Sowing the seeds

Colleton High students working on a sustainable garden

By Melissa Smith

Scott Steedley is helping students at Colleton County High School plant a sustainable garden on campus that will feature blueberries and raspberries.

Scott Steedley is helping students at Colleton County High School plant a sustainable garden on campus that will feature blueberries and raspberries.

Students at Colleton County High School in Walterboro, will soon reap what they have sown — in a very literal way.

“Being involved in this garden will help students learn about how to grow food and really bring learning to life,” says Principal Cliff Warren.

Scott Steedley, co-founder of the International Center for Sustainability (ICS), approached Warren with the idea. When he talks about planting the garden — which will include fruit-bearing trees, blueberries, persimmons, asparagus, blackberries, broccoli, tomatoes and raspberries — he might as well be talking about the students. “This is a good place to plant seeds that grow to produce a bountiful harvest while at the same time sustain lasting results,” he says.

The goal of ICS is to foster partnerships between businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to combine grassroots efforts with large-scale campaigns to work toward a more environmentally sustainable world.

“This is crucial when seeking to develop relationships that create sustainable results close to the heart of what matters most during these delicate times,” Steedley says.

Christopher Fludd, left, Asher Cox and Daymeon McTeer pitch in to help with the early work on the new sustainable garden at Colleton County High School.

Christopher Fludd, left, Asher Cox and Daymeon McTeer pitch in to help with the early work on the new sustainable garden at Colleton County High School.

Warren welcomed Steedley’s ideas, and the kids at Colleton High will soon be seeing the fruits of their labor.

“He wanted to help get it started and came with ideas; then we started talking, and it’s gone from there,” Warren says.

Steedley, a Walterboro native and current resident, praised the school and Warren for being open to such ideas. “Colleton High School is a state-of-the-art facility with a super principal in Cliff Warren,” Steedley says.

The garden will be located in an open courtyard space between two buildings at the high school.

The best part about the garden is that it’s going to be self-sustainable. Community members have donated soil and some other necessary materials to make the garden possible. Whatever the students grow will either be used in the cafeteria or sold, with the profits being returned to the school for garden upkeep.

Scott Steedley, co-founder of the International Center for Sustainability, says Colleton County High is well suited for a garden.

Scott Steedley, co-founder of the International Center for Sustainability, says Colleton County High is well suited for a garden.

“Students in the agriculture class planned it out,” Warren says.

The garden is going to be in a circle design. “You can stand in one spot and be able to get to all areas of it,” Warren says.

Along with the agriculture students, one of the special needs classes will also be able to spend time working in the garden.

Through the project, students will learn about soil health, inoculation, companion planting, mutually beneficial natural relationships, sheet mulching, keyhole garden beds, composting, organic fertilization and pesticides and the interconnectedness of natural systems.

It’s not the first project for Steedley.

“A few years ago we planted Loquat fruit trees, blueberries and rosemary at Colleton Middle School in an area where soft drink machines sat previously,” Steedley says. “Everything, except for the vending machines, is still alive as far as I know.”

Beyond the dirt
There are more ways of growing a garden than out of soil. Aquaponic elements are being discussed as a future addition to the school’s garden.

Students, including Daymeon McTeer, get to learn about landscaping and gardening.

Students, including Daymeon McTeer, get to learn about landscaping and gardening.

Aquaponic gardening is a natural and environmentally friendly way of growing plants that is an alternative to traditional soil-based gardening. Fish waste is converted to plant nutrients via a re-circulating, man-made ecosystem. Some of the benefits of aquaponics gardening are: fewer weeds, less bending and back strain and fewer animals feeding on your garden.

“Colleton High has pond areas suited for future aquaculture/aquaponics development,” Steedley says.

Through grant funding, and continued donations through fundraising and community and business donations, organizers hope to be able to incorporate rain barrels for water harvesting.
“I’ve been to every school in Colleton County once or twice over the years to raise awareness regarding the choices we make as consumers and producers and how that not only affects our lives, but the lives of our neighbors and the planet as a whole,” Steedley says.

He maintains that education is the main driving force behind founding the International Center for Sustainability.

But, really, it’s all about educating kids to provide for themselves in the future. “The key is using the teaching platform to instill essential elements that not only make people productive members of a civilized society, but also allow them to provide for their basic needs like food, water and shelter,” Steedley says.

Warren also hopes the kids will gain more real-world skills and knowledge from building and maintaining a garden.

“I think they don’t realize where their food comes from anymore because of fast food and processed foods,” Warren says.

Students place cardboard on the bottom layer of the garden in order to block weeds from growing.

Students place cardboard on the bottom layer of the garden in order to block weeds from growing.

The kids will certainly be getting their hands dirty, because they will be learning about more than just when to plant and water their garden.

They’ll be learning about compost.

“Probably the best learning experience for them is to find out about that process,” Warren says, “It will be an eye-opening experience.”

Steedley is excited to see what planting the garden can do for the school and the students.

“I feel that Mr. Warren really cares about his school, students and the community at large and that he’s receptive to creative endeavors,” he says. “These are the kind of people I like to collaborate with.”


Cottageville’s camellia turns 70

By Andy Johns

Camelia_4109There are a lot of romantic stories that involve flowers.

But not every flower story involves romance.

Seventy years ago this year, the Ackerman red camellia was given its name, but the story of the flower, which would become the official flower of the town of Cottageville, goes back much further.
Tom Ackerman was a Confederate veteran and shopkeeper in the area that would become Cottageville, according to family research compiled by the late B.F. Ackerman, the great-grandson of Tom’s brother.

Tom Ackerman was known around town for two things: his honesty — he once walked 8 miles to return two cents to a customer he had shortchanged — and his love for Alice Williams, who worked at her father’s millinery shop next door to his country store.

The two sweethearts courted, but according to family lore, Ackerman decided that in the Reconstruction economy, he did not have enough money to raise a child. He and Williams decided to get married after childbearing age.

Williams was also known around town, but for her skills at propagating plants, especially ornamental shrubs like camellias. One red variety in particular drew lots of attention, and at their request, Williams shared it with neighbors in Cottageville, Round O, Walterboro and Ravenel.

Finally, in 1894, when Ackerman was 44 years old, the couple married.

The following years were full of ups and downs, according to the family history. Ackerman, for one, got in a fight with his neighbor and after a church trial, was turned away from the congregation. Accounts say he loved the church so much that he would slip in the back door to listen, despite having been cast out.

Shortly after Ackerman turned 80, bank failures in the Great Depression wiped out the couple’s savings. They were forced to sell all of their camellias — some for an unheard of $200 each. Ackerman passed away a few years later in 1936, and Alice passed away less than three years later.

In 1945, Walterboro horticulturist J.C. Ashley officially named the variety the “Ackerman red camellia” in their honor, and years later, the family obtained an Ackerman red and planted it next to Alice’s grave.

Living legacy

The Ackermans’ legacy lives on today every February and March when the camellias bloom.

“Uncle B.F. gave everybody one of them,” says Charleen Yarochowicz, the niece of the family researcher B.F. Ackerman. “A lot of us have them around the county.”

One of the biggest remaining plants is at Cottageville resident Peggy Thomas’ home. The Ackerman red in Thomas’ front yard was already established when her family moved in 80 years ago.
“It takes a long time for them to grow big like these,” Thomas says.

In an effort to promote the town, Thomas and others once organized a camellia show.

During her time on the town council, Thomas helped designate the Ackerman red as Cottageville’s official flower. “We were looking at how to make the town more beautiful,” she says. “The camellias are very, very beautiful. They’re perfection.”

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Fiber update: Fiber construction wrapping up in many areas

Bubba Avant checks a connection inside a pedestal on a plantation in Colleton County.

Bubba Avant checks a connection inside a pedestal on a plantation in Colleton County.

Late winter and early spring have been very productive times for PRTC crews and contractors, and they are wrapping up fiber work in many areas.

In the west Walterboro area, crews have finished work around Sniders Highway, Colleton Heights Apartments, Hillcrest Apartments, Cobb Lane, Beach Road, Druid Hills Apartments, Mable T Willis Road, Bomar Place, Country Club Lane, Edisto Terrace Apartments, Club Drive, Stobo Lane, Fairway Court, Dogwood Lane and Racquet Court.

Crews are finishing splicing fiber in the South Walterboro area, and PRTC schedulers are calling members to set up fiber conversions and installations.
In Cottageville, crews are finishing construction on Rhode Drive, Cone Street, Bama Road, Mercer Lane, Skipper Lane, Whites Road, Jericho Lane, Lotus Court, Blake Road, Stanfield Lane and Ponley Lane.

In the Brittlebank area, fiber crews are wrapping up construction on Brittlebank Road, West Legacy Road, Hummingbird Lane, Shealey Lane, Yearling Lane and Simons Acres.

Tech Tips: Wired vs. Wireless

Choosing the network that’s right for you

TechStore_3970Hi, I’m Russell Smith. I’m part of the PRTC Tech Crew at the Retail Center in Walterboro. In this column, my fellow team members and I will teach you about technology and give 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!

Despite the numerous arguments waged over the pros and cons of wired versus wireless Internet connections, the answer is actually quite simple: they both work well and your unique situation is what will determine which connection will work best for your home or business. But before you decide, it’s important to know the facts.
Wired connections will give you more reliability and have less potential for interference, but wireless connections will give you greater flexibility and the ability to easily add devices to your network. There are factors you have to consider for both types of networks, such as:

  • What devices are you planning to use?
  • How many devices are you planning to connect to the network?
  • How big of a range will your network span?
  • Will you be streaming content that will require lots of bandwidth?
  • What is the potential for interference that could interrupt your network connection?

They’re all important factors to consider. Wired networks will give you a dedicated connection going directly from the modem and router to a device. It won’t get hindered by potential interferences that wireless networks face. Devices like smart TVs, game consoles and desktop computers could benefit from a wired connection. Using a wireless network with these devices could be the reason why your streaming content doesn’t load as fast as it should. A dedicated wired connection to that device may increase how quickly your content loads.

There’s no doubt that the flexibility of wireless can’t be beat, but the signal strength can weaken over large distances, or if you’re operating a lot of devices at the same time. And while it’s easy to add as many devices as you’d like to your wireless network, keep in mind that every time you add a new one, you’re increasing the potential of interference from other devices on your wireless network. They’re all using the same connection.

Wired connections will also require you to run cables to each device, which can become burdensome. But, wireless networks also face their own struggles — they can sometimes operate on the same signals as microwaves. This can sometimes cause interruptions in the broadcast of your wireless signal.
Security is another factor. While cyber criminals can potentially hack both types of connections, a wired network’s dedicated connection is usually more secure than the signal broadcast from a wireless router.

As you can see, like any technology, both forms of connections have pluses and minuses. Both platforms allow you to quickly and easily set up your network and get online — it just depends on what you’d like to do and how you want to use your PRTC connection.

Wired vs. wireless


Dedicated connection to each device
More secure
Less potential for interference

Wires running throughout your home or business
Less flexibility and less mobility for devices
More difficulty adding new devices


Greater flexibility and mobility
Easily add devices
Ease of use

Signal strength lessens over large areas and with more devices
Less secure
More potential for interference



Empowering members to be advocates for rural telecommunications

By Jason Dandridge
Chief Executive Officer

The results are in. Almost 200 readers responded to our PRTC Connection readership survey in the January/February issue. Your responses gave us good insight into what we’re doing right and how we can serve you better.

I appreciate those who took the time to share this valuable feedback with us.

Not surprisingly, the stories about local people in our community and the articles about food are the most popular pages among respondents. But I was pleased to see readers also enjoy the articles with information about your cooperative.

Perhaps that readership is why 85 percent of respondents said this magazine gave them a better understanding of technology, and 90 percent said they have a better understanding of the role this cooperative plays in economic and community development because of The PRTC Connection. It’s very gratifying to know our efforts are working.

I shared this data not to boast about how proud we are of this magazine, but to explain the reason why I’m proud of it. I believe having informed and educated members is a key factor to the long-term health of this cooperative.

In fact, educating our members is one of the seven core principles that lay the foundation for a cooperative. The National Cooperative Business Association says members should be informed about company and industry news “so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative.”

Informed and engaged members make our cooperative better.

Broadband has been in the news quite a bit lately, from net neutrality to the president discussing high-speed network expansion. It’s important for our members to know how federal regulations, state policies and shifts in the industry can affect their broadband and telephone services.

Educating you on issues that matter to rural telecommunications and your community empowers you to become advocates for rural America. Big corporations and urban residents certainly find ways to make their voices heard, and it’s up to cooperatives like us and members like you to let legislators and policymakers know that rural America matters and decisions that affect telecommunications cooperatives matter to rural America.

I hope you enjoy the stories and photos in this magazine. I always do. But I also hope you come away with a little better understanding of your cooperative, the role we play in this community and the role you can play in making rural America better.

Gavel Guys

Lowcountry sold on auctions

By Andy Johns

David Stegall, an auctioneer in Cottageville, says his job is all about working with people to match buyers and sellers for a good deal on both sides.

David Stegall, an auctioneer in Cottageville, says his job is all about working with people to match buyers and sellers for a good deal on both sides.

There’s more to being an auctioneer than talking fast.

“It entails a lot more than people think,” says Cottageville auctioneer David Stegall, speaking at a normal speed. “It takes time to learn and get to know your products. There’s a lot to consider.”

The art of the auction is something Stegall and fellow Colleton County auctioneer Fred Skipper know well.

It’s all about putting buyers and sellers together in a comfortable, organized way. And when it’s done right — as it usually is with Stegall and Skipper — everyone walks away having had a good time.

“That’s the service we provide,” Skipper says. “The auction method is becoming very popular.”

Knowing the crowd

Both Stegall and Skipper hold auctions at their own shops or on the road at venues around the state. But no matter where they are, they both agree that understanding people and their needs is the key.

“There are personalities involved,” explains Stegall, who runs Stegall Auctions in Cottageville. “You’ve got to be able to work with people individually because everybody is different.”

At Seymour Auctions, Fred Skipper sells a little bit of everything.

At Seymour Auctions, Fred Skipper sells a little bit of everything.

Skipper, who runs auctions for Seymour Auctions in Walterboro, says it’s important to remember that with everyone chasing a deal, things can be unpredictable. “There are no friends, family, coworkers or church members at an auction,” Skipper says with a smile. “It’s every man for himself.”

For the buyers and the auctioneers, the drama and gamesmanship of bidding and counterbidding is fun. But Skipper says the most interesting part is just seeing what comes up for bid. “You never know what you’re going to find,” Skipper says. “It’s a surprise every time we go.”

From the seller’s perspective, Stegall says auctions are a good way to efficiently get rid of items at prices that he feels are usually better than direct sales.

“It’s just a really good way of doing business,” he says. “Somebody is always wanting something that you don’t.”

Auctions today

The invention of eBay in the mid-1990s changed auctions forever. On one hand, it exposed millions of people to auctions who may not have tried one before. On the other hand, it gave potential buyers and sellers a new place to make deals that didn’t involve live auctioneers.

Stegall, Skipper and others have adapted to the change, and business remains steady. Both auction companies use their Internet connections to post listings and images to a website called AuctionZip that allows potential bidders to preview the sales.

“Everything is about that computer screen,” Stegall says. “AuctionZip has been great.”

Beyond eBay, popular television shows like Storage Wars have increased the general public’s interest in auctions. At first, the shows just brought more spectators, rather than actual bidders.

But Stegall’s not worried. It usually only takes a couple of trips before the spectators start wanting to place their own bids.

“If you’re around it long enough, it gets in your blood,” he says.

Rice festival to celebrate 40th with a bang

By Andy Johns

bigstock-Spikelet-Of-Rice-With-The-Leav-15344270Rice is not usually a headliner.

For everyone except maybe Uncle Ben, rice is typically an afterthought on a plate of succulent meat and colorful vegetables.

But for 40 years, local organizers have been making sure rice — and its role in shaping the history of the Lowcountry — has its time in the sun.

The 40th Annual Colleton County Rice Festival, April 18-26, will give a glimpse back at the county’s heritage as well as provide entertainment for the whole family. This year’s event will include a dock dog competition, parade, bicycle ride, at least four bands, pageant, Elvis impersonator and a bigger-than-usual fireworks display to celebrate the 40th anniversary.

“It’s a celebration for the community,” says Bubba Trippe, the Rice Festival president. “Everybody comes out and we have a good time. People look forward to the Rice Festival every year.”

Highlights of this year’s festival will be a new “Tour de Lowcountry,” a 62-mile bike ride on April 18 that loops around the swamps and plantations of the area.

“People will come from all over for that,” says Trippe, who is a PRTC retiree.

Additionally, organizers expect the Palmetto Dock Dogs Show on April 24 and 25 to be a big hit.

“We think it’s going to be good,” Trippe says. “We try not to do the same things every year.”

Additionally, the Melodyaires Gospel Group, Mason Dixon Band, Plane Jane and Gal Friday will perform, providing a soundtrack for the festival.

For full details and schedule, visit


Rice Festival by the numbers:

  • 40 years the festival has been held in Walterboro
  • days the festival lasts
  • 13 number of events within the festival
  • 75 million pounds of rice produced in South Carolina per year during the industry’s peak
  • 400 pounds of rice the Civitans will be cooking at the 2015 festival
  • 20,000 to 30,000 number of people expected to attend Rice Festival events
  • 62 miles on the route for the Tour de Lowcountry bicycle ride
  • 100 arts and crafts booths at the festival
  • 20 number of food vendors
  • 330 years ago that rice was brought to South Carolina
  • 6,547 average number of steps taken by a runner in the 5K Rice Run

Sources: USA Rice Federation,, Colleton County Rice Festival

Introducing (854)!

PrintCoastal South Carolina is getting a new area code, but PRTC and other telephone providers are working along with state officials to make the changes easy.

The odds are good that adapting to the new code will be simpler than you think.

Beginning this fall or winter, telcos in the region, including PRTC, will begin issuing new phone numbers with the new 854 area code.

“This is a necessary change for all telephone customers in our region,” says Valerie Ancrum, regulatory affairs manager at PRTC. “While any change can have its challenges, we’re putting a lot of effort into making this as smooth as possible.”

The additional code is necessary because the 843 area, which includes all of Colleton County, Hilton Head, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Florence, has almost run out of phone numbers. Population growth forecasts done over the past several years, along with an increasing number of mobile phones, led officials to conclude that the coastal area of the state would run out of new phone numbers to issue at the end of 2015.

It’s easy to see the growing demand for phone numbers when you consider that even a few years ago, every home had one single landline phone. Now it’s common for every member in the family to have a mobile phone with its own unique number.

10-digit dialing

The new area code comes as an “overlay,” which means the new area code mixes with an existing code rather than replacing it in a geographic area. Any other option would have split the 843 area into two codes, forcing thousands of businesses and residents to get new phone numbers.

“Splitting the area code was never really an option we liked because it would have put a burden on local businesses to change signage, business cards and other materials,” Ancrum says. “The overlay is really the best option for the region.”

The challenge of an overlay is 10-digit dialing, meaning that residents will soon have to dial the area code — whether 854 or 843 — before all phone calls. Ten-digit dialing goes into effect on Sept. 19. After that date, calls dialed with only seven digits will not be completed.

854 FAQs

Q: What is the new area code and when will it come into place?
A: Phone service providers like PRTC may start issuing new 854 numbers on Oct. 19.

Q: Why is this happening?
A: With a growing population and the rapid increase in the number of wireless phones, coastal South Carolina is running out of telephone numbers with the 843 area code. Adding the 854 prefix allows for more numbers.

Q: When should I start dialing 10 digits?
A: Now! Your calls will still go through with just seven digits, but PRTC is encouraging members to start dialing the 843 area code in front of all calls within South Carolina so that you are in the habit when the changes come.

Q: When will it take full effect?
A: After Sept. 19, seven-digit phone calls will not go through.

Q: What do I need to do to prepare?
A: Reprogram speed dial numbers or contact lists to include 10-digit numbers with the 843 area code.

Know your codes:

  • 854 — Coastal region, added in 2015
  • 843 — Coastal region, added in 1998
  • 864 — Upstate region, added in 1995
  • 803 — Original area code for the entire state; now in the state’s center

Device of the month: CyberPower EC Series Battery Backup

The CyberPower Ecologic Series uninterruptible power supply safeguards computers, monitors, modems, routers, televisions, DVD players, stereo systems and other electronic devices from blackouts, brownouts, surges, spikes, sags, and other power abnormalities. It’s wired to provide advanced lightning protection, and the GreenPower UPS advanced circuitry reduces energy costs. EC series backups are Energy Star listed products. The unit comes equipped with a multifunction diagnostic LCD that gives users the ability to check the operating status of the backup and assist in trouble-shooting power anomalies. Come check out this backup power supply and plenty of other devices at the PRTC Retail Center.