Evolving technology continues to transform farming

By Patrick Smith

Editor’s note: This story is the third in a series of articles that will highlight NCTC’s Smart Rural Community award from the NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

Today, if farmers need rain for their crops, all they have to do is push a button.

Day or night, farmers can activate a center pivot irrigation system from their smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. The large metal tube system sprays water on the crops when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. It’s one of the many new conveniences that technology provides today’s farmers.

From tractors equipped with an automated steering system and instant access to grain market reports, to soil testings and yield monitoring, technology plays a vital role for modern, tech-savvy cultivators by increasing efficiency and lowering expenses.

EVOLVING QUICKLY
For farmers, things have moved fast in the past few decades.

Steve Walker believes he was one of the first people in Macon County to get a cellular phone in the late 1980s. Walker, who retired in December 2014 from his position as the Macon County extension agent, is currently working as an agronomy consultant and outside sales representative with the Macon-Trousdale Farmers Co-op store. Walker, 58, grew up around farming and has been involved heavily since the early ‘80s.

He’s seen technology continually change, especially as smartphones and broadband have brought some of the biggest advancements. “Technology plays a vital role in production agriculture today,” says Walker.

Changes in farming technology, along with advances in broadband Internet speeds, allow farmers to do nearly 
everything on the go. The fast connection provided through NCTC’s fiber network is one reason North Central’s service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the Smart Rural Community award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

“Nearly everything can be performed from a field situation,” says Walker. “Broadband and cell phones have made farmers a lot more efficient during the day.”

Many farmers use “auto-steer” technology on several pieces of equipment. It allows the tractors to be programmed and driven by an on-board computer — the driver’s hands aren’t even required to be on the wheel. Also available are monitors that control the amount of fertilizer used when spraying crops.

This helps farmers reduce costs while providing benefits to the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals used. Farmers are also using soil testing to oversee chemical levels and make sure their soil is hearty. A mobile GPS system will put them in the exact same place each year to monitor the area’s soil health.

Additional technology, known as “variable-rate seeding,” is advancing how farmers plant their crops. Looking at previous years’ yield data, a farmer can pinpoint where the most and least fertile parts of his fields are, then control how crops are planted in the best and worst areas.

Walker, like many farmers, doesn’t see the advancements stopping anytime soon. “There’s still a lot of hard labor that farmers do each day, but it’s pretty amazing to think about the things that can be done with today’s farming technology,” he says.

CAPTIONS:
1. Tobacco is one of the biggest crops in NCTC’s service area, as seen at this Pleasant Shade farm.
2. Steve Walker has spent more than 30 years in the farming industry.

It’s time for the annual NCTC Photo Contest!

ДрукNorth Central wants you to snap away on your vacation this year! Your photos could be published for thousands of people to see!

The winners will be featured in the 2016 NCTC calendar. This year’s theme is vacation destinations, and for the first time ever, photos do not have to be taken in North Central’s service area. The deadline for entries is Aug. 31. Please email photos to amy.phelps@nctc.com.

Please take note of the following guidelines in order to be considered:

  • Participants must be NCTC members.
  • The photo must be landscape, or horizontal, in orientation.
  • Permission must be secured if the photo is taken of someone else’s property.
  • A name, NCTC phone number and photo location must be included with each entry.

NCTC campaigns for the concerns of rural consumers with fellow telcos at Tennessee state Capitol

NCTC Director of Technology, Clint Carter, second from left, recently joined fellow telco representatives in Nashville for meetings with state representatives.

NCTC Director of Technology, Clint Carter, second from left, recently joined fellow telco representatives in Nashville for meetings with state representatives.

As new legislation presses forward in the Capitol, NCTC leaders, joined by fellow telcos, recently met with Tennessee government leaders to discuss legislation impacting rural consumers.

The Tennessee Telecommunications Association (TTA) held its annual “TTA Day on the Hill,” with executives from cooperative and independent broadband and phone providers gathering at the state Capitol to express their concerns about bills that would threaten their ability to deliver affordable broadband service to the state’s rural regions.

Several TTA members participated in the event, including North Central Director of Technology Clint Carter. Participants met with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell. Other sessions included meetings with Kelly Keisling, chairman of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee; Ryan Williams, chairman of the House Health Subcommittee; Jason Powell, Democratic floor leader of the State House of Representatives; and State Sens. Joey Hensley, Janice Bowling and Becky Massey.

 

Congratulations, Judy!

Judy Petty Retirement

After more than 23 years of working for the cooperative, Customer Service Representative Judy Petty has retired from North Central. During her time with NCTC, Petty helped the cooperative transition to providing more telecommunications possibilities, including high-speed broadband Internet. As part of her retirement, Petty says she plans to spend time with friends, maybe get a boat and go fishing, and spend time with her grandkids.

Artistry and imagination

Local artist Linda Johnson’s work has wowed people for decades

By Patrick Smith

Some people have a hard time filling up a resume, but not Linda Johnson. She’s molded her own path to success.

Linda Johnson works in her home studio on a clay sculpture for an upcoming exhibition.

Linda Johnson works in her home studio on a clay sculpture for an upcoming exhibition.

After working for more than 40 years as an artist, Johnson has a lengthy list of accomplishments to her name, and the list is still growing. Instructor, artist-in-residence and best of show are often repeated when summarizing her work. But Johnson’s work is the type of art that can’t be contained on a few resume pages. Her art fills the room with its unique personality and a one-of-a-kind style — it’s nearly impossible to find something similar anywhere else.

“A lot of the artists I know usually have one look,” the sculptor says. “They do the same thing or the same type of work over and over again. I like to try lots of different things, unless I’m working on a series. But, every job is a different challenge. It’s always fun.”

After bouncing around the country, moving often for her husband’s job working in soil sciences, Johnson found a solid footing in Macon County during the mid-1970s. Since then she’s pursued a variety of artistic work, from drawing and painting to sculptures and teaching — always adding her individual style to each endeavor.

“I love the community of artists,” says Johnson. “I like to be around people who can come up with solutions easily and have the knowledge to work through tough problems.”

Being a rural artist

Like most artists, Johnson wants to see the fruits of her labor enjoyed by others. But living in a rural setting means Johnson has to work harder to get her work noticed by the masses than a similar artist in Nashville, Louisville or Atlanta. Centered in the Russell Hill Community, between Nashville and Cookeville, Johnson spends a lot of time driving for shows, teaching engagements and volunteer work. But, she’s also learned that there’s a lot she can do to promote her work online, without ever leaving home.

Johnson makes final touches to her sculpture “Cry Baby.” The clay piece was raku fired in her kiln.

Johnson makes final touches to her sculpture “Cry Baby.” The clay piece was raku fired in her kiln.

“If I didn’t have my website it would be hard for me to be involved in things,” says Johnson. “Having the high-speed Internet from NCTC gives me the opportunity to get my work out there. It’s awesome.”

Most of Johnson’s sculptures are created with clay, but she’s also worked with cement, wood, steel and a variety of compounds. Her biggest project ever was a 2008 commissioned piece called “In Perfect Balance.” The 16-foot-tall copper sculpture depicts a frog situated at the top of a massive leaf. The piece, which required Johnson to learn to weld, took a year to complete. “I love a challenge, and if I’ve never worked with a material, that’s a good challenge,” says Johnson.

While some of her work has a specific goal, other pieces have no rhyme or reason — those pieces are a “fill in the blank” situation. Johnson wants the viewer to figure out what the subject is doing and use his or her own imagination. And each of the thousands of pieces she’s created throughout her career are likely to spark a conversation — whether it’s because of its physical size or its uncommon style.

Her state bird sculpture was selected as part of the permanent collection of the White House for the Christmas theme “All Things Great and Small.” “It’s all about enjoying the art and sharing my talents,” says Johnson.

NCTC_NewInsidePhoto-testHer work is regularly featured and sold throughout Tennessee and across the country. Several works have become a part of an organization’s permanent collection, including her “Lite Lunch” piece at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and a large sculpture, “Dung Beetle,” at the Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary in Nashville. Her work has also been selected for shows at the Hickory Museum of Art, The Renaissance Center and Central South Art Exhibition.

With the more than four decades’ worth of artwork she’s created, Johnson’s pieces have found a place on walls, pedestals and tables far and wide. It’s on display in homes, businesses and galleries spread throughout the country.

“It’s hard to find an occupation that fills you at every level,” says Johnson. “For me, being an artist does that.”

See her work online at www.LindaJohnsonSculpture.com or at Facebook.com/pages/Linda-Johnson-Sculpture.

Broadband technology is changing education at area schools

By Patrick Smith

Editor’s note: This story is the second in a series of articles that will highlight NCTC’s Smart Rural Community award from the NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

SRC Logo+url_liveInside classrooms across the Upper Cumberland, from kindergarten to high school, teachers are taking advantage of new opportunities to help students learn with technology. Students are traveling across the world through online streaming videos, they’re better prepared for state-mandated tests, and they’re exposed to new teaching styles through broadband.

“The Internet is a vital part of the school day,” says Miranda Cook, principal at Defeated Creek Elementary. “We use it in every classroom, every day. It gives us a lot of different ways to try to keep students engaged.”

Years ago, location and lack of funding often kept students from exploring things outside the school zone. Now, students connected with high-speed Internet access don’t face the same limitations as they did previously. “Being located in a rural area, we want to make sure our kids don’t feel deprived or feel that they’re unable to succeed because they’re not in a larger city,” says Cook. “We’re using fiber to bring those resources to them.”

Students take a practice test for a state assessment at Defeated Elementary School.

Students take a practice test for a state assessment at Defeated Elementary School.

The fast connection in area schools is one reason North Central’s service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the Smart Rural Community award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

At Allen County-Scottsville High School, students are learning computer programming and website creation with the help of broadband. In December, students in Rick Roberts’ class participated in the “Hour of Code” program, joining thousands of students from across the world to write basic computer code for at least one hour in the classroom during the week. “I tell my students that they might want to consider adding a computer science minor to their college major,” says Roberts. “It will increase their chances of getting a good job.”

The Internet connection is also altering how students and teachers prepare for and take state-mandated assessments. Many state tests are now only available online, and for many local schools it would be impossible to administer the tests at the same time for each student without the fast speeds from NCTC.

Rick Roberts looks over his students’ work during a programming class.

Rick Roberts looks over his students’ work during a programming class.

“Many of the challenges we faced before with state testing have been eliminated,” says Rick Duffer, principal of Westmoreland High School.

A large amount of the practice tests are also given online and having fast Internet speeds means the schools are able to have instant results, so they can choose what they need to focus on more before the final test. “We automatically know the results of the test, and we’re able to teach what we need better, because we have feedback immediately,” says Cook.

How well do you know security?

Basic RGBNorth Central’s full line of security services will keep you safe in an emergency

Whoever said “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” didn’t know much about home security.

It’s exactly what you don’t know about break-ins and fire emergencies that can cost you or your family a high price in property, peace of mind and even personal safety. As with many things, knowledge is your best weapon. Find out how much you know by taking this security quiz.

1. The total number of burglaries in Tennessee in 2013 was:

A) 17,498

B) 29,248

C) 40,333

D) 51,037

 

2. The most common category of crime in Allen County, Kentucky, for 2013 was:

A) Drug violations

B) Burglary

C) Simple assault

D) Weapons law violations

 

3. What is the most deadly month for house fires?

A) September

B) July

C) January

D) November

 

4. Rank the most common times for a burglary to occur:

A) 3 to 6 p.m.

B) Midnight to 3 a.m.

C) Noon to 3 p.m.

D) 6 to 9 a.m.

 

5. In 2012, what percentage of burglars used forcible entry to get into a target home?

A) 15 percent

B) 28 percent

C) 47 percent

D) 60 percent

6. The average dollar loss among homes where a burglary occurred in 2011 was:

A) $330

B) $884

C) $1,493

D) $2,120

 

7. Which county has areas considered “High Risk” for house fire fatalities?

A) Sumner

B) Macon

C) Smith

D) All of the above

 

8. On average, how many house fires occur in the U.S. each year?

A) 45,644

B) 79,467

C) 198,776

D) 366,600

 

9. What percentage of convicted burglars say they would attempt to see if their target had an alarm system?

A) 12 percent

B) 38 percent

C) 45 percent

D) 83 percent

 

10. How long does a typical burglar take to break into a home?

A) Less than 60 seconds

B) Two minutes

C) Four minutes

D) More than 5 minutes

 

11. What percentage of unsuccessful burglaries can be attributed to alarm systems?

A) 18 percent

B) 29 percent

C) 51 percent

D) 74 percent

Sources: National Fire Protection Association, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 2013 Crime Statistics, FBI “Crime in the United States”, Electronic Security Association, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Bureau of Justice Statistics

Answers: 1:D, 2:B, 3:C,4: C, A, D, B, 5:D, 6:D, 7:D, 8:D, 9:D, 10:A, 11:D

Don’t let your family become a statistic!

North Central Security Services offers a full line of security and fire detection alarms. In addition to basic and premium security kits, the NCSS team will conduct a free home security evaluation. To set up an appointment or to learn more, call 615-666-2151.

NCTC adds fiber service in five new locations

North Central is pushing ahead, adding ultra-fast fiber to more areas throughout its service region. The new fiber connections will give members living and working in these areas access to Internet speeds faster than what’s currently available in Nashville and several other much larger cities.

NCTC lineman Eric Ramsey installs fiber for a resident.

NCTC lineman Eric Ramsey installs fiber for a resident.

NCTC is nearing completion on construction in the School/Highway 52 East, East/Galen Road areas in Lafayette, Keystone (Gap of the Ridge area), Cross Lanes (Oakdale/Wixtown area) and Barefoot (northern part of the Rocky Mound area). Construction recently began in the Drapers Cross Road area and Petroleum in Allen County.

In addition to these communities, construction is complete and service is currently available in the following areas: Fairfield, Pleasant Shade, Defeated, Oak Grove, Pleasant Hill, Mount Vernon, Bethpage, Westmoreland, Maple Grove, Fairground and Golf Course areas, as well as within the Lafayette city limits.

NCTC breaks ground on Mt. Zion/Amos community fiber addition

The Mt. Zion/Amos community will soon be the latest area touched by the limitless potential of North Central’s new fiber network. The broadband technology provides the potential for new educational opportunities, improved health care and greater industrial development.

NCTC held an official groundbreaking ceremony at the East Allen Fire Department in Amos, Kentucky, in late 2014. North Central was notified in October that NCTC had been awarded the Connected Community grant for $1.7 million from the Rural Utilities Service to build fiber to the members who live in the Mt. Zion community and the southern, underserved portion of the Amos community. The buildout will cover 22 square miles and 354 residents.

“It’s a privilege to provide fiber to this wonderful community,” says Nancy White, CEO of North Central. “I’d love to know just some of the changes future generations will deliver because of this new network.”

During the groundbreaking, NCTC was proud to host the Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service acting administrator Jasper Schneider, former RUS administrator Hilda Legg, RUS State Director of Tennessee Bobby Goode, RUS Kentucky State Director Tom Fern, Kentucky State Representative Wilson Stone, and Terry Kokinda and David Collett of RUS.