A life of enthusiastic service

By Fred Johnson
Executive Vice President and General Manager

This past Christmas Eve was marked by the passing of Miss Kay Keith. Kay served FTC for 37 years before retiring in 2006.

Fred Johnson

Fred Johnson

She was a remarkable individual and very special to us. She took great pride in the fact that her family played a unique role in the early history of FTC, being associated with one of the original switchboards that became part of our system. The Keiths provided a wealth of information when we compiled a documentary celebrating our first 50 years of service.

At her memorial service, the minister described Kay as someone who literally gave her life in service to her God and His church, to her family, and to her job. From every observation I made during the 40-some years I knew Kay, he got it absolutely right.

Kay’s spirit to serve was exceptional here. Not to detract from anyone else, I must candidly say that I don’t know of anyone I’ve worked with who had more pride in being a part of FTC. Kay supported this cooperative on and off the job in ways that were absolutely amazing. Many times after her retirement, I spotted her wearing FTC apparel or her service pin and acting as our unofficial ambassador in a way that made us all proud. Kay had a unique and fundamental understanding of how a good communications infrastructure is important to a community. That understanding and her willingness to do anything she could do to help promote our success instilled in me a deep appreciation of, and respect for, Kay.

Thankfully, Kay was not alone in her sense of pride. It is the norm here. There is hardly a week that passes without someone from our workforce expressing gratitude for the opportunity they have or, better yet, demonstrating their commitment to our customers and their pride in a job well done. FTC is not some faceless corporation that advertises the cheapest possible price and tries to offer the worst service it can get away with. We are your friends and neighbors. We are doing our best to deliver on the mission we were first given some 61 years ago. That mission is to make sure you have communications services at your disposal that are second to none. The economic health of our community depends upon it and we intend to deliver on that commitment.

Kay Keith was an example of someone committed to a life of service to others. I am told that on the Sunday before her passing, she spoke publicly, expressing thankfulness for the happiness and fulfillment such a life had brought. May her life and her example continue to inspire us all.

Sweet potatoes get their day in the sun

Sweet potatoes — they’re not just for holiday meals anymore. With the popularity of sweet potato chips and fries, more farmers are growing them than ever before and more consumers are enjoying them year round.

Evelyn Rudd

Evelyn Rudd

Evelyn Rudd has lived her life in Benton, Ky., a town that has an affinity for the once-lowly spud. There was a time when farmers came in droves to sell their sweet potatoes on the town square. Soon, it grew into a huge community event. Now, 170 years later, the folks of Benton roll out the red carpet in honor of sweet potatoes.

“In the past, there was a huge focus on sweet potatoes and people selling them,” Evelyn recalls. Now, she says, it draws vendors selling a variety of food and wares. It’s a festival atmosphere that draws crowds from in town and out. “The whole town shuts down.”

Evelyn grew up eating sweet potatoes. Her mother had a garden, and the family ate them year round. “I’ve always loved them,” she says.

For decades, Americans mainly consumed sweet potatoes in casseroles flowing with butter and marshmallows on Thanksgiving and Christmas, resulting in dishes full of flavor, but also fat and calories. In recent years, however, this mainstay of southern agriculture has charted new territories — on restaurant menus, in healthy drinks and as frozen french fries and tater tots on grocery store aisles.

Sweet potatoes are loaded with nutrition. Just one cup of mashed sweet potatoes gives you healthy doses of vitamin A, critical for eye health, and vitamin B6, needed for heart health. So eating them with as few additives as possible is the healthiest way to go.

“Most of the time I bake them like a regular baked potato, but I top them with butter and cinnamon or nutmeg,” says Evelyn.

Just like any good cook, she has a library of cookbooks, their pages dog-eared and stained through years of use, the mark of any seasoned cook. And it’s her sweet potato recipes that get the most use.

“There’s just something about Kentucky soil that makes our sweet potatoes even sweeter,” she says.

Perfect pies, super soufflés

Sweet potato pie

Sweet Potato Pie photo1/4  cup butter
1/2  cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cream together butter and sugar. Add hot potatoes and eggs. Mix well. Mix in syrup, milk, salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour into a 9-inch unbaked pie crust. Bake 10 minutes at 425º F. Reduce heat to 325º F and bake until done.

Caramel sweet potato soufflé


3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Caramel sauce:

1 1/2 cups white sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter

For soufflé: Mix all soufflé ingredients, pour into soufflé dish or casserole and bake at 350° F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and, while still warm, top with caramel sauce and serve.

To make caramel sauce: Caramelize 1/2 cup sugar by putting in skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring, until sugar is golden brown; set aside. In separate pan, add 1 cup sugar to milk and cook slowly until bubbly; add butter and stir until melted and combined. Mix in caramelized sugar, stirring to combine. Pour over sweet potatoes. 

Sweet Potato Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
2 eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Mix together dry ingredients; add eggs, sweet potatoes, milk and olive oil; mix until thoroughly blended. Stir in nuts, then pour into a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan. Bake in preheated 350° F oven for 1 hour 15 minutes (if using a dark nonstick pan reduce oven heat to 325° F). Check for doneness by inserting toothpick in center of loaf. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Sweet Potato Cobbler

2 cups thinly sliced sweet potatoes
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
Nutmeg, to taste

Bring sweet potatoes and water to boil, cooking until tender; drain potatoes, then add 1 cup sugar and butter; set aside. In separate bowl, mix together oil, 1/2 cup sugar, flour and milk; pour into greased baking dish. Add hot sweet potatoes over batter. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in 350° F oven for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Crust will envelope sweet potatoes as cobbler cooks. 

Tater Day

The Kiwanis Club of Benton, Ky., is gearing up for its biggest event of the year, bigstock-Fresh-Organic-Orange-Sweet-Pot-41406793the annual Tater Day, celebrating the town’s beloved relationship with sweet potatoes. It’s always held on the first Monday in April, which this year falls on April 7. Now in its 170th year, it continues to grow in popularity. Folks from near and far come for a day of old-fashioned fun. The town closes up and the festival opens with a big parade.

It all started when local farmers would bring their sweet potatoes and their potato slips to the court square to sell them. There are still a few vendors who sell sweet potatoes, but these days it’s more about having fun and enjoying horse races, mule pulls and other contests, including the always-popular barbecue cook-off. It’s a day for old-fashioned fun sponsored by the Benton Kiwanis Club. For more information or to see what’s cooking for the 2014 Tater Day, log onto www.bentonkykiwanisclub.org.

Coming around to sweet potatoes

By Anne P. Braly
Food Editor


Anne P. Braly

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with sweet potatoes for 10 years. The 40 years before that, it was mostly the latter. I never cared for them. My parents once tried to convince me that a baked sweet potato was just as good as a baked Idaho potato. Never fell for that one. But that’s my bad.

It was about a decade ago, though, that sweet potato fries became trendy in restaurants. And chefs began using them in place of white potatoes when they served roasted vegetables. And of course, there are the bags of sweet potato chips that are hard to resist. Oh, and I can never tire of Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s sweet potato casserole as a side dish or dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They contain lots of fiber and vitamins B6, C and E. They have almost double the amount of potassium as a banana, and are loaded with beta carotene which our bodies convert into vitamin A. Those tubers appear to be health-boosting ninjas.

So if you can eat one without all the fat added through frying or with all the fattening additives used in making a casserole, more power — and good health — to you.

Email Anne Braly at apbraly@gmail.com

One piece at a time

Factory tours offer a glimpse of the hard work needed to create the products America loves 

By Patrick Smith

Headlines may say America’s manufacturing base is slowly dwindling, but across the Southeast there are thousands of businesses creating the products that people drive, play, eat and otherwise use everyday.  From the popularization of the assembly line by Henry Ford in the early 1900s to the thousands of robots that help to manufacture today’s vehicles, factories can be one of the best examples of American ingenuity — and fascinating places to visit. Not all of the factories spread throughout the South offer tours, but here are a few that are built to please visitors.

Brochure-OutsideGibson Guitar – Memphis, Tenn.

Long before a man named Les Paul revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, Gibson was creating some of the world’s best musical instruments. Today, Gibson’s instruments are still shaping the world of music, including their signature solid-body Les Paul models. See the wood transform into a musical masterpiece as visitors to Gibson Beale Street Showcase in Memphis, Tenn., watch the skilled luthiers go through the intricate process of binding, neck-fitting, painting, buffing and tuning the classic instruments. If Memphis is too far away, Gibson’s Nashville store in Opry Mills Mall showcases craftsmen building guitars throughout the week.

More information: www2.gibson.com/Gibson/Gibson-Tours.aspx

Louisville Slugger – Louisville, Ky.

33376_Slugger Factory Tour VideoProduction StillsCelebrating America’s pastime could be difficult without the creation of Bud Hillerich. Along with his partner Frank Bradsby, Hillerich popularized the baseball bat and by 1923 they were selling more bats than any of their competitors. For most familiar with the sport, their creation – known today as the Louisville Slugger – has become as synonymous with the game of baseball as the player’s glove and a fan’s hot dog. Patrons can take a guided tour through the entire process – visitors even receive a free miniature Louisville Slugger bat – at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Ky.

More information: www.sluggermuseum.com

Mayfield Dairy – Athens, Tenn.

From their humble beginnings in 1910 with 45 Jersey cows, Mayfield has grown into one of America’s treasured dairy brands — all while keeping the family-owned business based in small town Athens, Tenn. The educational, behind-the-scenes tour walks visitors through the history of the brand and the creation of their delicious milk, ice cream and many other products. Didn’t get your fill of ice cream? Just 20 minutes away, travelers can visit Sweetwater Valley Farm and see how a modern dairy farm operates.

More information: www.mayfielddairy.com and www.sweetwatervalley.com/tours.html

CTG tea fields and oak treeCharleston Tea Plantation – Wadmalaw Island, S.C.

With the beautiful setting in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, enjoying a cup of tea is practically a bonus rather than the main attraction at the Charleston Tea Plantation in Wadmalaw Island, S.C. During a factory tour, visitors can not only see how American Classic Tea is made, but they can also take a trolley ride through more than 127 acres of farmland with breathtaking Camellia Sinensis tea plants as far as the eye can see.

More information: www.charlestonteaplantation.com/tours/factory-tours.aspx

Golden Flake – Birmingham, Ala.

Once endorsed by legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Golden Flake snack foods still hold true to their Southern roots at their operation in Birmingham, Ala. Would you believe that more than 1 million pounds of chipping potatoes are processed in a normal week at their factory? Guests can follow the process as potatoes and corn sweep through conveyor belts to create and fill up to 100 bags per minute of finished snack foods, which are then ready to be shipped to convenience stores throughout their 12-state market.

More information: www.goldenflake.com/walkingtour.html

Toyota – Georgetown, Ky.

Outside of Japan, car enthusiasts can find Toyota’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the Bluegrass state. Employing more than 7,000 workers and producing nearly 2,000 vehicles every day, Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., facility covers 7.5 million square feet of floor space — the equivalent of 156 football fields. Visitors can see the five different vehicles and three engine models being built during the roughly two-hour plant tour.

More information: www.toyotageorgetown.com/tour.asp

Still want to see more? Each of these factories have tours available:

  • Honda Manufacturing in Lincoln, AL
  • Hyundai Manufacturing in Montgomery, AL
  • Blue Bell Ice Cream in Sylacauga, AL
  • George Dickel Tennessee Whisky in Normandy, TN
  • Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN
  • Ale-8-1 soft drink in Winchester, KY
  • Rebecca-Ruth Candies in Frankfort, KY
  • General Motors Corvette Manufacturing in Bowling Green, KY
  • Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY


Looking for a good outdoor project this spring? Plant a tree!

bigstock-Tree-in-hands-55696661As spring arrives, homeowners start thinking about outdoor do-it-yourself projects that will add to the enjoyment of their homes while increasing its value.

One of the best investments a homeowner can make isn’t a swimming pool or a deck. Planting trees, when done correctly, will deliver pleasure — and financial rewards — for years to come.

The secret to tree-planting success, however, is two-fold: planting the right tree in the right location.

The Right Tree

There are many factors to consider when selecting a tree to plant on your property:

  • How tall will it grow?
  • How fast will it grow?
  • How much sun does it need?
  • What shape will it be at maturity?
  • What temperature extremes can it withstand?

Visit www.arborday.org/states and click on your state to learn what hardiness zone you live in and what trees grow well in your area.

The Right Location

If you select the perfect tree but plant it in the wrong spot, you could cause problems for yourself, your neighbors and even utility workers in the future.

bigstock-Isolated-Chickadee-On-A-Stump-47425411The illustration below shows what could be the most important tip in adding trees to your property. Never plant trees near a utility pole if those trees will grow more than 25 feet in height. Limbs growing into telecommunications or electricity lines can interrupt service for you and your neighbors, as well as cause additional work (sometimes dangerous work) for those who maintain the utility lines.

A pick and a shovel will be helpful, but the most important tool when planting trees is information. Your local nursery is often a great place to learn more about the varieties that grow well in your community. Every state has a forestry commission or department. And the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org) is one of the best-known resources to help homeowners make good tree-planting decisions.

Why plant a tree?*

  • Trees can add value to your home — as much as 15% by some estimates.
  • Trees can lower your heating bills by 10-20%.
  • Trees can lower your cooling bills by 15-35%.
  • Trees can provide shelter and food for songbirds and other wildlife.

*Source: www.arborday.org



Before you plant a tree:

  • Look up to make sure the tree you are planting is far enough away from utility lines.
  • Call “811” to have underground utilities located, to ensure you don’t dig into lines. You could interrupt power, broadband, phone, gas or water for you and your neighbors! 

Scam Alert

The National Do Not Call Registry will never call you

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry, hang up immediately.

The National Do Not Call Registry website, found at www.donotcall.gov, allows visitors to register a phone number, verify a registration and submit a complaint against a telemarketer.

The National Do Not Call Registry website, found at www.donotcall.gov, allows visitors to register a phone number, verify a registration and submit a complaint against a telemarketer.

The Federal Trade Commission has posted the following warning on the registry website:

“Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls.”

The website, www.donotcall.gov, allows citizens to register their phone numbers, thereby limiting the telemarketing calls they receive. Telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date a phone number is registered to stop calling.

Tip: To protect themselves and their assets, citizens should never provide information to a caller asking for sensitive data such as date of birth, Social Security number and account numbers.



Rural telcos and electric cooperatives host joint Emergency Preparedness Summit

Utility leaders come together to focus on preparing for disasters

When disaster strikes, the quick restoration of telecommunications networks is vital to a community's recovery efforts.

When disaster strikes, the quick restoration of telecommunications networks is vital to a community’s recovery efforts.

When a region is struck by a natural disaster, quickly restoring power and lines of communication is a critical first step in rebuilding neighborhoods, communities and lives. Leaders among U.S. telecommunications companies and electric cooperatives recently gathered in the nation’s capital to learn how to better prepare for potential disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

The Emergency Preparedness Summit, held in November in Washington, D.C., was co-hosted by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). The summit focused on emergency preparedness issues for rural utilities, covering such topics as emergency planning; federal, state and local policy issues; recovery after an event; best practices; mitigation and the mutual assistance network. Utilities also learned ways that social media is becoming an important tool for disseminating news to communities.

Retired Army Lt. General Russel L. Honoré was the keynote speaker for the event. As Commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, he led the U.S. Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

“General Honoré had the crowd on its feet by the end of his talk,” says Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of NTCA.  “He preached the importance of ‘getting to the left side of disaster’ by being prepared.

“He also highlighted the incremental costs that will be spared,” she adds, “by working to prepare in advance, instead of cleaning up the aftermath of any disaster — natural, man-made or cyber.”

Utility leaders also heard from Tim Bryan, chief executive officer of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, who talked about plans for the nation’s first interoperable, public-safety broadband network known as the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

—From NTCA reports



Are you a cyberbully?

Digital Citizenship

By Carissa Swenson


Childhood bullying has always been a concern. It is one of the unfortunate parts of growing up. I saw it as I grew up, my parents saw it and my kids see it today.

However, something has changed. The traditional bully has an even more evil twin — the cyberbully. Cyberbullies may never physically touch their victims, but through technology they can inflict much more damage on those they aim to hurt.

Today, a cyberbully can access their victims almost any time. They use multiple platforms to cause damage. From cell phones to social media to email, they stay connected to taunt their victims.

Some quick facts about cyberbullying:

  • Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims — and perpetrators — of cyberbullying.
  • Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
  • 1 in 6 parents know their child has been bullied online.

In the next “Digital Citizenship” article, I will provide tips and advice on how to identify and respond to cyberbullying.

To find more information about cyberbullying, along with some great resources for teachers, parents and teens, visit these sites: www.stopbullying.gov and cyberbullying.us

Carissa Swenson is the owner and technology specialist of TechTECS, a technology training, education, consulting and support company.


The IP Evolution

Regulations need to change to support consumer demand for standalone broadband

Basic telephone service provides a reliable connection with family members, emergency services and business opportunities. Many people today, however, use other methods for their daily conversations. Even in rural areas like ours, there is growing demand for standalone broadband Internet service that comes without the requirement of a landline phone.

America is undergoing an IP Evolution as technology makes it possible to connect and communicate via Internet Protocol, the standardized method used to transmit information between devices across the Internet.

America is undergoing an IP Evolution as technology makes it possible to connect and communicate via Internet Protocol, the standardized method used to transmit information between devices across the Internet.

While rural telecommunications companies across the nation understand and acknowledge this trend, their hands are tied when it comes to offering a true standalone broadband service. This is one of the areas telcos are addressing as a group through NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

NTCA has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider changes to rules that punish consumers who would prefer standalone broadband. “The Universal Service system needs to be designed to accommodate those consumers who are looking for broadband but may not want telephone service,” says Mike Romano, senior vice president of policy for NTCA.

Currently, telcos such as ours receive Universal Service support based upon whether a consumer chooses to take telephone service. Universal Service is a fee that is paid within the industry to ensure we achieve maximum value from the nation’s interconnected networks. Telecommunications companies pay into the fund, then draw from the fund based on the cost of serving consumers in their area.

“If a consumer only wants broadband, Universal Service support is lost for that consumer’s line — and their broadband rates skyrocket as a result,” explains Romano. “That is an unsustainable and, frankly, somewhat questionable public policy result of a system that is supposedly being repositioned to support broadband.

“We’ve urged the FCC to fix that,” Romano continues. “We have been in very productive conversations with them, but there are still many details to be ironed out.”

As your telecommunications provider, we will continue to work on this issue with our fellow companies through our national association. We will make sure rural consumers have a voice at the table as Washington develops regulations to guide us through the IP Evolution.