Today in Mississippi March 2022 North East

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scene around the ‘sip

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picture this my opinion grin ‘n’ bare it

We already know

No one needs to tell us how wonderful Mississippi is because we already know. We already know our state is the birthplace of rock and roll, country music, and the blues. We already know that some of the country’s most respected and award-winning writers hail from the state that gave us William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Richard Wright. We already know that Mississippi is home to some of the best food in the Deep South and, for that matter, the world. Most of all, we already know that Mississippi is a place filled with some of the kindest and most giving people in our country. Even though some people who have never stepped foot in our great state like to tear us down because of the mistakes of the past, it’s nice to be reminded that there are others who see Mississippi as we do. Our cover story this month is about a man from far away who now calls Mississippi home. He now knows, just like we do. Joe Dera was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Clifton, New Jersey. After retiring from 40 years in public relations, Dera and his girlfriend moved to Yazoo County from Pennsylvania. Once you read our story, you’ll see that Dera’s career in public relations was not your average office job.

Dera is a member of Yazoo Valley Electric, and like all our electric cooperative members all over Mississippi, he is part of a special community. One of the Seven Cooperative Principles that set electric cooperatives apart from other electric utilities is Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by our members. That means cooperatives do a lot more than provide safe and affordable power for our members. Whether its co-op employees volunteering in local schools or making donations of time and money to a food bank, cooperatives are not just invested in communities, they are an integral part of them. Dera has been a cooperative member since 2016, so this is a little late — welcome to Mississippi and welcome to our co-op community. We hope you enjoy the March issue.

Mississippi is... It’s where I’m from. Born in Laurel, Jones County. Raised on a dead-end dirt road. Waded most every branch of water, climbed most every tree around home. It’s where I am. Clarke County near Quitman. Home now. Beautiful country around here. Wonderful people around here.

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

It’s where I’ll be. My wife and I have been blessed to visit all 50 states, and Washington D.C. Also, Canada and Mexico. Love it all. But no other place like Mississippi. Yes, it’s where I’ll be.

by The Rev. Michael Boutwell, a resident of Quitman and a member of East Mississippi Electric Power Association

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

MARCH 2022 | TODAY 3

in this issue


southern gardening Getting ready for summer gardening

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



outdoors today Time to talk turkey on the hunting trail

10 local news 16 feature

PR agent to the stars Joe Dera retires to Yazoo County


20 on the menu

Yummy deep dish pizza and chocolate cookies

The Official Publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Vol. 75 No. 3

OFFICERS Eddie Howard - President Randy Carroll - First Vice President Ron Barnes - Second Vice President Tim Perkins - Secretary/Treasurer Michael Callahan - Executive Vice President/CEO EDITORIAL STAFF Lydia Walters - VP, Communications Steven Ward - Editor Chad Calcote - Creative Director/ Manager Kevin Wood - Graphic Designer Alan Burnitt - Graphic Designer Courtney Warren - Graphic Designer Chris Alexander - Member Services Coordinator Steve Temple - Social Media Director 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: 480,459

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

23 20

mississippi seen

Here kitty, kitty

On the cover Retired public relations guru Joe Dera enjoys time with his seven rescue dogs in the front of his Bentonia home. Photo by Chad Calcote.

And we think you’re going to love ours. So let’s work together: As electric cooperatives, we were built by the communities we serve—and by members just like you. 4 TODAY | MARCH 2022

Make raised beds now for Although daffodils are starting to show their tops through the bare ground, watching them emerge does not give gardeners much to do during the winter months. But this time spent waiting for spring’s arrival is the perfect opportunity to get ready for the growing season. A project every gardener will benefit from is building a raised bed. A raised bed is simply a landscape or garden bed that is higher than the surrounding grade. These beds are useful for both vegetables and flowers. Gardening in a raised beds is one way to intensively cultivate a small area. It is also a good starting place for new gardeners who may be inGardening in a raised beds is timidated by the time and one way to intensively cultivate work involved in creating a garden from scratch. a small area. It is also a good There are many benestarting place for new gardeners fits of using raised beds. who may be intimidated by Plants require less time the time and work involved in and space to produce a creating a garden from scratch. crop. Research suggests that this is primarily due to the much-improved drainage a raised bed offers compared to in-ground gardening. Weed control is also easier. Gardeners themselves also benefit. Those with sore backs or bad knees will find that bringing the garden up a little closer means less bend and fewer aches and pains. Using raised beds also allows the gardener to reach into the bed from both sides. First, decide where to place your raised bed, as the amount of sunlight it receives affects what can be successfully grown. Most vegetables prefer full sun all day, but they can get by with at least six hours a day of morning sun. Also consider where your raised bed will be in relation to the water faucet. Successful gardens must have easy access to irrigation. It is not hard to construct your own raised bed. The first rule is that a raised bed should never be more than 4 feet wide. That means you have to reach only 2 feet into the bed from either side, and you never set foot in the bed itself. Raised beds are usually about 1 foot deep. You can make the raised beds as long or as short as you like to fit your growing needs and garden space. Some lumber yards now offer treated wood that is garden friendly. If you don’t want to use treated lumber, cedar and redwood have natural resistance to decay. These woods are more expensive but will last much longer than untreated pine.

Build sides out of any hardscape material, such as lumber, galvanized metal, stones, or bricks. Sides keep the growing mix where it belongs and your garden looking tidy. Fill raised beds with a container growing mix that stays light and fluffy. Don’t use regular ground soil. A raised bed is just a very large container, so use a mix that drains well. To calculate the volume of growing mix you need, just multiply the length by width by depth in feet. So, for a 4-by-8-foot raised bed, multiply 8 times 4 times 1, which equals 32 cubic feet of growing mix. Bagged, premixed potting soil or soilless mixes are readily available from garden supply stores. They are quick and easy but are also the most expensive. You can make your own with the same great results using equal volumes of peat moss, compost, and pine bark. To make measuring easier, remember that a 5-gallon bucket holds two-thirds of a cubic foot.

Using hardscape materials, such as treated lumber to build sides, keeps raised-bed gardens looking tidy.

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.

MARCH 2022 | TODAY 5


Trees, Too.

e know everyone in our community enjoys beauty and shade trees provide. But trees d power lines can be a dangerous mix We Trees, Too. hout regular trimming during the We know everyone in our community enjoys owing season. the beauty and shade trees provide. But trees If power you see usbeout in themix and lines can a dangerous without regular trimming during the community trimming, growing season. remember the many If you see us out in the benefits it brings: community trimming, remember the many • Keeps power lines clear benefits it brings: of tree limbs • Keeps power lines clear • Helps us of restore tree limbspower outages more • Helps usquickly restore power outages more quickly • Keeps crews and • Keeps crews and members of our members of our community safe safe community • Reduces unexpected • Reduces unexpected for repairs costs forcosts repairs Trimming improves service reliability for you, the members serve. imming improves service we reliability r you, the members we serve.

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scene around the ‘sip

comes to life in Moss Point by Steven Ward There are 41 educational facilities operated nationwide by the National Audubon Society, and one of them is located on 10 acres in downtown Moss Point. The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is situated on Rhodes Bayou on a historic site where a trolly ran during the late 1800s and early 1900s, said Susan Stachowski, the center’s manager.

The center is described as an educational gateway to exploring nature and bayou habitats by offering educational programming for school groups. The center also features local nature themes, a step back in time with the historic trolley ticket booth and Scout Hut, and hands-on learning opportunities. Visitors can discover the outdoors on the nature trails, bayou pier, bird feeders, critter tanks, an art gallery, and renting kayaks. In 1974, more than 35,000 acres of land along the Pascagoula was preserved for the public. The landmark preservation, spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy, has protected a unique ecosystem, and grown to the current 70,000 acres that keep the largest free-flowing river in the contiguous United States one of the wildest. Wildlife abounds in the Pascagoula River — including some species that are endemic or found nowhere else on the planet. Stachowski said the sounds of nature at the center are her favorite part of what the area offers. “I enjoy being outside at the center listening to the sounds of nature. Squirrels jumping through the trees, birds of all types calling and the sounds of the fish jumping in the water. It is amazing that I-10 and Hwy 613 are visible from the center, but it feels like we are in the

middle of nowhere,” Stachowski said. She said guests tell her that they enjoy bird watching, seeing owls and cardinals nesting, and native plants blooming. Stachowski described the center as an outdoor laboratory where conservation education comes to life. Although the center is owned by the National Audubon Society, it is designed to be financially self-sustaining. Revenue sources come from renting the grounds and buildings for weddings, receptions, parties, and corporate events, I enjoy being outside at the center listening to the sounds Stachowski said. “The center also of nature... squirrels jumping has a gift shop that through the trees, birds of all features nature-based types calling and the sounds of items that are unique the fish jumping in the water. to the area, and we rent kayaks and a pedal boat for enjoyment on the bayou and river. Our art gallery provides local artists a place to exhibit work and offers guests the opportunity to purchase,” Stachowski said. Other than those revenue streams, the center depends on donations from area business, industry, and residents. Donations start as low as $30 for memberships and go up to $25,000 for corporate sponsorships.

Volunteers are a vital part of the center’s success, she said. “We have volunteers who simply provide minnows to feed the snakes, water plants, work with customer service, assist with lawn care and maintenance, assist with educational field trips and some who work festivals and special events. We are always looking for new volunteers,” Stachowski said.

Visit or call 228-475-0825 for more information about the center. MARCH 2022 | TODAY 7

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Common speculation is that Benjamin Franklin wanted to proclaim the wild turkey as America’s national bird. This assumption, invalid though it was, resulted from a letter Franklin wrote extolling the virtues of the turkey and the shortcomings of the eagle. The turkey never officially gained the endorsement of Franklin, but the story has long been circulated and erroneously concluded as fact. The national bird, we all know, is the bald eagle.

Since turkeys are ground nesters, they are vulnerable to predation and spring flooding.

There is substance aplenty to place the wild turkey in a position of high regard. Franklin thought the bird courageous. Many, both yesteryear and today, consider the wild turkey a particularly delightful entity to bake or fry or handle in several other avenues of meal making. All these factors are correct, but there is even more to the wild turkey. Some may say he is gaudy, an accurate assessment. Puffed up and strutting on a spring morning, a gobbler is regal while at the same time a touch pretentious. His displays are exercises of grandiosity, of juvenile yet noble behavior, and presentation. He fans and pirouettes and drums and walks in a stiff-legged fashion comprised of short spurts of forward movement, this accompanied by that drumming and fan flaring and pirouetting. A turkey is also a gobbler. The wildest of sounds, save perhaps the bugle of a bull elk

or the dark-night rumble of a lion. Gobbling is wildness in audio. And the wild turkey is… well, wild. Whether housed in a hen or gobbler, that wildness is the leading force of the turkey’s survival. An old saw among hunters is that a deer thinks every hunter is a stump, and a turkey thinks every stump is a hunter. That is not far from the truth. Swat a mosquito or blink an eye at the wrong moment and the game is over. Turkeys can vacate real estate at near 20 mph on foot; and airborne, maybe 50. But they are not immune to all calamities. Obviously, hunters take turkeys, but this is a small percentage of mortality. The real damage comes in the form of habitat loss, predation, and spring flooding. Turkeys are, after all, ground nesters, and this affords a strong hand of destruction to those last three entities just mentioned. Still, turkey populations are strong throughout their range and are regulated with reasonable guidelines that assure turkey numbers remain solid. I still hunt turkeys from time to time. Not as often as in past years, but I generally go. Whether I shoot or not is immaterial. But having an encounter and conversation with a gobbler is much appreciated. The price of admission for this is to get in the spring woods before daylight and listen intently. Some visitors may not choose that expenditure. But those who don’t are missing a grand adventure in proximity of wild things. So, with shotgun or not, get out and enjoy the drama. It is a glorious performance.

by Tony Kinton Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit for more information.

A grand spring spectacle. Nothing compares to the courting displays of gobblers.


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





Strength in membership The election of our board members is a strength of a memberowned cooperative since cooperatives are governed by the people. Democratic member control is one of the Seven Cooperative Principles North East Mississippi Electric Power Association follows each day. In December, we held our annual meeting and election process. During that time, James Downs stepped down as president of the board. Mr. Downs has represented District 3 on the board for 37 years, and he was president for 28. Mr. Downs took a lot of pride in being chairman of the board. Whenever we would have issues arise, he would think long and hard about what provided our members the best solution. He would poll the board to get their thoughts and tried to gain unanimous consent on major issues. You don’t always get that. Sometimes there was conflict, but he was really focused on making sure board members understand the issues and agreed with anything that we went forward with. Mr. Downs spent a lot of time and effort giving reports to our members. He cares a lot about this association and wants to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to in order to serve our membership. John Davis representing District 4 is stepping into the president role. Mr. Davis has been on the board for over 20 years and is well known in the community. Although Mr. Davis and Mr. Downs have

different leadership styles, they both bring unique strengths to the board and want to do the best to serve our members. We also filled the vacant seat for District 8 during the last election. Long-serving board member Jim Tatum, Jr. died during the 2020 election process. The board decided not to go out and appoint someone. They wanted to allow anyone from District 8 that wanted to run to be able to petition to be elected. We had two candidates this year and the membership elected John Briscoe. Mr. Briscoe is one of the few large farmers left in our service territory. He has been farming in Lafayette County for many years. Mr. Briscoe has hit the ground running with his training, and we are looking forward to having him join us. We think he will be a great board member. We are thankful for such strong leadership for each and every member. As we move into the Spring of 2022, you can see that your association is in great hands.

by Keith Hayward General Manager/CEO

James Downs honored by NEMEPA for exceptional leadership The Board of Directors passed a resolution at the January meeting to recognize and commend the leadership of James Downs as board president. Mr. Downs was elected to represent District 3 in 1985. He served as president of the Board of Directors for 28 years (1993-2021). During Mr. Downs’ tenure as president, North East Mississippi Electric Power Association saw unprecedented growth and success, such as increasing its employee base from 50 to 75 employees, increasing membership from 11,900 members to 27,994 members, increasing the total electric plant in service from $27.1 million to $213.6 million, and increasing electric revenue from $17.2 million to $67.2 million. Mr. Downs has also overseen significant and generational events in NEMEPA’s history such as the expansion and renovation of NEMEPA’s facility, and the implementation of high-speed broadband internet service across the system. We appreciate Mr. Downs’ exemplary and longstanding leadership to our association.

10 TODAY | MARCH 2022


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by Abby Berry A power surge is an unexpected increase in voltage, and it can occur from a variety of sources. Regardless of the cause, power surges can majorly damage electronic devices and equipment in your home. Let’s take a look at common causes of power surges and how you can protect your sensitive electronics. One of the most common causes of a power surge is lightning. Most of us have experienced this during a severe thunderstorm. When A power surge is an lightning strikes an unexpected increase in electrical system, voltage, and it can occur the excess current must be channeled from a variety of sources. somewhere — Regardless of the cause, unfortunately in power surges can majorly many cases, it’s damage electronic devices and sent through a home. Your best equipment in your home. bet is to unplug all unused devices and electronics during severe thunderstorms. Another common cause of power surges is electrical overload. This happens when devices or appliances are plugged into an outlet that can’t handle the required amount of voltage, or if multiple devices are plugged into one outlet through an extension cord. If you’re experiencing power surges due to electrical overload, it’s time to call a qualified electrician to evaluate your home’s circuits and electrical needs. Faulty wiring in a home can also cause power surges. Damaged or exposed wires can cause spikes in voltage, creating a potentially dangerous situation. If you notice signs of faulty wiring, like visible burns on outlets, buzzing sounds from outlets or frequently tripped circuit breakers, your home may be due for electrical wiring repairs and updates. Surges can also occur after a power outage. Sometimes, when electricity is being restored and reconnected, it’s common to experience a quick surge in current. Similar to advice for a surge caused by lightning, it’s best to unplug sensitive electronics during the outage — then wait to plug them back in after power is fully restored.

12 TODAY | MARCH 2022

Aside from unplugging devices when you suspect a power surge, there are two ways you can take additional precautions to protect electronics in your home. Point-of-use surge protection devices, like power strips, can protect electronics during most surges. But remember, not all power strips include surge protection, so read the packaging label carefully before you buy, and don’t overload the power strip with too many devices. You can also install specialized electrical outlets that offer additional surge protection. Talk to a trusted electrician to learn more.

Another option is a whole-home surge protector, which can help protect your home from larger, more powerful surges. In most cases, whole-home suppressors are connected to your home’s service panel and include features like thermal fuses and notification capabilities that indicate when a device has been impacted by a surge. Wholehome surge protection prices vary based on the size of the home and suppressor. Whole-home suppressors should always be connected by a licensed electrician, so consider the cost of installation as well.

Occasional power surges are inevitable, but by unplugging devices when you think a surge may occur and using additional levels of protection like power strips or whole-home suppressors, you can better safeguard your sensitive electronics and devices. Contact your electric co-op if you have questions about ways to protect your home from power surges. Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association..

SURGE PROTECTION Keep your electronic equipment safe.

A power surge is typically caused by lightning, changes in electrical loads, faulty wiring or damaged power lines. Install power strips with surge protection to protect sensitive equipment. • Easy to use (just plug them in) • Protect electronics plugged into the device • Must be replaced over time or after a major surge event REMEMBER: Not all power strips offer surge protection. Carefully read the packaging labels when purchasing. MARCH 2022 | TODAY 13

Use slow cookers properly to avoid food-borne illness by Susan Collins-Smith Slow cookers are winter workhorses in many kitchens, helping serve everything from breakfast to dinner. But no matter the dish, cooks should be sure to follow some basic food safety guidelines. When used properly, these small, countertop appliances are safe and convenient. “Slow cookers cook foods slowly at a low temperature, generally between 170 and 280 degrees, over several hours,” said Natasha Haynes, a family and consumer science agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Rankin County and host of the Food Factor. “The combination of direct heat from the cooker, lengthy cooking time and steam destroys bacteria, making the slow cooker a safe way to cook foods.” The same general food safety rules apply no matter what cooking method is used — clean, separate, cook and chill. Start with a clean cooker, hands, utensils, and surfaces. Wash hands after handling raw meat. Keep raw meats and vegetables separate and in the refrigerator until time to prep them or start

14 TODAY | MARCH 2022

the slow cooker. Use a food thermometer to ensure foods cook to the proper temperatures. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours. Make sure to use the correct size of slow cooker and do not overfill it. Foods may not reach the proper temperatures in an overfilled cooker, leading to food-borne illness. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for how full to fill the cooker. Haynes said that when buying a slow cooker, family size and leftover preferences are important considerations. “If you’re cooking for one to two people and don’t want leftovers, a 3-quart or 3.5-quart is just right for you,” she said. “While many slow cooker recipes are written for larger cookers, most recipes can be scaled down or cut in half to be made in a 3-quart cooker. “If your household includes three or four people, or you’re a couple who loves leftovers, a 5-quart slow cooker is an ideal size for you. This moderate size accommodates everything from soups and stews to chilis and casseroles,” Haynes said.

to move from 0 degrees to 140 degrees, giving bacteria plenty of Liquid makes the steam that allows food to reach the proptime to multiply. er temperature. “When cooking meat or poultry, the liquid level “For the same reason, it is best to reheat foods on the stovetop should cover the ingredients to ensure effective heat transfer or in the oven or microwave,” Jolley said. Never use the warm through the slow cooker,” Haynes said. “Some manufacturers of setting to cook food. slow cookers recommend adding liquid to fill “The warm setting is safe to use for four the stoneware one-half to three-quarters full. hours once the food is cooked,” Jolley said. Always follow the manufacturer’s recipes and “It will only keep the food warm and should directions for the best results.” The combination of direct not be used for cooking or reheating foods. Janet Jolley, an Extension family and heat from the cooker, lengthy The warm setting temperature varies on consumer science agent in Marshall County, cooking time and steam each slow cooker. To keep food safe on the said cooks should always be mindful of the destroys bacteria, making warm setting the food must remain above temperature danger zone, which is between the slow cooker a safe 40 and 140 degrees. Bacteria that can cause 140 degrees.” food-borne illness can grow rapidly in this Slow cookers are ideal for cooking more way to cook foods. temperature range. Cold foods should be economical cuts of meat, such as chuck stored at or below 40 degrees, and hot foods should be held at or steak, beef short ribs, beef brisket, lamb shanks, and pork shoulder. above 140 degrees.Foods should always be thawed before cooking The low, slow cooking method tenderizes these tougher cuts. them in a slow cooker, and leftovers should never be reheated in a Desserts, baked potatoes, casseroles, and breakfast dishes are slow cooker. also easy to make in the slow cooker. “Slow cookers are not made to move food through the temperature danger zone quickly,” Jolley said. “Foods should reach Susan Collins-Smith is a writer for the Mississippi State University 140 degrees within two hours. Frozen foods will take a long time Extension Service

For a variety of slow cooker recipes, check out the food section of the Extension for Real Life blog at

Slow cooker chicken tacos INGREDIENTS

1 ½ pounds chicken breasts, boneless, skinless 1⁄3 cup chicken broth, low sodium 1 tablespoon cumin 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper 1 cup salsa 12 corn tortillas Place chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour chicken broth over chicken breasts. Season chicken with cumin, salt, and pepper. Top with salsa. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours until chicken is done. Measure internal temperature of chicken with a meat thermometer. Chicken is done when internal temperature is 165 degrees. Shred chicken with 2 forks and combine with sauce in the slow cooker. Heat tortillas in a large skillet over medium heat, about 1 minute each side. Add 2 ounces shredded chicken to each tortilla and top with favorite toppings. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

MARCH 2022 | TODAY 15

Photos by Chad Calcote


Joe Dera is happily living out his retirement in an antebellum home in Bentonia with his girlfriend and their seven rescue dogs. “I love Mississippi. I wish I would have done this 10 years ago,” Dera, 71, said while sitting in the dining room of his residence purchased in 2016 and powered by Yazoo Valley Electric. 16 TODAY | MARCH 2022

Dera’s retirement is well earned. For 40 years, Dera worked in public relations as a publicist for some of the biggest acts in popular music. For more than half of that time — 23 years — Dera worked with Paul McCartney. “It’s funny because I was never really a big Beatles fan. I was always a Stones guy,” Dera said. “Somebody asked me how I worked for him (McCartney) for so long. Because it was a job. It was just work for me.” Although Dera’s work relationship with the former Beatle was his longest with one client, McCartney was one of many superstar artists he did public relations for. During various times in his career, Dera worked with The Who, Robert Palmer, The Bee Gees, David Bowie, ZZ Top, Beatles Ringo Starr and George Harrison, Clint Black, Barry Manilow, Peter Frampton, and UB40. Dera’s story is one that begins internationally, moves to New Jersey and New York City where he garners an opportunity to work in the music industry, before landing in Mississippi for his later years.

It’s funny because I was never really a big Beatles fan. I was always a Stones guy. Somebody asked me how I worked for him (McCartney) for so long. Because it was a job. It was just work for me. Dera was born in the Netherlands before his family emigrated to the U.S. with the help of an American soldier who became close to Dera’s father. The family moved to Clifton, New Jersey, which gave Dera close proximity to New York City, home to much of the music industry at the time. Dera, who loved music, had no grand plan to go into public relations. “It just sort of happened. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” Dera said. Dera started writing record reviews in college, partially, to get free music from the record companies in New York City. During that time, Dera went to concerts in the city all the time, including a memorable night in 1969 seeing Led Zeppelin at Carnegie Hall after buying a ticket for $3.50. Dera then started hanging out at a small public relations company called The Wartoke Concern. He got his foot in the door by, at first, offering to help out for free. That work turned into a paying job later. That experience led to an opportunity to work at Track Records, a company owned by Pete Townshend of The Who, where he worked for $300 a week and helped promote the band’s classic album, “Who’s Next” in 1971. The Track Records work led to two other stints in publicity — doing PR and auditioning bands at the Mercer Arts Center, an off, off Broadway theater in Greenwich Village, and working at Levinson Associates Public Relations.

From left, legendary guitar maker Les Paul, Paul McCartney, and Joe Dera.

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In April 1976, Dera was offered a job at the New York City offices of Rogers & Cowan, one of the biggest entertainment public relations firms in the world. As the new guy, one of his first assignments included working as an unofficial personal assistant to Paul McCartney, buying McCartney and his wife, Linda, vegetarian food, and handling travel logistics for the family. “That was a time when McCartney wasn’t touring. So they sent me, the new guy,” Dera said. The relationship with McCartney led to 23 years together. McCartney was one of Dera’s first clients when he launched his own public relations firm in 1989, Dera, Roslan & Campion, Inc.

Other projects Dera worked on while at Rogers & Cowan include doing publicity for The Bee Gees and their “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack; Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” album; and promoting David Bowie’s massive “Serious Moonlight” tour of the U.S. in 1983. “We took Ticketmaster out of the loop, so people lined up around the block for tickets to the Madison Square Garden show,” Dera said. After that, David Bowie wound up on the cover of Time magazine.

From top left, David Bowie speaking at a 1983 press conference; a drumhead signed by Ringo Starr; a frame filled with VIP passes to shows by artists Dera worked with; Dera standing on his home’s staircase; Paul and Linda McCartney holding Dera’s son, Sam; and Dera with Ringo Starr.

18 TODAY | MARCH 2022

Later in life, Dera met a Mississippi woman when they were both living in Pennsylvania. Dera started dating Suzy Case, who is from Madison, when she was working as a forensic psychologist in 2007. The pair visited Mississippi often to spend time with Case’s family, who still lives in Madison. Dera retired in 2011, and the couple decided to buy a house in Mississippi. The couple purchased their home, which was prefabricated in St. Louis in 1857 then moved to Yazoo County. “I’m a sucker for old houses,” Dera said. Dera said life in Mississippi is wonderful. “I love the climate. I love the people. We’ve made great friends, and we are committed to giving back in some way,” Dera said.

Dera and girlfriend Suzy Case.

One of the ways Dera gives back is doing free publicity for his Mississippi friends. One of those friends is David Raines, owner, chef, and operator of The Flora Butcher, a high-end specialty meat shop and the Flora restaurant, Dave’s Triple B: Barbecue, Beer & Blues. Raines practices the local farm-to-table philosophy with his shop and restaurant. A Michelin-trained chef originally from Monroe, Louisiana, Raines has worked all over the world including stints at Emeril Lagassee’s NOLA in New Orleans and Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dera met Raines after he spotted a sign in Flora for the upcoming opening of The Flora Butcher. “I was on the side of the shop, and Joe walked up, introduced himself, and said he was new to the area,” Raines said. Dera told Raines he needed a press agent. “I was just trying to pay it forward,” Dera said. Dera said Raines is helping revitalize downtown Flora with his businesses, which is soon to include a third venture, a wine shop. “I don’t consider this (publicity for Raines) work. If I like somebody, it’s not working,” Dera said.

Dera with Chef David Raines, owner and operator of The Flora Butcher and Dave’s Triple B restaurant.

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This chewy, cheesy pizza is a cross between Detroit-style pan pizza and focaccia. Now, if it’s the weekend, and I think I can scoot through without a trip to the grocery, I’ll whip-up a batch of this dough and pile whatever is around on top. (I highly recommend warming a big square of this pizza then topping it with a cracked egg and running it under the broil for a dynamite breakfast.) Reversing the order of toppings by putting the cheese directly on top of the dough and then adding toppings and then, if desired,

INGREDIENTS 4 cups all-purpose flour 1 package (4 ounce) instant yeast (Rapid Rise) 2 teaspoons sugar 2 cups warm water 2 tablespoons kosher salt 4 tablespoons olive oil Assorted toppings In the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer, combine the flour, yeast, and sugar. Attach the dough hook and add the water. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes or until dough begins to form a shaggy dough. Turn off the mixer and cover bowl with a damp tea towel or cling wrap. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the covering and mix dough on medium-low, sprinkling the salt over the dough. Increase speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes occasionally pulling the dough off the hook.

spooning a few light stripes of sauce over the toppings gives these pizzas a wonderfully crisp, almost fried crust. Aside from the classic pepperoni and such, I like to top mine with some “Delta-style” toppings like crawfish tails, venison sausage, barbequed pulled pork, smoked brisket, even tablespoons of pimento cheese. Mix and match, add sauce, or just go full on cheesy. This dough can be made by hand by following the same steps and times.

Pour two tablespoons of olive oil into two 9 x 13-inch metal baking pans. Tilt the pans around to get oil all over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pans. Cut dough into two equal pieces and place a hunk of dough in each pan. Press dough to form a thick rectangle and cover with a damp towel or cling wrap. Place in a draft-free warm

spot. (I put mine in the closet with our hot water heater.) Let dough rise undisturbed for 2 hours. Press, stretch, and pull dough to cover the bottom of each pan. The dough may shrink back a bit. Cover again and let dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Once again, press the dough, dimpling the surface to cover the bottoms of each pan. Heat oven to 500 degrees and arrange an oven rack in the lowest position. Top each pizza with shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese making sure to sprinkle cheese all the way to the edges of the pans. Add toppings. Bake pizzas 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly or beginning to turn dark brown around the edges. When pizzas are out of the oven, run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen the cheesy crust. Let pizzas cool for 5 minutes and enjoy.

Makes two 9 x 13-inch-deep dish pizzas 20 TODAY | MARCH 2022

These are so easy and impressive! With the help of some old friends on all sorts of apps (that I’m not sure how to use) I cobbled together a close approximation to a cookie served at a beloved deli that closed years ago. I coupled those leads with an inspiration from what’s going on with peanut butter cups these days. The classic incorporates toasted pecans and chocolate chips. I tried batches with mixtures of crushed saltine crackers, pretzels, kettle cooked potato chips, and honey roasted peanuts. These cookies are deeply chocolatey with a salty crunch, chewy chocolate, and meringue crisp crust. Yum!

INGREDIENTS 3 cups powdered sugar 1⁄3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 3 eggs (6 tablespoons egg whites) ½ teaspoon vanilla extract Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat. In a large bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa, and flour. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt together for 2 minutes at medium speed. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients a little at a time until all incorporated. Stir in additions. Scoop eight scant ¼ cup portions of dough onto prepared pans. Bake 15 to 20 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. The cookies will be crisp with trenches of chewy chocolate. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Makes 8 large cookies

Martha Hall Foose, the author of “Screen Doors & Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales of a Southern Cook,” won the James Beard Award for American Cooking. Her latest collaboration is “A Good Meal is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South” with Amy C. Evans. Martha makes her home in the Mississippi Delta with her husband and son. She is a member of Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association.

MARCH 2022 | TODAY 21

mississippi seen

mississippi is...


mississippi marketplace Events open to the public will be published free of charge as space allows. Submit details at least on the outdoors two months prior to menu the event date. Submissions must include a phone number with today area code for Mississippi’s publication. Email to Events are subject to change. scene around the ‘sip picture this The 29th Annual Spring Arts Festival. The 53rd Annual Gospel Singing Jubilee. Lowest March 26 and 27. Ocean Springs. Presented by March 19. Magee. Featuring the Freemans, The Ocean Springs Chamber ofmy Commerce-Main Terryco-op Joe Terrell, Tim Frith and The Gospel Echoes, opinionLife Insurance involvement Street-Tourism Bureau. Fast becoming a mini–Peter Revelations, and Messiah’s Men. The show starts at 6:30 pm at the Magee High School Auditorium. 501 Choctaw St. Details: 601-906-0677.

Anderson Festival, this event will feature artists, and

The 2022 Columbus Spring Pilgrimage. March 24 through April 16. Columbus. Put together by The Preservation Society of Columbus. The daily home tours show off some of the most historically significant private homes in America with a comprehensive view of the architectural periods of the homes that tells part of Columbus’ storied history. The tours feature nationally recognized, multicultural, interactive, interpretive, educational programs for all ages. Proceeds fund preservation, research, and programming of the Preservation Society of Columbus, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Details: 662-368-2503 or

artists’ demonstrations, entertaining lectures and more. This year’s herb of the year is pansey. Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Downtown Ocean Springs. The annual festival showcasing more than 150 artists, crafters, and plant vendors is co-coordinated by the Ocean Springs Art Association and Ocean Springs Fresh Market. Details: 228-875-4424 or visit


in various media including painting, pottery, southern gardeningcrafters ‘n’include bare it jewelry, plants and more.grin Festival activities

Marion County Model Train and Railroad History Exhibit. Now through March 26. Columbia. The exhibit includes a 10x12 foot table with three running model trains on a landscape including Columbia’s Main Street and the Marion County Courthouse. Video interviews of former railroad employees and accounts of the Red Bluff train derailment into the Pearl River. Kids can enjoy a “Young Engineer’s” play area and the movie, “The Polar Express.” The museum is FREE and includes additional exhibits of military, sports, rodeo, farming, logging, arrowheads, Civil War, and Civil Rights. Museum hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 200 Second St. No. 3. Details: 601-731-3999.

Maker Faire Meridian. April 2 and 3. Meridian. A free hands-on show-and-tell event showcasing invention and creativity for and by all ages. Indoors and outdoors demonstrations and exhibits at Soule Steam Works in the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum. Details: or 601-693-9905. The Gulf Coast Military Collectors & Antique Arms Show. April 29 and 30. Biloxi. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 29 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 30. Historic artifacts from all wars bought, sold, and exhibited. War souvenirs, weapons, swords, daggers, bayonets, flags, uniforms, medals, helmets, badges, insignia, and field gear. The Joppa Shriner’s Center, 13280 Shriner’s Blvd. Details: 228-224-1120 or 228-392-9345 or email

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22 TODAY | MARCH 2022

About this time last year, I was asked to be the host of the annual Volunteer Mississippi GIVE Awards. Pretty much every kind of meeting or ceremony at that time was done virtually. So, my “hosting” consisted of reading a script off the teleprompter at Mississippi Public Broadcasting while they recorded it and put it online later. I never met the winners. Nor did any of us get the usual banquet meal that normally accompanies such affairs. I was impressed by all the recipients’ stories. By far the most unusual awardee was Bob Reese of Starkville. He was selected to receive an award for a service he provides — rescuing cats. Reese rescues cats that have inadvertently climbed a tree without an exit strategy. All cats can climb. But not all cats can UN-climb. Sometimes cats are stuck up there for days without food or water. Bob says it is not true that every cat will eventually come down on its own. Some may die of starvation, dehydration, or exposure. So, someone must go up to haul them down. Bob became a cat rescuer after his pet made a venture up a tree. He tried to find a cat rescue service but couldn’t. So, he did what all of us do when we are faced with a daunting task. He pulled up a YouTube video. Bob, being way more adventurous than I am, then rigged up some ropes and a harness. He hoisted himself high up into the branches and gathered his wandering pet into a waiting pillowcase and lowered himself and the cat safely back to the ground. But, as it sometimes happens after one has accomplished a one-of-akind task, Bob Reese wanted to do it again. And again. And again, and again. Now, several hundred cats later, Bob is still harnessing up in his now professional climbing gear, pulling himself up the rope into the dizzying tops of oaks and pines, and helping someone’s frightened feline back down to terra firma. Bob doesn’t charge for his services but asks the people he has helped to donate to a nearby animal shelter. He has raised thousands of dollars in the process. Bob says he will travel up to three hours from home to perform his service. He has been all over north Mississippi, Alabama, and into Tennessee climbing to nose-bleed heights, grappling with uncooperative pets, and returning them to grateful owners.

I, on the other hand, still prefer to stand on the ground under the tree with a bowl of cat food in hand, looking up and calling, “Here kitty, kitty.” Just a quick postscript. Since last year, Bob has moved to Huntsville, Alabama. (He wanted to be near his grandkids.) But he still rescues cats. He has allowed me to put his phone number in this article. If he can’t come help you, he knows other cat rescuers in Mississippi who can. But try, “here kitty, kitty” first. Bob can be reached at 662-418-0479.

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.” Walt is also a reporter and 4 p.m. news anchor at WJTV in Jackson. He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at

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