Today in Mississippi February 2021 North East

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2020 YOUTH



on the menu

outdoo scene around the ‘sip

Sacred Stone of the S Stone of the Sacred outhwest is on the S is on the Bouthwest rink of Extinction ago, Persians, Brink of Extinction Tibetans and Mayans Centuries

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enturies ago, Persians, considered turquoise gemstone Tibetans and a Mayans of the heavens, the considered turquoisebelieving a gemstone striking blue stones were sacred of the heavens, believing the pieces of sky.stones Today, thesacred rarest striking blue were and most valuable turquoise pieces of sky. Today, the rarest is found in the turquoise American and most valuable Southwest–– but the future of is found in the American the blue beauty unclear. Southwest–– butisthe future of the beautytrip is unclear. Onblue a recent to Tucson, we spoke with fourth generation On a recent trip to Tucson, we turquoise traders who explained spoke with fourth generation that less traders than five turquoise who percent explainedof turquoise mined that less than fiveworldwide percent can of be set intomined jewelryworldwide and only about turquoise can twenty inand theonly Southwest be set intomines jewelry about supplymines gem-quality turquoise. twenty in the Southwest Once agem-quality thriving industry, many supply turquoise. Southwest mines have run dry Once a thriving industry, many and are now closed. Southwest mines have run dry and now aclosed. Weare found limited supply of C. turquoise Arizona We found afrom limited supply and of C. snatched itfrom up for our Sedona turquoise Arizona and Turquoise Collection. Inspired snatched it up for our Sedona by the work of thoseInspired ancient Turquoise Collection. craftsmen designed by the workand of those ancientto craftsmen andexceptional designed blue to showcase the showcase the stabilized exceptionalvibrant blue stone, each stone, each features stabilizeda vibrant cabochon unique, features aYou unique, one-of-a-kind matrix surroundedcabochon in Bali metalwork. could one-of-a-kind matrix in Bali metalwork. You could26 drop over $1,200 on asurrounded turquoise pendant, or you could secure drop $1,200 on a turquoise pendant, or $99. you could secure 26 caratsover of genuine Arizona turquoise for just carats of genuine Arizona turquoise for just $99. Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If you aren’t completely Your is 100% guaranteed. you aren’t completely happysatisfaction with your purchase, send it back If within 30 days for a happy withrefund your purchase, send it back within 30 days for a complete of the item price. complete refund of the item price. The supply of Arizona turquoise is limited, don’t miss your chance The supply Arizona turquoise limited, don’tCall misstoday! your chance to own the of Southwest’s brilliantisblue treasure. to own the Southwest’s brilliant blue treasure. Call today! Jewelry Specifications: Jewelry Specifications: • Arizona turquoise • Silver-finished settings • Arizona turquoise • Silver-finished settings

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Our history and future leaders show us the way Mississippi is a state bursting with rich stories of its history – some tales well known and others waiting still to be revealed. Stories about our state’s history are some of our favorites to feature in Today in Mississippi. Readers have told us over the years that stories about our history are some of their favorites as well. Telling those stories are a tradition we intend to carry on well into the future. This month our main feature delves into the Mississippi history of a place and a small group of people who are trying to preserve a landmark in that location. Rodney, a tiny Jefferson County community in Southwest Electric’s territory, has been a popular tourist destination because of its reputation as a “ghost town.” I’m not sure there’s any actual spectral presence in Rodney, but the picturesque locale is a spot with two ancient churches, houses built decades ago and a cemetery that all tell stories about the people who populated the once busy and booming Mississippi River port town. The Rodney History and Preservation Society is a nonprofit group that is trying to restore the 200-year-old Rodney Presbyterian Church. The group’s reasons for trying to save

the church is one of the cornerstones of why history is so important to all of us. Our February issue is also special because, for most of our electric cooperatives, we have highlighted the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi’s 2020 Youth Leadership Class. These future student leaders, like many of us, will never forget the year that caused different kinds of challenges and disappointments. The students were forced to cope with the cancellation of the group’s annual trip to Washington D.C. for health reasons. The good news is the 2020 crop of youth leaders stepped up to the challenge and persevered – a strong and crucial trait in any leader We congratulate all of our youth leaders this year and look forward to discovering how you will change the world in your future endeavors. The Class of 2020 has convinced me of this: I can assure our members that the future looks bright and we are going to be in good hands as the years progress!

by Michael Callahan Executive Vice President/CEO Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Mississippi is... “A Reason to Sing!” As I gaze out my window Watch the leaves fall to the ground, My ears perk up with “Joyful” As I hear the familiar sounds! It’s the sound of the geese honking The cows mooing in the fields, The hummingbirds fluttering The sights and sounds that nature yields! I drive along the country road Take my pups out for a ride, We breathe in all the beauty That Mother Nature does provide! Flowering trees along the roadside Bales of hay lined up so neatly, The sounds of children playing Their voices resound so sweetly! When I add it all together The true pleasures that it brings, Each day in Mississippi Is one reason my heart sings!

by Kathleen Busch, a resident of Poplarville and a member of Coast Electric

What’s Mississippi to you? What do you treasure most about life in our state? Send your brief thoughts to Today in Mississippi, or mail to P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158

in this issue

5 southern gardening The art of intentional gardening

7 scene around the ‘sip A look at special people and places around Mississippi


11 outdoors today History of a hickory tree

12 local news 18 feature

Saving a church in the “ghost town” of Rodney


24 on the menu

Valentine’s Day sweets can be healthy

27 mississippi seen Sunrises and sunsets


The Official Publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Vol. 74 No. 2

OFFICERS Kevin Bonds - President Eddie Howard - First Vice President Randy Carroll - Second Vice President Ron Barnes - Secretary/Treasurer Michael Callahan - Executive Vice President/CEO EDITORIAL STAFF Ron Stewart - Senior VP, Communications Steven Ward - Editor Chad Calcote - Creative Director/ Manager Elissa Fulton - Communications Specialist Rickey McMillan - Graphic Designer Kevin Wood - Graphic Designer Chris Alexander - Administrative Assistant EDITORIAL OFFICE & ADVERTISING 601-605-8600

Acceptance of advertising by Today in Mississippi does not imply endorsement of the advertised product or services by the publisher or Mississippi’s electric power associations. Product satisfaction and delivery responsibility lie solely with the advertiser. • National advertising representative: American MainStreet Publications, 800-626-1181

Circulation of this issue: 473,638

Non-member subscription price: $9.50 per year. Today in Mississippi (ISSN 1052-2433) is published 12 times a year by Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi Inc., P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300, or 665 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS 39157. Phone 601-605-8600. Periodical postage paid at Ridgeland, MS, and additional office. The publisher (and/or its agent) reserves the right to refuse or edit all advertising. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS. (See DMM 507.1.5.2) NON-POSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: send address corrections to: Today in Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300

On the cover Church cover: The 200-year-old Rodney Presbyterian Church. Photo by Chad Calcote. Youth tour cover: Members of ECM’s 2020 Youth Leadership Class. Note: The photos were shot in February 2020 before the COVID-10 pandemic began.

FELINEFriends Share photos of you and your cat or just your cat.

Photos must be high-resolution JPG files of at least 1 MB in size. Each entry must be accompanied by photographer’s name, address and co-op. Also, the cat’s name. Attach digital photos to email and send to Deadline: March 5. Select photos will appear in the April 2021 issue.


Resolve to be an intentional gardener It’s February but it’s still enough of a new year to say Happy New Year! Boy, oh boy, what a number COVID laid on us in 2020. It was clearly demonstrated how ill-prepared we are for disruptions in many supply chains. Who can forget the short supplies of toilet paper, and who has not put away a couple of extra rolls just in case? One positive COVID outcome that occurred in 2020 — if it’s OK to say COVID and positive in the same sentence — was the tremendous increase and interest in consumer horticulture. But even this caused shortages of many gardening and horticultural essentials, from seeds to transplants, and from hoses to fertilizers. These shortages occurred because no one could have predicted the demand. Now I’m not complaining. My goal as a Mississippi State University Extension Service consumer horticulture specialist is to promote the home garden and landscape and create excitement in them. So, I’ll take any help I can to get more people gardening and receiving the benefits from it. As I look at the 2021 gardening year that has already started, I would like to see home gardeners become intentional gardeners. Now this is different than simply having good intentions for the garden. Calling ourselves gardeners implies that we have good intentions of having a successful garden. But in reality, good intentions don’t mean much. For example, I meant to pull some pesky weeds, but the latest episode of “The Mandalorian” was just released. That’s such a 2020 COVID excuse. I’m talking about gardening with a purpose. This does not mean you have to have a huge garden. Being an intentional gardener has nothing to do with the size of your garden. Whether your garden is 10,000-square feet or a set of

containers on the porch or patio, intentional gardeners act on their intentions to have a successful gardening experience. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about and planning what you would like to accomplish this year in your garden and landscape. Like me, you may already be receiving a pile of gardening and seed catalogs, as this is the traditional garden-planning time of year. These catalogs are great resources to help plan an intentional garden. Many good gardening intentions are made while thumbing through catalogs and creating a mental wish list for a glorious garden. The beautiful images of flowers and gorgeous fruits and vegetables are like a siren’s song — so alluring — but it is important to avoid going overboard. Unrealistic expectations for the coming garden harvest can happen to even the most experienced Extension consumer horticulture specialist. (In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about myself here.) Over the next several Southern Gardening columns, I’m going to discuss becoming an intentional gardener. I will share tips to give us the power to fight the garden’s siren song. So, here’s to having our best intentional gardens possible in 2021.

by Dr. Gary Bachman Gary Bachman, Ph.D., Extension/Research Professor of Horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also host of “Southern Gardening” radio and TV programs. He lives in Ocean Springs and is a Singing River Electric member.


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scene around the ‘sip

by Elissa Fulton Growing up on a catfish farm in Yazoo City, Chat Phillips has affection for entrepreneurship and his rural roots. He attended a small boarding school in Chattanooga, Tennessee before attending the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. As part of his liberal arts education, he was required to take a foreign language. He chose Japanese and picked it up rather easily before studying abroad in Japan. It was his first time out of the United States, and after traveling more than 30 hours to his destination in the northern mountains of Japan, in a climate very much like a summer in Mississippi without air conditioning, he was exhausted and hot. His host family immediately offered him a cold beverage which, for their culture, parallels sweet tea for Mississippians. The drink, made from a barley seed and blended into a tea called mugicha, was unlike anything he had ever had. When Phillips graduated, he moved back to Mississippi and began working in economic development in Tupelo. Phillips met his wife, Stevie, in Tupelo before the newlyweds moved to Jackson and Chat begin working for a state agency, and then moved into the private sector. With his career, he’s made many trips back to Japan. Because mugicha is not common in the states, when he would visit, he always drank his favorite beverage and would pack his suitcase with it before he returned. “This drink couldn’t be found in Mississippi and I missed it so much, I just started buying raw grains and roasting it for myself,” he said. Because of the health benefits, Chat and Stevie started making it for their friends and families as an alternative to caffeinated teas and coffee. It wasn’t long before the young couple decided since it wasn’t available locally, and they were already providing it for many people they knew, they might just have a business opportunity that could combine Chat’s love of mugicha and the Japanese culture. It was then that

Inaka Tea Company was born. “We just started experimenting, and as far as we know, we are the first U.S. company to brew and bottle it,” said Chat. “And I believe we are the first company in the world to brew and blend it with flavors.” Inaka Tea Company offers three flavors: original, mint and ginger. Chat and Stevie had to build the supply chain from scratch. They researched and visited with more than 30 grain roasters and finally one of them agreed to take a chance. They worked on perfecting the product for more than six months. In addition to being a unique product, the tea has great health benefits. There are many antioxidants and helps to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol, with calming agents such as melatonin and tryptophan. The company name and logo are also quite inspiring and took time to perfect. “Inaka is a Japanese word that means countryside, hometown or place of origin,” said Chat. “The reason I chose that name was because one, the first time I had it I was literally in the countryside of Japan, but two, I wanted to appreciate our roots as a company and a family.” Chat said he grew up on a farm in Mississippi and the couple intends to stay in Mississippi. “I wanted those two things together as our brand.” The company was set to launch in the spring of 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic halted those plans. Though the Phillips admit that launching a business in the middle of a pandemic has not been ideal, the Mississippi-based Corner Market in Hattiesburg took a chance on Chat’s dream and is now carrying the product in three Hattiesburg stores and three Jackson stores. They are expecting a statewide launch in the near future. For more information about Inaka Tea Company visit FEBRUARY 2021 | TODAY 7


scene around the ‘sip

Youth students continue to lead in challenging times by Elissa Fulton and had a photo session and breakfast with their state legisFor 34 years, Mississippi’s electric cooperatives have been lators before touring the Mississippi State Capitol. Along with supporting young students through the Youth Leadership legislators, Gov. Tate Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Program. This program includes a year-long selection process Secretary of State Michael Watson all attended the workshop at local cooperatives to select the participants for a leadership and encouraged these students to follow their dreams. workshop in Jackson in February, and a week-long tour of Unfortunately, as with many other Washington, D.C. in June each year. events this past year, the 2020 Youth The program is supported locally by Tour of Washington, D.C., was canceled. electric cooperatives, statewide through When the global coronavirus pandemic the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi began, our cooperative advisors felt and nationally through the National Rural certain we would be able to continue Electric Cooperative Association. Since the with a local program later in the year. 1960s, the program has inspired leadership As the COVID-19 virus showed no signs qualities, introduced first-hand knowledge of slowing down, a decision was made of state and national politics and encourto cancel the remaining 2020 activities. aged relationships that many of these The safety of the students has and will students will foster throughout their lives. Curry Black accepts the overall Youth Leadership Award from Ron Stewart, senior vice president of the always be a priority. The students are selected based upon Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi. The organizers of this program have their academic achievements, participating in student organizations and volunteerism Curry Black receives worked tirelessly to offer a comparable solution for these students by providin their schools, churches and communischolarships ing scholarships. Though we believe ties and participation in local cooperative Curry Black, representing East Mississippi scholarships can in no way replace the activities and/or interviews. Electric Power Association, was selected as the opportunity of seeing our nation’s capMississippi’s students are recognized 2020 Youth Leadership Council (YLC) member. ital, experiencing politics firsthand and He is the son of Lori and Stefan Black of Louiseach year in Today in Mississippi in the ville and attends Winston Academy. As a YLC making lifelong relationships, the CEOs, April issue following the workshop in student, Curry was awarded the $1,000 Youth board directors and program directors of Jackson, and again in the August issue Leadership Award and scholarship, as well as the participating cooperatives hope that after the summer tour, where they appear additional scholarships from EMEPA and ECM. Black’s future goals are to attend law school, this scholarship will aid in these student’s on the cover of the magazine. become involved in politics and eventually future educational goals. “Our 2020 students possess the qualibecome President of the United States. We The classes of 2020 and 2021 have ties that define great leadership and have congratulate Black on his accomplishments! undergone many disappointments as a vision for the future,” said Ron Stewart, their senior years have been disrupted by this global crisis. ECM senior vice president. “They are energetic young people The resiliency that we have seen in these students has been who lead by example and are willing to step forward to make both remarkable and encouraging. They have found ways to a difference, even while facing difficult challenges. They are connect with each other safely, to continue with their studies problem solvers and, with great enthusiasm, are dedicated to and to follow rules set in place by leading officials. All of these working together to achieve success.” qualities have shown an insurmountable desire to succeed. There were 87 students from the Class of 2020 who participated in the annual Youth Leadership Workshop in Jackson Feb. These students have overcome much in this past year and been 27 – March 1, 2020. They participated in team-building exercises, challenged in ways that few have in the past. We are excited to see what their futures will hold. heard speeches from motivational speakers and public officials FEBRUARY 2021 | TODAY 9

mississippi seen events


on the menu

scene around the ‘s co-op involvement

southern gardening

mississippi is...

grin ‘n’ bare it


Revisions Requested Approved

STEVEN Date_____ Revisions Requested Approved

Hunting comrade Neal Brown found the old hickory This past season I elected that proud hickory. Neal told me of its fate, for he had already visited its position on the long before I, several years in fact. The tree stood proudly bluff. I went anyway. The situation was dire. Lightning we just at the edge of an east-west ridge overlooking a tanassumed. I felt a pang of grief. Even considered clearing gled hollow through which a deer trail wended its serpensome debris from the tree’s base and employing it one tine route annually. It, this trail, was generally considered a last time, but outsized limbs far overhead had begun sure thing. Neal introduced it to me. cracking and falling. Too risky. I moved He had also found a similar-sized over to the side of that bastion of hope oak that held an identical station on a and grand memories. A sentinel that had north-south ridge a few hundred yards seen far more nature and cold and hot to the west of that hickory. Same sitand howling wind and rainstorms than I uation: a sure thing. Cradle quietly in had or ever would. Now a mere skeleton, the embrace of either tree’s behemoth waiting for one final crash that would roots long enough and sit still; deer leave it in decay. will trickle along respective ridges or But it had not been wasted. It had hollows. provided in grand form for the wild things We came to identify these two and for two hunters who would miss efficacious locales by truly clever and its grandeur. And 30 yards away stood creative titles: the Big Oak and the another, smaller and younger and growing Big Hickory! They became our into its own destiny as a colossal guardian most-visited sites when deer hunting, and resting place for any visitor. It likely and who got which when depended was the offspring of that once-proud upon who spoke first. A coin toss hickory. I nodded respect for both, regret would settle the matter if we claimed for the old and celebration for the new. the same simultaneously. We are The once-proud hickory that hosted two hunters I hope to visit next December. friends and fellow hunters after all. for 20 years is now a ghostly figure, but a new Both trees had been kind to each of one is growing nearby. us, so there was no cause for squabble. Beside that big oak six years back, I took my last buck while using my beloved wooden bow. Shoulders and neck, strategic players in the game of old age, preclude me from doing so again. I have since been unable to convince by Tony Kinton myself to gravitate toward wheels and cables, so that chapter is closed. Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in And three years ago, Neal took a particularly fine Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit for more information. specimen from that same spot while using his big Sharps rifle and black-powder cartridges. If a ledger had been kept and consulted, results would show similar success and balanced accounts for both hunters and both trees during two decades.

CHAD Date_____


to a proud

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mississippi marketplace u outdoors today d the ‘sip picture this my opinion ement

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North East Mississippi ELECTRIC POWER ASSOCIATION For more information about Today in Mississippi, contact Marlin Williams or Tracie Russell at 662-234-6331




2020 Youth Leadership students receive scholarships For the past 30 years I have had the privilege to serve as the North East Power youth advisor for the Youth Leadership Program. Our statewide and national offices do an amazing job organizing this program each year. It is truly an amazing opportunity for the students that are selected to learn teamwork, leadership skills and first-hand knowledge of local, state and national politics. The students attend a three-day workshop in Jackson and a seven-day tour of Washington, D.C. High school juniors from all over the state are chosen to participate in the program by interviews, essays or some form of contest. The selection process is left up to the local participating cooperatives. As an advisor, I am able to travel to other cooperatives in the state and assist with their selection processes. I have also had the opportunity to attend the statewide workshop each year and have been on many Youth Tours to Washington, D.C. This has afforded me the opportunity to meet thousands of impressive students through my 30 years — and the selections are never an easy decision. Each of these students that are invited to apply and/or interview have leadership qualities that have been recognized by their teachers and school officials. In February 2020, I was able to take our North East Power students to Jackson to participate in the 34th Annual Youth

NE SPARC UPDATE: NE SPARC has connected 1,700 customers, with 750 being in the CARES Act grant project areas. Another 600 customers that have been connected are also in very rural areas just outside of the CARES Act footprint zones. We are opening all CARES Act zones before the end of February. Also, we will open Brittany Woods 224 and Sardis Lake 214 Zones within the next month. Crews are stringing fiber westward towards Thacker Heights and throughout Woodson Ridge Zones. Cornersville’s communication hut is ordered and scheduled for an April delivery. Both Woodson Ridge and West Oxford Huts are scheduled for installation within the next two weeks. We are pushing southward to Taylor as fast as possible. We expect all rural circuits to be completed within the calendar year 2021. 12 TODAY | FEBRUARY 2021

Leadership Workshop. They were able to meet their legislators and hear words from Gov. Tate Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, Secretary of State Michael Watson, and other motivational speakers. I watched as these students made friendships with like-minded students from all over the state. I was scheduled to attend with these students this summer and we were all so excited to meet up again and spend seven days exploring our nation’s capital city. Unfortunately, a global pandemic put an end to the 2020 Youth Tour. I met with other state advisors and ultimately, as disappointed as we were, we knew we could never risk the health and safety of these students. We decided as a group to offer the students scholarships. We know these students have experienced many disappointments this year, but we hope that these scholarships will aid in their future by offsetting their college expenses. We wish these students good luck in all of their future endeavors, and we truly hope the time they spent in Jackson with their peers was beneficial and educational.

by Tracie Russell Marketing and Communications Specialist

Meet the 2020 Youth Leadership scholarship recipients Dalton Cooper Potts Camp High School “My dad has a trucking company in Holly Springs, and we have approximately 55 trucks. He also owns a feed and fertilizer store in Holly Springs. I plan to go to work for my family business after high school.”

Nathanael Leary


Lafayette High School “When I first left for Jackson for the ECM Youth Leadership Program, I truly thought it was just an opportunity to get out of school. I was amazed by the number of young Mississippians there that I related to. The relationships I formed with some of those guys are some of the strongest I’ve ever made, and we all keep in touch regularly. The workshop itself completely blew me away as well. The things I learned and the opportunities I was afforded to talk with Mississippi legislators was second to none. Though I am still undecided, several college opportunities that I have are to attend Millsaps or Belmont Abbey to play tennis, or staying in Oxford and attending Ole Miss or doing ROTC at Texas A&M.”

Brown Turner Oxford High School “I am currently undecided about where I will attend college. I really enjoyed the trip to Jackson! I was able to meet a lot of new people and make new connections that I still keep up with today. I also learned about leadership and how I can be a more effective leader in my community.”

Suhani Patel Oxford High School “After graduating, I hope to go to a university in the North. The biggest thing that I got out of the Jackson trip was all the friendships I formed. I met some of the most amazing people there, many of which I still stay in contact with. I am so thankful for this leadership program. It has given me some of the best people I’ve known, along with important lessons on how to be a leader.”

Elizabeth Nicole Wood Lafayette High School “My plans are to attend the University of Mississippi and major in biology with a minor in general business on the premed track. At first, I was slightly nervous about attending the workshop because I didn’t know very many people. However, that trip strengthened my leadership and communication skills, all while allowing me to meet new people.” FEBRUARY 2021 | TODAY 13

Celwith ebrat e th e heart heart-healthy choices by Susan Collins-Smith February is designated for celebrating the heart and raising awareness about heart health. Heart disease, a broad term for several different conditions related to heart health, is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. But people can take steps to prevent many of these conditions. “Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease in which the coronary arteries that take blood to the heart become partially or fully blocked,” said David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “This happens when cholesterol, or plaque, builds up in the arteries. Factors that contribute to this buildup include excess unhealthy fats in our diets, high blood pressure, smoking and high blood sugar.” Lifestyle changes can reduce many people’s chances of developing coronary heart disease, Buys said. Consider the following recommendations from Buys: • Reduce the amount of unhealthy fats in the diet, including saturated and trans fats. • Reduce sodium intake. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables. When buying canned vegetables, soups or snack foods, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added items.

• Aim to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, which can include jogging, speed walking, bicycling or dancing. Natasha Haynes, a family and consumer science agent with the MSU Extension Service and host of the “Food Factor,” said it is important to reduce the intake of unhealthy fats, especially saturated fat, to lower cholesterol. Haynes shared her five favorite substitutions to help reduce unhealthy fats when cooking: • Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg. • Season with low-sodium broth or bouillon instead of unhealthy fats. • Mix light mayo with plain yogurt in a 1:1 ratio. • Use nonstick vegetable sprays, water or broth for cooking or sautéing. • Use reduced-fat condensed cream soups. For more information about heart disease and how to reduce the risk of developing related conditions, visit the American Heart Association website at Susan Collins-Smith is a writer for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

• Increase fiber intake by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.


Lifestyle changes, including eating more vegetables and fruits, can help prevent many conditions associated with heart disease.

COMMITTED TO A CULTURE FOR ALL by Anne Prince Over the years, you’ve heard us expound on why and how electric cooperatives are different — because we’re cooperatives. Our business model sets us apart from other utilities because we adhere to seven guiding cooperative principles that reflect core values of honesty, transparency, equity, inclusiveness and service to the greater good of the community. Electric cooperatives have a unique and storied place in our country’s history. We democratized the American dream by bringing electricity to rural areas when for-profit electric companies determined the effort too costly. Back then, cities were electrified, and rural areas were not, creating the original rural-urban divide. Newly established electric lines helped power economic opportunity in rural areas. Today, that spirit of equity and inclusion is a vital part of our co-op DNA.

Equal access for all When each electric co-op was founded, each member contributed an equal share in order to gain access to electricity that benefited individual families as well as the larger local community. Each member had an equal vote in co-op matters. That sense of equity and inclusion is still how we operate today. Co-ops were built by and belong to the diverse communities and consumer-members we serve. Membership is open to everyone in the service territory, regardless of race, religion, age, disability, gender identity, language, political perspective or socioeconomic status. By virtue of paying your electric bill each month, you’re a member of the co-op, and every member has an equal voice and vote when it comes to co-op governance. This ties back to our guiding principles of equitable economic participation and democratic control of the co-op.

We encourage all members to vote in director elections and we invite all members to participate in co-op meetings to weigh in on discussions that set co-op policies and priorities. We know members of the co-op community have different needs and perspectives, and we welcome diverse views on all issues under consideration by the co-op. The more viewpoints we hear, the better we are able to reflect the needs of all corners of our community.

Inclusion While our top priority is providing safe, reliable and affordable energy, we also want to be a catalyst for good in our community. Because cooperatives are local, co-op revenues stay in the community. In turn, the co-ops invest in their diverse community base through scholarship programs, charitable giving, educational programs and more. We strive to make long-term decisions that improve and enrich the communities we serve. While today’s world is radically different than it was when electric cooperatives were founded, cooperative values have stood the test of time and remain just as relevant today. We recognize that today’s co-op members expect more, and we pledge to you — the members we proudly serve — to promote a cooperative culture of inclusion, diversity and equity for all. Anne Prince writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. FEBRUARY2020 2021 | TODAY 15 DECEMBER


AGRICULTURE $7.35 billion estimated value for 2020 by Bonnie Coblentz Mississippi farmers generated an estimated agricultural market devastation. In 2019, Mississippi growers received $599 value of $7.35 billion in 2020, a 5% increase from 2019 that million in various forms of government payments. saw soybeans top forestry for the No. 2 spot behind poultry. Josh Maples said coronavirus response programs made up The predicted total ag value exceeds 2019’s production a significant portion of the government payments. value of $7.01 billion, marking the ninth consecutive year “The Coronavirus Food Assistance Programs 1 and 2 were that agriculture topped $7 billion the primary relief programs for in the state. farmers who faced price declines Keith Coble, head of the and additional marketing costs due Mississippi State University We went through unprecedented to COVID-19,” Josh Maples said. Department of Agricultural “The other programs included the losses early to midyear, but Economics, said the year did not traditional farm bill programs like markets have generally improved Agriculture Risk Coverage, Price start out looking good. “We did some midyear analysis Loss Coverage and conservation in the latter portion of the year. on June 1, and the economic programs.” picture for farm products looked pretty bleak,” Coble said. At an estimated value of $2.16 billion, poultry continues to be “We went through unprecedented losses early to midyear, the state’s major ag commodity, despite declining from the $2.57 but markets have generally improved in the latter portion billion value it posted in 2019. of the year.” “The estimated 2020 Mississippi broiler value of production Josh Maples, an agricultural economist with the MSU is $1.9 billion, which is down 19.5% due primarily to inventory Extension Service, said poultry took a hit from COVID-19disruptions during the spring and weaker prices,” Maples said. related issues and dropped 16% in value. But row crops were “The number of broiler chicks hatched in Mississippi from April to strong, posting a combined $2.6 billion estimated value. June was 12% lower in 2020 than in 2019, and prices during these “This was a turbulent year for all agricultural producers months were exceptionally low.” due to the market upheaval caused by the pandemic,” he While broilers were down, eggs were up 21%. Eggs make up said. “Poultry production was especially impacted during the about one-tenth of the overall value of poultry to Mississippi. spring by demand disruptions. Row crop markets also faced Eggs increased to an estimated value of $260 million. low prices and uncertainty early in the year before stronger “This increase is driven by stronger prices, especially during prices in the fall helped boost the value of production.” the spring months,” Josh Maples said. “Eggs faced significant Although rebounding markets and prices helped the year production challenges during the COVID-19 shutdowns while end stronger than expected for some commodities, higher also experiencing a sharp demand increase due to grocery than normal government payments of an estimated $930 store demand. Sharply higher prices were the result of supply million helped make up some of the gap caused by early challenges at the same time as a demand increase.” 16 TODAY | FEBRUARY 2021

A large part of the supply challenge centered on the different demands of grocery stores and restaurants, as well as the supply chains that exist to meet each of these demands. “Managing these issues improved, and egg prices were much lower in May and June than in March and April,” he said. Forestry holds the No. 2 ag spot most years, but COVID-19 caused many sawmills to scale back production or temporarily close. When mills were not in operation, timber was not being cut and sold, so forestry declined an estimated 2.6% to an overall value of $1.12 billion. That decline opened the door for soybeans to surge into second place overall with an estimated production value of $1.21 billion in 2020. Soybeans helped propel row crops to an overall increase of an estimated 21% over 2019 values. Will Maples, an Extension row crop economist, said the crop’s value grew an estimated 67% over 2019 based mostly on an improved soybean market. Soybeans also reclaimed acreage lost the previous year. “In 2019, suppressed prices due to the U.S.-China trade war and the loss of exports led to Mississippi growers planting the lowest number of soybean acres since 2005,” he said. “A main reason we saw a big increase in acres in 2020 was because we followed a year of record low acres.” Market factors also helped the increase. Soybean exports to China increased in the fall of 2020, which led to a jump in prices that translated into an overall value increase. Despite a decline of more than 9% from 2019 levels, cotton comes in as the No. 4 agricultural commodity with an estimated value of $491 million for cotton lint and cottonseed. “Cotton prices were not great at planting, and that led to lower acres,” Will Maples said. “Worldwide supply chain disruptions this

spring and demand concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns suppressed cotton prices at planting, which led to lower acres. “As the year progressed, though, cotton prices recovered as economies opened back up, and that led to farmers receiving higher returns than were expected this spring,” he said. While the pandemic put a new twist into ag markets, weather is always a factor. Will Maples said the wet spring prevented many producers from getting corn planted, which resulted in lower acreage. Corn’s value was down 10% to an estimated $387 million. Rice was up 44% to an estimated value of $138 million. Peanuts posted a 34% estimated increase to $19 million. But, given the small amount of peanut acreage planted annually in Mississippi, a small change adds up to a big percentage shift, Will Maples said. Cattle and calves experienced slight growth in 2020 with an estimated value of $261 million, up about 5% from 2019 levels. Milk declined 1% and hogs 7% in 2020 to estimated values of $24 million and $38 million, respectively. Catfish also faced a turbulent year due to restaurant demand disruptions among other factors. Its value of production stayed flat in 2020, with an estimated value of $226 million. Specialty crops remained at 2019 levels and together brought an estimated $106 million in production value to Mississippi. Sweet potatoes posted an estimated 1.8% increase for a 2020 value of $96.7 million. Other crops and their estimated values are hay, up 3% to $140 million, and wheat, down 17% to an estimated $4 million. Bonnie A. Coblentz is a writer and editor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. FEBRUARY 2021 | TODAY 17

Photos by Chad Calcote

by Steven Ward “People either get Rodney or they don’t.” That’s how Angel Puckett recently described the allure of the tiny Mississippi River-area community in Jefferson County that was once a bustling port town. Today, known by tourists and most Mississippi residents as a “ghost town,” Rodney, Mississippi is home to about 8 residents. But it wasn’t always that way. Various histories of the area report that the town was three legislative votes away from becoming the state capital due to its status as a boomtown and important shipping point along the Mississippi River. Puckett, a United States Post Office mail carrier who lives in nearby Lorman, lived in Rodney for 30 years beginning in 1980. Even back then, when there were about 100 residents, Puckett remembered people calling Rodney a “ghost town.” Continual flooding from the nearby river forced younger families over the years to move away from Rodney, she said. But Puckett loved living there and that love for the community has carried over into a mission with others with

connections there to preserve a large part of Rodney’s history. Puckett is the president of the Rodney History and Preservation Society, a 501 c3 nonprofit group formed in 2018 to save and restore the community’s 200-year-old Rodney Presbyterian Church. The society now owns the church. “We want to save one of the few remaining buildings in what was almost the state capital. It’s one of the finest examples of federal style architecture in Mississippi and has stood proud for nearly two hundred years,” Puckett said. Right now, construction work is underway to restore the church’s south wall. The church, a two-story gable-roof brick structure with stepped gable ends and an interior-end bell tower, was built in 1832 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The church is also designated a Mississippi Landmark. That classification requires that Puckett’s group rebuild and restore the church with the approval of the Mississippi Department of History and Archives. Following the restoration of the south wall, the group plans on addressing the structural weaknesses of the bell tower. FEBRUARY 2021 | TODAY 19

VERSION #______________ RON Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested STEVEN Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHAD Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ELISSA Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHRIS Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ARTIST ___________ Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested

Saving a church to preserve a link to history

Throughout the time since the group was formed, fundraising and some state money has been utilized to restore the church, Puckett said. “Jefferson County has a rich history and Rodney is basically in our backyard here in Lorman,” said Kevin Bonds, CEO of Southwest Electric. “We applaud the efforts of the Rodney History and Preservation Society to restore the church building and keep the history of this area alive.” Located along a wooden bluff east of the church is the Rodney Cemetery. Although it’s not owned by the society or part of the group’s official restoration efforts, the group and other volunteers have assisted members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in graveyard clean ups. The SCV had asked for help in the cemetery with work which included fixing and cleaning broken markers and cutting markers out of canebrake. The volunteer work at the cemetery is part of the society’s love for Rodney. Puckett said the group is made up of members with various connections to Rodney including some past residents. Mary Pallon of Pine, Arizona is one of those society board members with an important connection.

Rodney Masonic Lodge

A replica of a Civil War-era cannon ball shot fired into the front of Rodney Presbyterian Church

Visit for more information about Rodney or to make a restoration donation.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Society president Angel Puckett

“My grandfather, The Rev. Allen Washington Duck, was the last assigned pastor to Rodney Presbyterian Church, Pallon said. Duck and his wife lived in nearby Red Lick in the late 1920s and served the church once a month. “He loved Rodney. The church paid him $200 to come at least one Sunday a month. He served the church in Red Lick and a church in Hermanville at the same time. He first served Rodney via horse and buggy,” Pallon said. Pallon’s grandfather was part of a Presbyterian effort in the 1950’s to help preserve Rodney Presbyterian. The church was sold in the 1960’s due to only a handful of members, she said. Pallon said she’s trying to continue the effort her grandfather started. “The church is a concrete link to a vibrant, rich, wild history of Old Southwest Mississippi. Rodney Presbyterian is the only distinct building left in Rodney, of the original town,” Pallon said. “Rodney Presbyterian serves to inspire us to understand its history to future generations. Why? Because a historical perspective helps all to navigate in the present and in the future.”


Saluting the men and women who power our lives

The men and women who work at Mississippi’s electric cooperatives are special employees who operate the many moving parts of providing power to our members on a daily basis. Although their diligence is apparent year in and year out, 2020 was a different year than most. The past year was one defined by excessive weather challenges and a global pandemic that changed how cooperatives – and the world – conducted business. Back to back hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico hit Mississippi and other southeastern states and knocked out power far and wide. Mississippi linemen, always on call and prepared to deploy whenever needed, went out in adverse conditions in their home state as well as others in the region to restore power to residents and businesses in need. Tornadoes in Mississippi wreaked havoc this year throughout the state causing long hours and extra personnel to get electricity back to our members. But it wasn’t just our linemen who answered the call to help our members and members of other cooperatives nearby. Office personnel put on chef hats

to cook or arrange food for lineman and support staff. Cooperative communicators were dispatched to the field to shoot photos for social media to keep members up to date with the latest information. The more than 2,950 employees who work for Mississippi’s electric cooperatives went above and beyond to meet the challenges of 2020 to ensure our members had power restored in a safe and timely manner. We salute the employees of Mississippi’s electric cooperatives for their dedication this past year and commitment for years to come.

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Sweets for your sweet during heart month Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and whether you’re single or taken, it is an excellent opportunity to think about hearts, but not just the candy kind. Since 1964 the president has annually declared February American Heart Month as a reminder to get families, friends and communities involved in reinforcing the importance of heart health. You have heard these heart-healthy tips before — engage in regular exercise, adopt a diet lower in salt, limit saturated fats found in red meat and dairy, and avoid trans fat used in margarine and self-stable baked and snack foods. Focus on eating fats found in olive oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish that protect the heart. You can often substitute meat with Mississippi farm-raised catfish or Mississippi seafood. Eat a variety of vegetables, especially those rich in color — darkgreen, red, and orange. Frozen fruits or vegetables and 24 TODAY | FEBRUARY 2021

those canned in water or reduced-sodium are nutritious options, too. There is still room for sweet treats while taking care of your precious heart. At least 70 percent cocoa, dark chocolate is high in flavonoids associated with a lower heart disease risk. You can enjoy 1 to 2 ounces a day to reap the heart benefits. Keep dark chocolate nibs in your pantry to add to oatmeal, yogurt, muffins, pancakes, or trail mixes. With any dessert, portion control matters more than trying to substitute all the calories away. Try frozen raspberries coated in yogurt and covered in dark chocolate for a healthy, bite-size treat. Create a cake in a mug for a perfectly portioned, quick to make, sweet treat. When you have leftover cake or more time in the kitchen, give cake-pops a try for a twist to single-serve indulgences.

Chocolate Covered Raspberries INGREDIENTS 1 container fresh raspberries 1 container vanilla yogurt 1 12-ounce bag dark chocolate chips 2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Rinse fresh raspberries and pat them dry with a paper towel. Allow them to fully dry before moving on. 2. Cover a small baking sheet with parchment paper. 3. Use a fork, toothpick, or clean fingers to dip each berry into the yogurt to coat. Place each yogurt covered berry onto the parchment. Once all the berries are coated, place in the freezer for 60 minutes until it’s hard.. 4. Once the yogurt has hardened, melt chocolate chips with olive oil in the microwave on 30 second intervals, until melted and thin enough to dip or drizzle. If your chocolate gets thick, add an extra teaspoon of olive oil and reheat for 15-30 seconds. 5. Dip each yogurt covered berry into the melted chocolate and place back on the parchment lined sheet. Continue with remaining berries until they’re all coated. Place back in the freezer until chocolate has set and enjoy. Berries will last two to three weeks in the freezer. For the best results, take them out of the freezer and let them sit for 3-5 minutes before enjoying. Substitute raspberries for any fresh berry or cherry.

Microwave Mug Cake

INGREDIENTS 2 tablespoons self-rising flour 1 ½ tablespoons no-calorie sweetener (or table sugar) 2 teaspoons cocoa powder 1⁄8 cup of baking powder Pinch of salt 2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon oil 1 drop of vanilla extract

1. Combine the flour, sweetener, cocoa powder and salt in the mug. Whisk gently until no lumps remain. If you don’t have self-rising flour, use all purpose flour plus 1/8 cup baking powder. 2. Stir in the milk, olive oil and vanilla until smooth. 3. Pop in the microwave on high for 30-35 seconds. Don’t over cook! The cake will continue to cook as it sets and cools. 4. Cool 3-5 minutes. Make it your own and serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, topped with berries, or go wild and add a drizzle of chocolate sauce!

Basic Cake Pops

INGREDIENTS Cake prepared (use your favorite boxed cake mix, homemade cake, leftover cake or store bought cake) 2-5 spoonfuls of frosting (pick your preferred store bought flavor or make it from scratch) 2 bags of chocolate candy melts Cake pop sticks Sprinkles Styrofoam block 1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Add prepared cake to a large bowl and crumble it until it resembles fine crumbs. 3. Add in frosting a small spoonful at a time. Use your hands to incorporate the frosting. You want the cake to be moist and hold a ball shape, but not too mushy. Less is more. 4. Scoop out a small amount to roll into a tight ball and place on a plate. If you have a mini ice cream scoop, that works great. 5. Repeat until all the cake mixture has been rolled into balls. 6. Melt 2-4 ounces of the chocolate melts in the microwave. 7. Dip the tip of the cake pop sticks into the melted chocolate and insert into the cake balls about half-way and place on parchment paper. 8. Freeze for about 20 minutes and prepare all of your decorating supplies. 9. Melt the remaining chocolate in a large cup (not bowl). You need enough chocolate to submerge the cake ball. 10. Remove cake balls from the freezer. 11. Dip cake balls carefully into the chocolate until covered. 12. Let the excess chocolate drip off. Swirl and tap. 13. Add desired sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet. It will harden fast. 14. Stick the decorated cake pop into a styrofoam block to finish setting. (game changer for having attractive cake pops) 15. Place the pops into the freezer to speed up setting time. 16. Store in a cool area in a single layer, and in an airtight container. You can make them beautifully delicious gifts by covering them with a clear bag and tying them with festive string.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rebecca Turner is an author, registered dietitian, radio host, television presenter and a certified specialist in sports dietetics with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A lifelong Mississippian, she lives in Brandon and has spent the last decade offering no-nonsense nutrition guidance that allows you to enjoy good health and good food. Her book, “Mind Over Fork,” challenges the way you think, not the way you eat. Find her on social media @RebeccaTurnerNutrition and online at


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mississippi marketplace on the menu outdoors today Many planned events were canceled Electric power associations... because of the COVID-19 crisis, so we scene around the ‘sip picture this your quality of life partner have had far fewer events to feature in this space as a result. As more areas mypower opinion of Mississippi open back up and groups co-op involvement Mississippi’s electric associations have and will continue and organizations feel comfortable about holding public events, we intend to include those details here. So, if you have an upcoming event for March or April, please email the details to Events are subject to change or cancellation due to COVID-19. Please confirm details before traveling.

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Greater Vision in concert. Feb. 18. Petal. Concert begins at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Runnelstown. A love offering will be received. Details: 601-583-3733. “Why I Live at the P.O.” Feb. 26-28 and March 5-7. Laurel. Comedy based on a Eudora Welty story about the postmistress of a tiny Mississippi post office. Laurel Little Theatre’s downtown Arabian Theatre. 408 5th Ave. The reservation line opens Feb. 19. Details: 601-428-0140.

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February is when we began to notice the days are getting longer. Odd that the shortest month of the year is when we see that we are starting to climb out of winter. Not that we don’t have plenty of cold weather still ahead of us. And the sunset has perceptibly moved farther northward than it was in December. Driving into Jackson on Lakeland Drive, there is a hilltop east of the airport where you get a pretty good view of the city. In the winter, it seems like the sun sets all the way on the left side of my car’s windshield. But in the middle of summer, it has moved all the way to the right side. That seems like a wild shift to me. I know the earth is tilted on its axis 23 and a half degrees off center, which gives us our seasons and allows the setting sun to pick out a slightly different spot every afternoon. But I can’t comprehend how that small of a tilt can move the sunset that far from left to right, at its extremes. But I’m satisfied that someone, somewhere knows why, so I don’t have to worry about it. I’ve been on my way home many times covering a story somewhere in the state and pulled over to get a shot of the sunset. We have some astounding sunsets in Mississippi. I put together a couple of minutes of sunset shots and set them to music and ran them as my television feature story one day. After the newscast, the producer saw me in the hall and commented on my “sunrises.” Then she thought for about a half a second and realized who she was talking to and said, “Wait. I guess those would have been sunsets if you took them, wouldn’t it?” Not that I haven’t seen sunrises, too. But in practical terms,

I’m usually on the road in the late afternoons, not mornings. I’m guessing she meant it as a reflection of my energy level. If you want to see beautiful sunsets in Mississippi, you don’t have to go any farther that your yard. After a summer thunderstorm, the sun can turn creation purple, green or bright orange, depending on how light hits the thunderhead. During winter, the high wispy cirrus clouds get bent in all sorts of directions by jet stream winds. The dropping sun paints them pink to purple as it sets. The coast has great sunsets. Any bluff along the Mississippi River provides a ringside seat to a sunset. So does the levee, to a degree. The high hill in Jeff Busby Park on the Natchez Trace has a relatively unobstructed view of the west. East too, if you ever want to catch a sunrise there. Sunrises and sunsets. As much as they are alike, no two are exactly the same. They are just like us — unique in their own special way.

by Walt Grayson Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at


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