MI CO-OP Recipes

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

PRESSURE COOKING Get food on the table fast.


INSTANT POT LASAGNA SOUP Theresa Pacel, Cherryland

1 1 3–4 1 1 2 1 1 ½ 4 • 1–2 ½

pound ground beef cup diced onion cloves garlic, minced cup chicken broth (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (Old World Victoria is my favorite) cups water teaspoon dried basil teaspoon dried oregano teaspoon dried thyme uncooked lasagna noodles, broken into small pieces salt, to taste teaspoons sugar, or to taste; start with less and add more if needed cup heavy cream

Cheese Mixture: 1 cup ricotta 1 cup shredded mozzarella ½ cup shredded (not grated) parmesan 1 teaspoon dried parsley



energy bill credit!

Sweet Treats due Dec. 1 • Italian due Jan. 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


Set the Instant Pot/pressure cooker (6 quart or bigger) to the “Sauté” setting on low and cook ground beef and onion until almost done. Add minced garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Turn off and drain well. Return to pot and add broth, marinara sauce, water, dried herbs, and broken noodles. Lock lid and set to “Sealing.” Cook on high pressure (on “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” setting) for 8 minutes, then do quick release. Remove lid and let simmer/warm for 10 to 15 minutes or until lasagna noodles are cooked through. Then add salt and sugar. Mix the 3 kinds of cheese together with the parsley and dollop into soup, stirring until mixed well. Add heavy cream and mix well. Taste again for salt and sugar. Serve! Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

INSTANT POT EASY PULLED PORK Victoria Nelson, Great Lakes Energy

1 pork shoulder (about 4.3 pounds) 2 tablespoons olive oil

Dry Rub: 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 teaspoons chili powder 2 teaspoons black pepper 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

BBQ Sauce: 1½ cups water 28 ounces Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce (use only ½ the bottle)

Cut pork shoulder into large pieces (about 6 parts). Make the dry rub and rub well into both sides of the meat. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” and add the oil. Add meat to brown all sides (about 3 minutes per side). Mix 1½ cups of water with ½ bottle of BBQ sauce. Once all meat has been browned, remove meat from Instant Pot. Add mixture of water and BBQ sauce to Instant Pot to deglaze bottom of pot. Add pork back into pot. Lock lid and set to “Sealing.” Choose the “Manual” setting and set to 60 minutes. Wait for pressure to build (you should see the pressure pin pop up after a few minutes). After 60 minutes of pressure cooking, carefully release pressure to “Venting.” Use forks or tongs to pull apart the pork; it should be super tender and fall apart. Serve on sandwiches or eat as is.


1 teaspoon olive oil ½ cup chopped onions (white or yellow) 3–4 garlic cloves, minced 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks 2 green Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored, sliced into chunks 3 cups broth (vegetable or chicken) 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk 1 teaspoon honey • salt and pepper, to taste ½ teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon curry powder

INSTANT POT MINESTRONE SOUP Laura Campbell, HomeWorks Tri-County 2 3 1 2 2 1½ 1 ½ 6 1 1 1 1 1 1

tablespoons olive oil cloves garlic, minced yellow onion, diced carrots, peeled and diced stalks celery, diced teaspoons dried basil teaspoon dried oregano teaspoon fennel seed cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (16-ounce) can cannellini or kidney beans, drained and rinsed zucchini, chopped (3-inch) parmesan rind bay leaf bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped

Set the Instant Pot to the “Sauté” setting and add the oil and onions. When translucent and fragrant, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the squash, green apples, broth, coconut milk, honey, salt/pepper, cinnamon, and curry powder. Stir; set the pressure cooker to “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode and cook for 15 minutes. When the pot indicates it has finished, quick release the steam. Open the pot and, using an immersion blender, very carefully blend until creamy. You can also transfer to a highpowered blender. Stovetop Instructions: Add oil and onions to a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Sauté until fragrant and translucent; add garlic. Add the squash, green apples, broth, coconut milk, honey, salt/pepper, cinnamon, and curry powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender or high-powered blender to blend the soup until creamy.

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste ¹⁄ ³ cup freshly grated parmesan 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves Set a 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot to the high “Sauté” setting. Add olive oil, garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2–3 minutes. Stir in basil, oregano, and fennel seed until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in stock, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, zucchini, parmesan rind, and bay leaf. Select “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” setting; adjust pressure to high, and set time for 5 minutes. When finished cooking, carefully quick release the pressure. Stir in kale until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in red wine vinegar; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately, garnished with parmesan and parsley, if desired. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Meet Our New Board Member:

Valarie Handy

Cherryland Member 2004–Present


Certified Economic Developer; Innovation Center Social Scientist, Data Analytics Division

Community Involvement

Commongrounds Cooperative, Traverse Connect Young Professionals, Traverse City Election Precinct #1, Cherryland’s Emerging Leaders Program

Why did you want to join the Cherryland Electric Cooperative Board of Directors? I have been fortunate enough to spend my entire adult life working in service or rural communities across Michigan, and more recently, across the U.S. My experience has shown me that rural communities are the heart of this country and serve as the home base for the most creative, collaborative, innovative, and entrepreneurial people I could ever hope to meet. I believe Cherryland Electric Cooperative is a leader and a model worth following for how groups of individuals can work together to solve complex challenges in an ever-changing world. Each member has a voice and a vote. Fostering that democratic, civic engagement is worth the time and effort, and I am honored to serve that cause by joining the Cherryland Electric Cooperative Board.

“ I'm excited for the opportunity to serve Cherryland's membership. Rural communities are vital, made of people who take the time to get to know their neighbors. Cherryland makes sure to consider their neighbors in the decision-making process and I'm honored and excited to take on that responsibility." — Valarie Handy, Director— Benzie/Manistee/Wexford

“ Valarie is a great fit for the Cherryland board. Her passion for the cooperative model and history of serving her community will be a great asset to the boardroom as we strive to make decisions that best serve our membership.” —David Schweitzer, Board President


What do you see as Cherryland’s biggest opportunity? The biggest opportunity I see for Cherryland, and the greater Grand Traverse Region, in relation to economic development is electric vehicles. Michigan is at the forefront in the United States’ research and development related to electric vehicles and battery storage. The region is poised to attract many highskill workers in the coming years and Cherryland could greatly benefit from being involved in those efforts.

What do you see as Cherryland’s biggest challenge? The biggest challenge I see for Cherryland’s future is related to member engagement in the cooperative structure. There is a wave of apathy sweeping through the culture of the United States today. A culture where “liking” a tweet or sharing a Facebook post from behind a device is valued at a higher level than actual service to one’s community. I see that kind of apathy and disinvolvement as a challenge/threat to Cherryland, as well as an opportunity if Cherryland chooses to see it as one. Cherryland has an opportunity to show the world how rural communities work together to cooperatively accomplish goals.

To learn even more about Valarie—listen to our latest Meet the Board podcast series at

Don’t Fall Victim To Utility Scams By Abby Berry


very day, millions of Americans are targeted by scammers through phone calls, emails, text messages, online, or in person. Scammers’ tactics can change daily, which is why consumers need to stay on top of the latest scam reports from local and national news outlets, as well as your local utility companies. Right now, Cherryland wants you to be aware of two specific common scam tactics. One is the overpayment trick, where a scammer contacts you and claims that you have overpaid your utility bill. The scammer will say they need your personal banking information to deposit the credit back to your checking account. Don’t fall for this scam! If you make an overpayment on your energy bill, Cherryland will automatically apply the credit to your account, which will carry over to your next billing cycle. Another trending scam is smishing (short for SMS phishing). Many consumers know to watch out for suspicious emails, but we tend to trust text messages sent to our smartphones. Always question suspicious texts, especially from someone claiming to represent a utility. Cherryland will only send you important updates via text if you’ve signed up for our outage text alerts. These are just a couple of examples of trending scams, so it’s important to watch for any red flags.

Here are a few reminders on how to take control of the situation when a scammer has targeted you: • Take your time. Utility scammers try to create a sense of urgency so that you’ll act fast and hand over personal information, especially over the phone. Take a moment to think about the situation before acting. • Be suspicious. Scammers typically request immediate payments through prepaid debit cards or third-party apps. Unusual requests like this should raise red flags. • Confirm before you act. If you’re contacted by someone claiming to represent Cherryland Electric Cooperative or another utility, but you’re unsure, hang up the phone and call the utility directly. You can reach us at (231) 486-9200 to verify the situation. Our increasingly connected world provides scammers with more opportunities to connect with unsuspecting consumers. Be vigilant, and please report any utility scams to Cherryland Electric Cooperative so we can let others in our community know. Together, we can help prevent our friends and neighbors from being victimized.

AVOID UTILITY SCAMS Scammers will threaten you with everything from shutting off power to your home to legal action. Don't fall victim to these types of scams.

• Our employees will never show up at your door to demand payment. • Never give personal information to an unknown caller or visitor. Our representatives have access to the details they need to service your account. • Demands for immediate payment by wire transfer, cryptocurrency, gift cards, or cash reload cards should immediately raise red flags. • If you think you’ve been contacted by a scammer falsely representing the co-op, please let us know as soon as possible.

O CH R ISTMA S TR E E Michigan’s Unsuspecting Big Business By Emily Haines Lloyd


he Christmas season is bursting with joy, hope, and a healthy dose of nostalgia. We take it in through all our senses— the sight of fresh snow and glistening lights, the taste of holiday recipes handed down through generations, the sound of carols on the radio, the feeling of holding handmade ornaments. But perhaps nothing brings us so quickly into the holiday spirit than the smell of fresh pine, evergreen, and spruce. Is there anything as completely magical as a fresh-cut Christmas tree? While we get lost in the memories and moments that flood us around our trees, it’s easy to forget that Christmas trees are also a business, in fact, a pretty big business in Michigan. “Michigan is the third largest grower of Christmas trees in the country,” said Amy Start, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association (MCTA). “There are 2 million Christmas trees harvested each year in Michigan, but the magic is that there is one perfect tree for each person or family.” With only Oregon and North Carolina producing more Christmas trees, Michigan farms grow more than 37,000 acres of commercial trees that produce a $35 million industry for our state. With an average growing cycle of 10 to 12 years before harvest, these are an investment in time, land, and resources, making them a huge commitment. Scott Powell, manager of Dutchman Tree Farms in Manton, Michigan, is part of the family-owned team that is not only the largest Christmas tree grower in Michigan, but is in the top five producers annually in the United States. “Christmas trees are our business. For every crop we grow, there are real American families who put their hard work in every day,” said Powell. “There is a lot of joy in the work, but also a lot of responsibility as stewards of the land. We take care of it for future generations to work and enjoy.” While Dutchman is heavily involved in providing trees to wholesalers—think big-box parking lots with strung lights, making it easier for families to

Dutchman Tree Farms

Robinson Tree Farm

get their tree during their busy lives—they also have a Choose & Cut business that is run by the teenagers in the family, who have grown up trimming and shearing alongside their families for their entire lives. Others in the Christmas tree and nursery business, like Needlefast Evergreens, a Great Lakes Energy member in Ludington, Michigan, are equally connected by both Christmas trees and family lineage. Started by Bill Nickelson in 1954, the current Needlefast is run by Bill’s son and grandson, Jim and Ben Nickelson. Even Ben’s 11-year-old son has gotten into the business—growing a few rows of strawberries in the off-season and making sure the berries are cared for as he saves enough for next year’s plants. “The entire business is about family,” said Ben Nickelson. “On Thanksgiving morning, our family comes together and loads trucks full of Christmas trees before we settle into our meal. The next day, families from all over come to visit us to find their perfect tree.” While many farms have passed through generations, there are those who are still run by their first generation, like Robinson Tree Farm in Traverse City, Michigan, owned by Darrell Robinson. However, the sentiments run just as deep.

Needlefast Evergreens The Association encourages school field trips and can connect educators with farms in their area.

“You can’t help but be moved as you watch families come year after year, growing up alongside my own family,” said Robinson. “And then you’ll have someone offer to pay for another family or donating one to a family in need—and you know you’re in the right business.”

The MCTA also provides help with coordinating tree donations from Michigan farms for the annual Trees for Troops program. Trees for Troops is a nonprofit program where various farms from around the state donate trees for U.S. troops and their families—to ensure they know others are grateful and thinking of them for their sacrifices during the holiday season.

Nickelson agrees. “Most of the people who visit our farm are lifelong customers. So often in our everyday, we are looking for things to make life easier. But when the family shows up, picks their tree, decorates it—well, we remember to look for the things that make life better.”

“It’s the best crop, for the best reason,” said Powell. “While celebrating the birth of Jesus, we also get to be a part of memories for families, to celebrate and remember those they love and have lost. For our family, it’s very personal.”

The Michigan Christmas Tree Association (MCTA) is a nonprofit membership organization serving Christmas tree growers in the state of Michigan. The MCTA promotes and markets real Christmas trees to the public, while assisting growers in the state with education and business connections to improve the profitability of their farms.

To find a Christmas tree farm in your area, visit




Santa 1. “Chillin’ with my homie.”—Sabrina Brandt  2. “Vinnie was a very good boy, Santa!”—Heather Bridson  3. “Taken at Santa Claus House, North Pole, Alaska.”—Charlotte Williams 4. “First Christmas—forever friends!”—Erin Howe  5. “ This is my granddaughter Soleil’s first encounter with Santa. Obviously, not a good one!”—Martie Young 6. “Bear, what bear? I only see Santa!!”—Morgan McFarland

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Submit Your “Generations” Photos By Nov. 20!

Submit your best photo and encourage your friends to vote! The photo receiving the most votes in our Facebook contest will be printed in an issue of Country Lines along with some of our other favorites. Our Nov./Dec. theme is Generations! Photos can be submitted through November 20 to be featured in our February issue.

Enter Your Photos And Win A Bill Credit!

To enter the contest, visit or visit cherrylandelectriccoop and click “Photo Contest” from the menu tabs. Enter your picture, cast your vote, and encourage others to vote for you as well. If your photo is printed in Country Lines during 2022, you will be entered to win a credit of up to $200 on your December 2022 bill. 16 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2021

Your Board In Action September Board Meeting • The board voted to retire a total of $2.7 million in capital credits. That pushes Cherryland past $30 million total retired to our members! To see how much you’ll receive, be sure to check your December bill under “Capital Credits.” • Member Relations Manager Rachel Johnson gave a presentation on Cherryland’s Energy Waste Reduction program. Goals for 2022 and beyond include a shifted focus from energy load reduction to carbon reduction, planning for load management and how new technologies factor into that, and putting a greater emphasis on programs to help low-income households make energy-efficient upgrades. • Director of Human Resources Kerry Kalbfleisch introduced Cherryland’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion project. The management team, along with Board President Dave Schweitzer, met with a consultant to begin assessing Cherryland’s current DEI practices. Members have the opportunity to provide input to the board prior to any regularly scheduled board meeting. To have your comments included in a monthly board packet for review, please submit them to Board Assistant Secretary Shannon Mattson at a minimum of three business days before the monthly board meeting.

Fuel Mix Report

The fuel mix characteristics of Cherryland Electric Cooperative as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ending 6/30/21.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Fuel source

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

Be Safe Around Transformers This Winter Breaking out your snow plow for another wintry season? Before you do, please be mindful of the pad-mounted transformers in your area. As snow piles up, it’s easy to forget where those big, green boxes are. Accidentally plowing over a snow-blanketed transformer can be very expensive and dangerous (like 7,200-volts dangerous!). Before plowing this winter, take note of the location of your transformer or, just in case, stick a marker nearby, so you never forget. Remember, safety first!

Regional Average Fuel Mix

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. Cherryland purchases 100% of its electricity from Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., which provided this fuel mix and environmental data.


Guest Column

Picking Out My Own Game Jersey By Brian Maki, Alger Delta Cooperative member


here’s nothing more fitting in this world than picking out your own game jersey. Ask any sports player. The sweat and sacrifice are monumental to end up wearing something that represents you, your school, and your community. It’s really considered the “holy grail” of all sporting experiences. I had been team manager from 1985 through 1988. After practice one night, Marquette’s legendary basketball coach Gordy LeDuc said, “Brian, three kids quit the team today. There’s only nine on the bench.” As a 17-year-old kid, I was still looking for my chance. He asked: “You wanna join the team?” “Sure,” I said. “I’ll keep stats for you. I’ll do whatever it takes, coach.” He smiled. Mr. LeDuc threw me the key to the old storage room, a place where team jerseys were stored. It was a place I knew well but had never believed that I would ever pick out my own jersey in my wildest of dreams. But I did. Thirty-three years ago. On Jan. 26, 1988, my dreams turned into reality. I would no longer be remembered as just a team manager. On that special night, I would crush many failures with my very first shot. With three seconds left, I broke for the ball, and while double-teamed, I heaved a magical 55-foot shot at the buzzer. The horn was long over by the time the ball hit the backboard and went in. Game over. People bolted from their seats and pushed me to the ground, chanting my name. It was (and still is to this day) the greatest moment of my life. The odds were stacked against me that I would ever find myself in that jersey. But, there I was, a winner. This shot was an accumulation of effort, focus, patience, luck, experience, fate, practice, and faith to seal my fate and my destiny into basketball lore. Talk about a “holy grail” experience.

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energy bill credit!

Brian Maki is a computer consultant and enjoys traveling in the U.P., writing, and learning about new technology.

WIN $150!

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

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by Dec. 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at September 2021 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Jodie Samkowiak, a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as Mackinaw Island House Hotel, looking from the marina side. Photo courtesy of Corey Niedzwiecki. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/December.

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