Code for success

Fiber helps Ag Connections software company grow

By Patrick Smith

Two renovated tobacco barns with nary a sign out front is not where you would normally look for a thriving tech company.

But for 17 years, Ag Connections has been making a name for itself in the farming world from its headquarters 12 miles southwest of Murray.

The software company, which is settled in two nondescript buildings, keeps 36 people bustling with responsibilities that help this technology firm continue to grow, despite its unlikely location.

Ag Connections co-owner Rick Murdock is helping his company succeed with innovative software for large and small farms.

Ag Connections co-owner Rick Murdock is helping his company
succeed with innovative software for large and small farms.

“This business would not be here without the fiber connection from WK&T,” says Rick Murdock, co-owner of Ag Connections. “Our employees drive 10 miles from home to get to work. The biggest traffic problem they have to worry about is deer along their drive. But right here in Calloway County, we’re working on some cutting-edge stuff.”

Silicon Valley, not Calloway County, has long been the central hub for technology jobs. From the birth of Apple Computer, the height of the dot-com era and today’s fast-paced mobile application development, California has been home to the some of the largest technology firms in the world. But a high-speed fiber Internet connection from providers like WK&T is changing the landscape of where technical jobs can be located.

“These technical jobs can be done from anywhere now,” says Murdock.

That’s fundamental to Ag Connections’ growth. It allows the software company to hire highly skilled employees for technical work right in their hometown. “Our employees grew up here,” he adds. “This is home, and this is where they go to church. They want to be here, and it makes us a stronger company.”

Humble beginnings, extraordinary product

Murdock first met his future business partner and Ag Connections co-owner, Pete Clark, while they both worked in agriculture retail stores. Eventually both Murdock and Clark saw the need for a record-keeping software program that’s specifically tailored to agriculture needs. In 1998, they quit their jobs, mortgaged their homes, hired a software developer and started Ag Connections.

Ag Connections developers, left to right, Mack Harris, Corey Perkins and Brandon Sharp talk about a program they’re working on while co-owner Rick Murdock provides input.

Ag Connections developers, left to right, Mack Harris, Corey Perkins and Brandon Sharp talk about a program they’re working on while co-owner Rick Murdock provides input.

With years of farming and sales experience, both Murdock and Clark found themselves well-suited to market their product to farmers. The Ag Connections software, which growers pay a yearly license fee to use, provides farmers with production record keeping, cost analysis, regulatory compliance records and data sharing within their system. The computer program, which can be accessed on Web browsers and mobile devices, gives farmers the ability to truly know their costs, keep track of their inventory and minimize mistakes.

“Farmers can make the decision whether or not to harvest a crop,” says Clark. “Because of those detailed records from our software, they know that their yields may not be high enough and it may be more cost-effective to leave it in the ground. Otherwise they’d lose money.”

Over time, Ag Connections has grown its customer base by listening to farmers and understanding agriculture. Murdock and Clark started by spending more than 180 days a year on the road, growing the business. Today, they serve more than 3,000 farming operations nationally and internationally, with the software keeping track of more than 11 million acres of farmland.

“We give growers the tools to click on any field they’ve got and see all of the crop history,” says Murdock. “They can see what each item costs and what it costs per acre. They know the day it was planted, the total units used and total units harvested. And finally, they know the average costs per acre, the total gross dollars and operating profit. It’s crucial information for growers to be successful.”

Happy coders

While most might expect to have to move to a larger city for software programming jobs, Ag Connections provides an opportunity for developers to find high-paying jobs near home.

“We get the best employees because they’re the ones that want to live here,” says Murdock. “We’ve never had any difficulty finding qualified workers.”

Ag Connections support specialists, left to right, Chaney Starks, Andrew Gullixson and Kelsey Dublin help a customer on the phone who had a question about using the software.

Ag Connections support specialists, left to right, Chaney Starks, Andrew Gullixson and Kelsey Dublin help a customer on the phone who had a question about using the software.

And unlike larger operations, Ag Connections provides its employees the freedom to work on projects in their own unique style. While some operations may have guidelines that must be followed, Ag Connections isn’t locked into a set formula.

“Some of the things we do they haven’t written the books on yet,” says software developer Mack Harris. “A lot of times these guys know what they want to do, but the technology might not be there yet. They let us spend the time to solve the problem right.”

The developers also listen to the customers. If a farmer finds a problem in the system, programmers can make the change almost immediately. “Agriculture is just now starting to see how data collection and computers are helping farmers out, and it really feels like we’re shaping the direction of farming right now,” says software developer Kody Myers. “There’s a lot of pride in that, and it really feels like, even here in a little tobacco barn, we’re making a change — it’s indirect, but over time we talk to a grower and we see the effect that our work is having on farming.”

The power of partnerships

Murdock is quick to point out that Ag Connections’ success couldn’t have happened without community support. Ag Connections depends on Murray State University for qualified developers and employees. He also counts the help of The Murray Bank and WK&T as vital allies to his company’s success.

Ag Connections’ Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system, provided by WK&T, allows them to transfer calls to sales representatives and employees regardless of whether they’re in the office or out in the field. “It’s given us great flexibility,” says Murdock. “It’s essentially created a virtual office, and calls can be forwarded straight to a cell phone.”

The VoIP combined with fiber has also given Ag Connections the flexibility to provide better customer support and training. Rather than travel to a grower’s to help them with their system, with a fiber connection, support specialists are now able to essentially take over a growers computer and walk them through the issue.

But these partnerships are bigger than just customer support. Partnerships like the one between Ag Connections and WK&T have given people the opportunity to find great jobs locally — jobs that could have easily moved to Paducah or Nashville, but Ag Connections’ success is helping the community prosper.

“Without the bandwidth from WK&T, we would have had to move off that country road a long time ago,” says Murdock.

A nation divided: 150 years later

Relive history on a tour of these prominent Civil War battlefields

By Robert Thatcher

This year, the country will conclude its 150th anniversary remembrance of the Civil War. But don’t worry if you missed the reenactments and fanfare over the past four years. Take this trip on US Highway 41 from Kentucky through Middle Tennessee to find plenty of history while tracing pivotal battles in America’s most costly war.

Stop #1 – Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Where Ulysses Grant became a household name

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, on the banks of the Cumberland River just south of the Kentucky border, is a natural starting point for a drive through Middle Tennessee. It’s also a good beginning militarily.

Dover Hotel

Dover Hotel

“Almost everything that happened in the state is a sequel to what happened here,” says Doug Richardson, Fort Donelson’s chief of interpretation.

Rivers were arteries of commerce for the South, and the Confederates built Fort Donelson to protect the Cumberland and upstream cities like Clarksville and Nashville

But on Feb. 12, 1862, a little-known Union brigadier general named Ulysses S. Grant set his sights on Fort Donelson. He was confident of victory after his gunboats easily took nearby Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Donelson was not so easy. Well-positioned Confederate guns brought victory, setting up a successful “break out” through Union lines. But the victory was short-lived, as the Confederates unwittingly helped Grant by pulling troops back to their original positions. Grant retook the lost ground, and the 12,000-man garrison surrendered unconditionally. The battle made Grant a star and was a catastrophe for the South.

Touring Fort Donelson

The park preserves more than 20 percent of the original battlefield, with several square miles of earthwork fortifications. Don’t miss these highlights:

  • Stand at the gun batteries where Confederate gunners battered Grant’s gunboats.
  • Visit the Dover Hotel where Ulysses S. Grant demanded “unconditional surrender” from his old West Point friend, Confederate Simon Buckner.
  • Pause at Fort Donelson National Cemetery for a reminder of the sacrifices that Americans have made from the Civil War to the present day.
  • While absorbing the history, you may also encounter two notable park residents. “We’ve got two resident bald eagles who live down at the river,” Richardson says. “Our eagles are about as famous as our generals.”

Stop #2 – Stones River National Battlefield
The Fight for the Confederate Heartland

We could follow General Grant to the Mississippi line and Shiloh, where his Army of the Tennessee headed after Donelson, but there’s good reason to drive to Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro.

“When Fort Donelson falls, the Confederates have to give up Nashville,” explains Park Ranger Jim Lewis. “And Nashville becomes the base for the Union Army to launch the campaigns which will lead to Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga.”

For many, Stones River is a quiet retreat from bustling Murfreesboro. But the 6,100 gravestones across from the visitor center are a sober reminder of what took place there. Of the 81,000 who fought here, 23,000 were killed, wounded or went missing in action — the highest percentage of casualties of any Civil War battle.

Early success, then retreat

Cemetery at Stones River

Cemetery at Stones River

On New Year’s Eve 1862, the Southern army under Braxton Bragg attacked first, catching William Rosecrans’ Union troops at breakfast and driving them north. Then on Jan. 2, the Confederates launched another attack along the east bank of the Stones River to drive Union troops off of a high hill.

“In the process of pursuing, those Confederates will come under the fire of 57 Union cannons along the other side of the river and will lose about 1,800 men in 45 minutes,” Lewis says. “That’s a pretty bloody exclamation point.”

The Confederates then retreated.

Touring Stones River

Stones River offers a 12-stop auto tour, including these sights:

  • Walk around The Slaughter Pen, a rock outcropping where Union troops made a stubborn stand.
  • Pay respect at the Hazen Brigade Monument, one of the oldest war monuments in the country.
  • Be awed by Fort Rosecrans, the largest earthworks fortification in North America.

Stop #3 – Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
The Death Knell of the Confederacy

We’ve followed the Union push to Nashville and Murfreesboro. The next stop is Chattanooga. Actually, we’ll go south of the city to Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Driving to the park, you’ll cross the mountains that convinced General Rosecrans not to advance directly on Chattanooga. He moved southwest of the city to block supply lines, forcing Confederate troops into Georgia as well. But Chattanooga was the Union goal.

“Chattanooga is a doorway through the southern barrier of the Appalachians,” says Park Historian Jim Ogden.

Driving through the dense woods of the 5,300-acre park, you can see why confusion reigned in the war’s second-bloodiest battle. About 35,000 men were killed, wounded, missing or captured in fighting from Sept. 19-20, 1863. Strategic mistakes led to a Union retreat. The Union troops retreated to Chattanooga, where they withstood a two-month siege before ultimately breaking through in the battle of Chattanooga.

“This allowed the Union drive across Georgia in 1864, from Chattanooga to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Savannah,” Ogden notes.

Touring Chickamauga

Start at the visitor center on Lafayette Road. After touring the park, drive 17 miles to Lookout Mountain Battlefield for views from 1,500 feet above Chattanooga. Other key sites:

  • Stand on Snodgrass Hill where George Thomas became “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
  • Get a general’s view from Orchard Knob, Grant’s command post, and the Bragg Reservation, Confederate headquarters on Missionary Ridge.
  • Watch the conflict electronically at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum on Lookout Mountain.

Chattanooga was a major blow for the Confederacy. But there’s much more to see on the campaign South – Tunnel Hill, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain all the way to Savannah and then into South Carolina. The war continued on and your trip can too. Visit nps.gov/civilwar for more sites from the War Between the States.

Tech-Savvy Traveler: Charting your course

Point Park Cannon

Point Park Cannon

Robert E. Lee is regarded by many as the most clever battle tactician of the Civil War. Imagine what he could have done with a GPS! Nowadays, it’s easy to come up with a battle plan and map out the route for you and your troops on your next vacation. Apps like Google Earth provide directions for tourists with aerial or street views of those historic sites from Gettysburg to Charleston. For those battling interstate traffic, Road Ninja is an app that will help you find fuel, food and shelter for the evening, keeping your small army on the move.

Perfectly Imperfect

For the everyday home

A Q&A with Shaunna West, a blogger from Troy, Alabama, who writes about everything from painting furniture to decorating to homeschooling. 

Shaunna West

Shaunna West

What will readers find at your blog?
Shaunna West: Perfectly Imperfect is a window into our lives. You’ll find DIY projects, furniture makeovers, before-and-after room makeovers, shop talk, topics on running a creative business and even a few family posts.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SW: I have been writing since I was a little girl, and in 2009, I needed to write. I began sharing my furniture-painting techniques and the process of our attic renovation, and soon, the blog became a business and a place for people to seek inspiration for their everyday homes. The community and readers at Perfectly Imperfect took me completely by surprise. There is a world of people interested in the same things you are, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even develop relationships with these incredible people. The Internet can be used for such good, and its reach is incredible. I’m grateful for PI, for my readers and for their willingness to listen to what I have to say.

What are some big trends in decorating this spring and summer?
SW: Any time you gear into spring and summer, people are going to be looking to brighten and lighten their homes. There are lots of beautiful metallics out there and lots of blues and golds and greens as far as colors. Anything you can do to try and make your home feel fresh and clean. Spring is the time when we all begin to organize and begin to purge and pare down and only have what’s necessary in the home. Homes should be functional and efficient as well as beautiful.

Check out her blog: www.PerfectlyImperfectBlog.com

Shaunna’s tips for changing your home on a budget

living roomKeep in mind that your home is your sanctuary away from the busyness of the world. Take the time to create spaces you enjoy and that create rest for you and your family.

If you’re feeling like your home has become dark and dreary, give the walls a fresh coat of paint in lighter neutrals. It will instantly brighten your space. My favorites are Benjamin Moore White Diamond, Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice and Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray.

Save and invest in key pieces like your sofa and armchairs, and shop flea markets and antique malls for small end tables and dressers. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll save when you allow time for your space to come together.
Paint everything in sight. Seriously, paint is the cheapest and fastest way to transform your home. Have a coffee table you love, but hate how beaten up it is? Paint it, and you will have a new piece of furniture in a few hours.

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write websites about a variety of topics. In the May/June issue, we’ll focus on marriage and relationships.

Other home/DIY blogs you might like:

www.TheLetteredCottage.net
Layla shares her love of cottage style with readers.

www.BeneathMyHeart.net
Tracey describes herself striving to create beauty in her heart and in her home.

www.thistlewoodfarms.com
KariAnne shares her transition from the big city to a slower-paced, happier life.

 

Can you hear the music?

You’re only a click away from your favorite tunes

By Cecil H. Yancy Jr.

The Rolling Stones asked, “Can you hear the music?” And the answer is, yes! You can easily listen on your computer or mobile device anytime you like.
Digital music services offer you two ways to listen to old favorites or explore new artists.

A download captures the music on your computer for use in the future — think of being able to burn a CD or play the music by clicking on a file from your computer. On the other hand, music streaming is like having a steady flow of music coming into your computer. Just click and create stations from artists you choose.

While downloads have their advantages, streaming appears to be the wave of the future. By this year, according to a Pew Research Institute study, as many as 80 percent of Americans will listen to audio on digital devices. While 51 percent of all adults say they listen to music on these devices, age makes a big difference in music habits, according to the study. More than 60 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen Xers listen to music online compared with 48 percent of younger Boomers. Older Americans tend to prefer the traditional AM/FM radio format. But streaming music is getting so easy, music lovers of all ages can jump on board.

Open the box to music streaming

Woman Listening To Music On Her TabletPandora opened the box with one of the first online Internet radio services. With Pandora, you can listen free for 40 hours per month, with advertisements. Pay $36 a year and get the music without commercials. It’s easy to use. Say you like Johnny Cash: Type in his name and a “radio station” of his songs and those of similar audiences will begin playing. The best part is Pandora gives you background information about the artist as the music is playing. You can even skip a certain number of songs you don’t like.

New releases and exclusives

Spotify is another big player in the music-streaming arena. It has a 20-million-plus song catalog from the major record labels, which can be organized into playlists that allow users to stream their own lists or lists from friends or celebrities. The basic features are free after downloading the application, or the premium version is $9.99 per month. Music on Spotify can be imported from iTunes and synced with a mobile device so you can make your favorite songs available anywhere you go!

Create your own iTunes station

In addition to 25 DJ-curated and genre-based stations, iTunes Radio allows you to create personalized radio stations or follow “guest DJ” stations from famous artists. You can pause, skip and playback with iTunes Radio and even buy the tune you’re currently listening to. If you have an iTunes Match Account for $25 per year, it’s ad-free. iTunes Radio is a great merge between a download provider and a streaming service.

A couple of clicks and no cost

Silver Ear Bud HeadphonesIf you’re leaning toward listening to music online, but a bit overwhelmed by the choices, check out sites that only require a couple of clicks to get started and are designed to be more like your radio.

Sites like Boomerradio.com and Bluegrassmix.com offer an easy way to listen to your favorite tunes, with either stations or DJs that pick the tunes. On the Bluegrass site, DJs host shows. On the Boomer Radio site, users can pick from moods like acoustic café, sweet soul music and classic mix.

Real men do eat quiche

By Anne P. Braly

Anne P. Braly

Food Editor Anne P. Braly is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn. Prior to pursuing a freelance career, she spent 21 years as food editor and feature writer at a regional newspaper.

Bea Salley loves to cook. So much so, in fact, that she says she’d like to own a restaurant in her hometown of Walterboro, South Carolina. But until her ship comes in, she’ll stick to catering for area residents in her spare time. Her forte? Quiche.

“I make potato pies, apple pies, coconut pies and cakes, but quiche is my specialty,” she says. “It’s a good, year-round dish, but particularly in the spring.”

Salley’s mother died when she was 13 years old. So with just her father and no siblings, she would never have learned the intricacies of cooking had women in her community — she grew up in Oakman Branch right outside Walterboro — not intervened, taking her under their wing to teach her and stirring her interest in what would become her passion.

But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she realized she wanted to make a difference by catering to her community with more healthful food choices.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

“No one in my household — my husband, Fred, our five kids and 10 grandchildren — ever had any problems with high blood pressure or diabetes, and I know what you cook with makes a difference,” she says.

So almost all of her recipes, particularly her quiches, have healthy ingredients, such as fish and vegetables, and not a lot of sodium. And everyone loves them, she adds.

But there’s a saying that’s become quite familiar: “Real men don’t eat quiche.”
Not so, Salley says.

“There are a lot of men who love my quiche. They say it’s filling, so they don’t have to eat as much.”

David Walton of Summerville is one example. He’s been eating and enjoying Salley’s quiches for at least a dozen years. “‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ simply isn’t true when you have quiche as good as Bea’s!” he says.

And it’s this time of year that Salley’s kitchen heats up with quiches in her oven. People like to be outside in the warm weather and not inside cooking, so Salley does it for them.

“Quiche is a quick, full meal for friends and family,” she says. Serve a slice of quiche with a salad and a basket of bread, and you have a complete, healthy dinner. Leftovers are even better — if there are any to be had.

Whether you’re baking a brunch-friendly bacon-and-egg-filled treat for Easter or an elegant vegetarian dinner served with a healthy lettuce or fruit salad, quiche is extremely easy to adapt in a number of delicious ways. The recipes that follow are some of Salley’s favorites.

Veggie Quiche

1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) butter
Quiche_11611/2 onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 10-ounce bag spinach
1 12-ounce container fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice), plus more for
 topping
1/2 cup sour cream
1 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)

Heat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat; add onions and bell pepper; let simmer. Add spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and squash; cover and saute until softened. Stir in salt and pepper; let cool, then pour in bowl and add eggs, flour and cheese, blending mixture together. Last, add sour cream, blending well. Pour into crust, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for 40 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Salmon and Mushroom Quiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 16-ounce container fresh
 mushrooms, sliced
1 large can salmon
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat; add onions and let simmer for 3 minutes until onions are soft. Add mushrooms, stirring until soft, then add salmon. Blend mixture together, let cool, then add Swiss cheese, eggs, flour, sour cream, salt and pepper. Blend all together, then pour into crust, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake for 35 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let it sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Note: This quiche is also good served “crustless.” Bake in pie pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray using no pie crust. Follow directions as written.

Bea’s Pie Crust

This is the quickest and simplest pastry crust ever, and it tastes great.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (preferably Crisco)
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whisk together flour and salt in medium bowl. Add shortening and butter, tossing with fingers until pieces are well-coated with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and the lemon juice; mix just until the dough comes together, adding the last tablespoon of water if the dough is too dry. Do not overwork the dough or it will become too tough. Pat the dough into a flat disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling out.

Tips to make the perfect quiche

Quiche is a simple idea for brunch or dinner, but getting it right can be difficult. Here are a few key steps to ensure that your quiche will be creamy and your crust will be flaky.

  • The crust: The first step to a good quiche is having a great pastry shell. It will come out better if you parbake (partially bake) it for about 10 minutes so that it’s dry and crisp before adding your filling.
  • Seal it: To avoid a soggy pastry, brush the bottom of the crust with an egg wash (a beaten egg white) right after parbaking it. The warmth of the crust when you remove it from the oven is all you need to “cook” the egg white and seal the shell to help keep it crispy.
  • Say “no” to low-fat: There’s nothing worse than wimpy flavor when you bite into a quiche, so make sure to avoid using low-fat or nonfat ingredients. Their high water content prevents the quiche from setting properly, resulting in a watery finish.
  • Protect the edges: Once in the oven, keep an eye on the shell, and if the edges of the pastry start browning too quickly, wrap them in a little aluminum foil.
  • Loose is a good rule of thumb: Take the quiche out of the oven when the center is still slightly wobbly. This will ensure that it doesn’t over-cook and will still have its creamy custard texture when you cut into it.

Solving the puzzle

Locals are seeing a boom in genealogy interest fueled by the Internet

By Patrick Smith

Bill and Birdie Foy volunteer five days a week at the Graves County Public Library genealogy section. Those interested are always welcome to start their search.

Bill and Birdie Foy volunteer five days a week at the Graves County Public Library genealogy section. Those interested are always welcome to start their search.

Jim Alexander spent hours poring over history books, drove to libraries throughout the Southeast and used the Internet to travel around the globe, but he can now trace his roots back to Lord Baltimore in the 1600s. While each method — books, physical trips and the Internet — are important to his research, Alexander is quick to point out how much broadband speeds up the discovery of his true lineage.

“With the technology available today, we can travel around the world to get information with the click of the mouse,” says Alexander. “People go to England, Ireland, France and Germany, and the people over there can look stuff up for us, and then you can check it and you don’t have to travel. It’s amazing.”

On a typical weekday, Alexander is joined by Bill and Birdie Foy in the Graves County Public Library genealogy section. They volunteer their time, surrounded by thousands and thousands of pages of thick-bound books. The genealogy books provide a window into the history of the thousands of people who at one time called Graves County home. But their research isn’t always held within the walls of the library.

“One of the things they did when they started was to go out and read the tombstones that they could find in the cemeteries,” says Bill Foy, speaking of the founders of the local Graves County Kentucky Genealogy Society. “Then they made books so everybody else could do research.”

Birdie Foy, left, B.J. Hale, center, and Bill Foy have seen the massive impact the Internet has had on genealogy research recently.

Birdie Foy, left, B.J. Hale, center, and Bill Foy have seen the massive impact the Internet has had on genealogy research recently.

The three volunteers are truly walking encyclopedias of local history. Need to know why there are no birth or death records before 1911? It turns out Graves County didn’t keep them. Need an explanation on why some records are hard to find? It turns out the Graves County Courthouse burned down three times. Curious about who is the most famous person from Graves County? They usually cite Alben W. Barkley, who was the 35th Vice President of the United States under President Harry S. Truman from 1949-53.

WHY GRAVES COUNTY?

When a new face walks into the library, Alexander and Bill and Birdie Foy are happy to help them discover their ancestry.

“We have a lot of people who come here from out of state, as far away as Oregon, Texas, Alaska, Florida, Missouri, New York, Iowa — the list goes on,” says Bill Foy. “They come in here to do their research. We think a lot of families stopped here when they were moving west.”

Jim Alexander, a member of the Graves County Genealogy Society, has traced his family roots to the 1600s.

Jim Alexander, a member of the Graves County Genealogy Society, has traced his family roots to the 1600s.

Most often, people have found out about Graves County and their unusually well-equipped library because of an Internet site, such as Ancestry.com. “They come to us to see if we can provide absolute proof of what they need,” says Alexander.

And the fact that visitors find such an immense database to work from is particularly noteworthy for such a small, volunteer-led effort. The hunt for local records was started by Don Simmons in the 1980s.

“He would go to the courthouse, write the information down by hand, then go back and type it up on a typewriter,” says Birdie Foy. “That’s one of the reasons we have such a large amount of information here.”

That was 30 short years ago. Today, technology has transformed genealogy and given it a heightened awareness among people of all ages. “It’s so much faster,” says Birdie Foy. “But sometimes you still want to dig in a book because maybe they made a mistake. It’s hard to refute the facts if you’ve got a paper copy.” That’s why many involved in genealogy recommend those interested do the initial work online, then try to go and see it for themselves, or have someone else double-check your findings.

“The people who started their journey online have created a lot of interest for genealogy,” says Bill Foy. “Even though they may not always have the correct information, a lot of times they come here and get the right information on paper. It has definitely expanded people’s interest in genealogy.”

B.J. Hale, left, and Bill and Birdie Foy do research in the library.

B.J. Hale, left, and Bill and Birdie Foy do research in the library.

The Internet has also greatly reduced the cost of doing genealogy research. Prior to the Internet, people were required to travel to find new information. Now they can find multiple pieces of information in a few clicks, or make one longer trip to several different locations to verify information.

And with each connection made by the genealogy team, whether within their own families or for visitors passing through Graves County, they find an undeniable feeling of satisfaction through helping locate long-lost relatives.

“It’s like putting a puzzle together,” says Birdie Foy. “Once you’ve put a piece in, it’s a great feeling because it may have taken you a year to find that one piece. You’re thrilled when you’ve found someone. It’s just amazing the different ways you connect with your relatives.”

Did you know?

The Graves County Kentucky Genealogy Society holds monthly meetings with about 30 people regularly attending and more than 80 members nationwide. For more information, visit: www.gravesgenealogy.org.

Bright lights, big city … slow Internet?

WK&T’s fiber service produces faster broadband than what’s available in many larger cities

Billy “Buck” Viniard has faster Internet from WK&T’s fiber service in Cunningham than what he’s able to get at his job in downtown Paducah.

Billy “Buck” Viniard has faster Internet from WK&T’s fiber service in Cunningham than what he’s able to get at his job in downtown Paducah.

WK&T members live where they do for a reason. Though cities offer some advantages like convenient shopping and more restaurant options, rural residents have chosen the open spaces, quality of life and small-town culture of local communities.

But, as many WK&T members have discovered, living in a rural area doesn’t mean you’ll be getting slower, second-rate Internet service like residents in larger cities, such as Paducah, St. Louis or Memphis sometimes experience.

WK&T’s fiber service provides faster broadband speeds than most people can find in large cities — and WK&T’s service is often available for less money.

For instance, would you believe that residents in Cunningham can get faster Internet than workers and students in downtown Paducah?

Billy “Buck” Viniard, a Cunningham resident and WK&T member, says his home Internet speed is faster and cheaper than what is available to him at work in Paducah.

“I’ve been very, very satisfied with my fiber service, and I’ve recommended it to several people who are on something else,” says Viniard.

Viniard’s home fiber regularly supports his family’s home phone and television services, two game consoles, two Internet video streaming services and Wi-Fi for smartphones and computers. “It’s amazing that our fiber service keeps up with all that,” says Viniard. “There’s no delay; it’s wonderful.”

And as many members quickly realize, as a cooperative, WK&T has the community’s best interest in mind. That community commitment has helped build nearly 25 years of loyalty with Viniard. “I’ve had the same telephone number ever since I’ve lived in Cunningham,” says Viniard. “I love the local relationship that I have with WK&T. If I have a problem, they’re going to be there and they’re going to solve it. That’s worth the money right there.”

Throughout WK&T’s service territory, fiber is doing more than just building member loyalty and speeding up Internet downloads. Fiber is transforming the entire community. It’s furnishing teachers with the ability to teach with the Internet in their classroom. It’s providing new Internet-based jobs. And it’s increasing the speed and effectiveness of local emergency services. The possibilities fiber provides are only beginning.

Today, it’s hard to comprehend all the changes fiber will contribute to the community. So until then, perhaps the best support is given by current users, like Viniard. “I had a neighbor call and ask if I like my fiber service,” he says. “I just smiled and said, ‘I love it.’”

To see the difference fiber can make for your home or business, call WK&T at 1-877-954-8748 or visit www.wktelecom.coop.

Tech Tips: Start backing up your hard drive now!

Having your information stored externally is key if your hard drive fails

Matt_3969Hi, I’m Matt Garrett! I work at the WK&T Technology Store in Mayfield. In this column, in each issue, you’ll learn about technology and read simple tips to get the most out of your electronics. For more tips or help with your devices, please come see me at the store. I’m always happy to help!

Sad as it may be, the holiday season is over, and it’s 12 months until Christmas rolls around again.

Right about now, your waist may be a little larger from all the wonderful food, and your wallet might be a little lighter from gifts you gave — so with all the incredible memories fresh in your mind, consider this:

How many digital photos did you take this holiday season?

Let me ask two more questions: How many of those photos would you still have if your hard drive failed? How many other irreplaceable photos of Christmas, Halloween, school plays and other events would you lose if your computer died?

The answer is scary to think about.

Those photos you took of the whole family together for Thanksgiving or of your toddler opening gifts on Christmas morning are the memories you’ll treasure for a lifetime — so wouldn’t it be a tragedy to lose those photos forever?

Every year, I inevitably meet a customer with tears in their eyes because their computer’s hard drive unexpectedly crashed and they lost those priceless memories. You never know when your hard drive might crash. People often think they might see symptoms of a crash coming, but often this isn’t true. Sometimes a minor power surge or lightning strike can cause a loss of some or all of your information.

Don’t let this happen to you — backup your photos and other important digital files at least twice a month!

If you save your files to a backup drive on a regular basis, you can usually restore the last file you saved, no matter if it was lost, stolen, deleted or corrupted. It’s much easier to restore two weeks of data rather than start from the beginning.

There are several options available to back up your information.

An external hard drive that doesn’t require a dedicated power source is a great way to back up your information. External hard drives require no Internet connection to save your files, and since many models are powered by your computer, it provides a truly portable solution. Be aware that these devices are also prone to lightning strikes and power surges, so treat the device with the same care as you would your computer.

Much like the external hard drive, a USB jump drive gives you a portable storage solution, but since these devices are so small, a jump drive is limited in the amount of storage space it provides.

There are several cloud storage options, such as Dropbox, iCloud, Amazon Cloud and Google Drive. These options give you great flexibility, allowing you to access your information anywhere you have an Internet connection, and there’s no worry about the device breaking or becoming corrupt or outdated. But be aware that some services offer a certain amount of storage for free, while others require a monthly fee.

Each situation is unique, and while finding the right storage option that fits you is important, the decision to start backing up your information is most important.

RECOMMENDED BACKUP OPTIONS

  • External hard drive
  • Dropbox
  • USB jump drive
  • iCloud
  • Amazon Cloud
  • Google Drive

Device of the month

Toshiba Canvio Basics 1 TB Toshiba Canvio Basics 1 TB

Remember when computers used floppy disks? A standard 3.5-inch floppy disk held 1.44 MB of information. Today’s storage options allow for much larger amounts of information, in a much smaller way. In fact, the Toshiba Canvio Basics 1 TB will hold the contents of approximately 728,000 floppy disks. That’s a lot of information! The Canvio Basics 1 TB model, which is phantom powered by your computer through a USB 2.0 or 3.0 port, gives you the space and flexibility to store all the information you need for months or even years to come. The WK&T Technology Store has them on hand now.

Congratulations, Dick Tribou!

Dick Tribou 1After more than 15 years of working with the cooperative, Drafting Technician Dick Tribou has retired. Over the past several years, Tribou has been instrumental in helping to plan WK&T’s fiber project, which is bringing the fastest broadband available to the area.

“The people here have been super,” says Tribou. “It’s one big family here, and WK&T has always taken care of my needs. It’s been a tremendous opportunity to be part of this great company.”

WK&T would like to thank Dick for his years of dedicated service and wish him the best of luck in his retirement!

Congressman Whitfield sees the impact of fiber on local businesses firsthand

CongressmanWhitfield1U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., visited the offices of Ag Connections in Calloway County to see how WK&T’s fiber services are providing new opportunities for local business. Congressman Whitfield met with WK&T CEO Trevor Bonnstetter and other local business leaders as part of his visit.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to see Congressman Whitfield’s recognition of WK&T’s great work here in Calloway County,” says Bonnstetter. “WK&T’s fiber services are changing how local businesses operate, and it’s wonderful to share our story with our representatives in Washington, D.C.”