Broadband & Baseball


How Giants Snacks became the snack of
choice for every American baseball league

A few years ago, it was an otherwise ordinary afternoon at Giants Snacks in Wahpeton, ND, when the phone rang with an unknown number. Jason Schuler, a sales manager at the time, answered.
“Hello, I’m a manager for the New York Yankees. We’d like to get some of your sunflower seeds for our dugout.”
Jason smirked and hung up. He knew it had to be some of his buddies pulling a prank. The number called again.
“Look —” Jason began.
“Sir, this really is the New York Yankees,” the manager said.
Jason froze. Then he laughed and apologized. A few weeks later, New York Yankees like A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Kevin Brown were chewing Giants original sunflower seeds on the field. And they weren’t the only ones.

All hail, the North Dakota Giants

That was in 2004, and marked a time of exponential growth for Giants Snacks. They had recently been declared the official seed of the Minnesota Twins, thanks to a concerted effort from Jason, now Vice President of Sales. From there, they quickly gained a reputation as the best sunflower seeds around — in large part (no pun intended) due to their bigger-than-average variety of sunflower seeds (hence the name “Giants”).

“Other teams would come to the Twins’ stadium, try the Giants seeds, and then request them for their own dugout,” said Tom Spiekermeier, Operations Manager at Giants. “Today, we’re at the dugout of every league in the country. And that’s all through the player’s choice.”

Giants remains the official seed of the Minnesota Twins to this day, as well as the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants. Over the years, they’ve also been the official seed of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies. Regardless of whether they’re the official seed or not, Giants Snacks sunflower seeds can be found in every Major League Baseball dugout in America. Every year, the company ships out 2-3 pallets, or around 6,732 bags of sunflower seeds, to every home stadium across the country.

“So if you’re watching baseball and see the players chewing seeds — that’s Giants Snacks!” Tom said.


Sunflower Socks

The origin of Giants Snacks is far more humble. The Schuler family traces it to generations ago, when a young man who was leaving Russia for America smuggled sunflower seeds in his socks — all the way to the Red River Valley. That man would eventually have a grandson named Jay Schuler, who sold sunflower seeds to snacking companies across the U.S. Meanwhile, fields of yellow sunflowers continued to grow and bloom across North Dakota.

Broadband-Baseball-Pull-Quote-2During Jay’s time working for the snack company, he found some of the sunflower seeds were larger and plumper than the others. These, he was instructed to ship overseas. Jay had a vision that these larger seeds could be popular in America — but none of the companies wanted to jump on board. 

“We were concerned about the consumer. They were concerned about their bottom line,” Jay Schuler said, in a Grand Forks Herald article about their story.

Finally, in 1995, Jay put a few of these large seeds in a bag and began selling them himself, calling them “Giants.” Over the years, these “Giants” continued to rise in popularity. Jay’s sons Jason and Robert joined the team in 1997 and 2002 respectively, and brought a renewed focus to the marketing efforts. When the Twins declared Giants their official seed in 2004, Giants seeds became a sought after snack.

Today, Giants Snacks continues to grow from their home based in Wahpeton, ND. There, they can remain in close proximity to the farmers producing the seeds and maintain quality control over their products. And, Tom adds, there are just good people out there.

“There’s a small-town mentality that people have,” he said. “That’s what I really appreciate about this area.”

Baseball & the Broadband Association of North Dakota

Of course, owning and operating a business that caters to customers across the country — and even a few around the world — demands certain resources in order to be successful. One of the most important pieces, Tom said, is having reliable internet. 

Broadband-Baseball-Photo-2Thanks to their local broadband provider, Red River Communications, part of the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND), Giants doesn’t have to worry about their rural location affecting their internet connection. BAND’s initiative, from the beginning, has focused on providing North Dakotans with quality broadband no matter where they are located, urban or rural. 

Through decades of concerted effort laying fiber and fighting for the right legislation, North Dakota is now one of the most connected states in the nation. In fact, many rural areas often have higher internet speeds than in major cities.

“Having quality broadband makes my job so much easier — it makes all of our jobs so much easier,” Tom said. “I don’t know how I would get by without it.”

Quality broadband allows Tom to use a technology platform that tracks every productivity line, runs quality checks, and gathers data, all on his iPad. They also use a security service that allows them to remotely monitor and control their entrances. More recently, Giants is also beginning to utilize automated machines to optimize their productivity. None of these tools would be possible without a reliable broadband connection, Tom said.

“We always try to ask ourselves, what can we do to be better? What can we do to be more efficient?” Tom said. “With these tools and data, I’m able to see which problems to focus on. It truly does help us to make a better product and run a better business.”

Innovate or Die

Giants Snacks also uses their internet to connect with consumers. With the rise of e-commerce, they’ve launched a brand new website (you can check it out here!) which has increased their online sales. They also interact with their groups of taste-testers via online groups, where they can fill out online surveys and provide market research on new products. Once new products are released, Tom and the Giants Snacks team are able to track feedback through customer reviews on the website, giantsnacks.com.

“Sometimes we have to nix a flavor and years later people are still asking for it,” Tom said, mentioning their top request right now is spicy garlic. “Sometimes they don’t get enough traction, and you have to know when to bite the bullet and move on to the next thing. Our online surveys and feedback help us know when to do that.”

Recently, the “next thing” for Giants was the release of two completely new product lines: pistachios and cashews. Both products are quickly gaining success, Tom said — although their most famous continues to be their famous Giants Original Flavor Sunflower Seeds.

“My personal favorite is bacon ranch sunflower seeds,” Tom shared. “We also just released a sour cream and onion pistachio, and they’re so good.”

With flavors, packaging, technology and every other aspect of their business, Giants Snacks is committed to staying innovative. Giants Snacks founder Jay Schuler often quotes a famed line from Gary Vaynerchuk: “If you don’t innovate, you die.” From the very early days of pitching larger sunflower seeds to consumers (and even further back, one might argue, to the innovative method of using a sock to transport seeds cross-country) — innovation runs in Giants Snacks roots. Equipped with quality broadband and technology, a quality home base in North Dakota, and a quality team of folks who understand agriculture and the beauty of a tasty sunflower seed, Giants Snacks is looking forward to continued success.


Last year, Lucy Spiekermeier, Giants Snacks Inc. General Manager, received a call from an unknown number. Like Jason years before, she was skeptical. She answered anyway.

“Hello, this is Giants Snacks Inc.?”
“Hello, this is the White House. We’d like to invite you to participate in Made in America Day,” the caller said.
Lucy hung up. Spam, she thought, shaking her head.
The phone rang again.
“Ma’am, this really is the White House,” they said.

Sure enough, a few months later, Lucy and another Giants Snacks representative found themselves heading to the White House with a custom designed American flag bag of sunflower seeds to show off the snack-of-choice for the players of America’s favorite pastime.


Business Spotlight: Zen Sleep Consulting

Zen Sleep Consulting_Annie Schlecht

This issue’s Business Spotlight is unique, as it is a 100% online based business with no storefront. Zen Sleep Consulting is based out of Annie Schlecht’s home in Wimbledon, ND. One would think that the business of sleep consulting would require in-person meetings, and while Annie does consult with each client face-to-face, it is all done over video conference. Zen Sleep Consulting’s mission is to “help parents feel calm and confident in their ability to get their child to sleep peacefully throughout the night (zensleepconsulting.com).” A majority of Annie’s work is done with children, but she also works with adults. The goal is to create a plan that works with the family’s current dynamic including routines and values.

Annie is a mom of two young girls and a wife to Tyler, who works in the agriculture industry. As a busy mom and wife, it is important to Annie to do work that she loves, but also have the flexibility for her children, especially during her husband’s busy seasons. With her background in Occupational Therapy and past work experiences, Annie took a leap and started a sleep consulting business right from her home. Virtually all of the work she does is over the Internet. Annie says, “Having a reliable connection at our home has given me the freedom and flexibility to have the career I want without geographical limits.” With a reliable broadband connection from Dakota Central, she is able to connect with families from all over the globe. “It allows me to have clients all over the world, like Germany, Abu Dhabi, Japan, all across the US, as well as throughout the state.”

Zen Sleep Consulting_image

A typical client interaction begins by the client initiation via website or social media. Then, via email, they will schedule a free 15-minute sleep assessment which happens over the phone. Here she will explain her services in more detail and learn more about the client’s needs. After the sleep assessment they will communicate more via email, and set-up a video consultation. This is where a consistent connection is vital. Annie explained, “If I don’t have a strong connection and the video buffers or disconnects, that reflects on my business and the perceived quality of service I provide. I want my clients to have a great experience every time, which means I need a dependable internet connection.”

So far, Zen Sleep Consulting is the first and only business of its kind in the state of North Dakota. “Dakota Central has helped me pioneer this line of work; I’m grateful to be able to provide this service right from home,” Annie said. With a dream and Fiber-to-the-Home, Annie is able to run a professional business while raising a family in rural, small-town North Dakota.

To learn more about services provided by Zen Sleep Consulting, visit www.zensleepconsulting.com.

Zen Sleep Consulting_image

BAND: Building a North Dakota that Works Smarter AND Harder

Hilary Mehrer grew up like most North Dakotans– in a small town. She always knew when to come home. As soon as that evening whistle echoed through the town, she had better be walking through their door or she knew there would be trouble. And, if she wasn’t there, her parents always seemed to know where she was before she ever got home.

“That’s just the way it is in small towns– everyone knows everyone,” Hilary said. “You can walk through town and pretty much every house is someone you either know as a friend or family.”

Hilary knew she wanted her own kids to experience the same kind of community and closeness that she did. So when she married her husband Sean and they started a family of their own, they settled in the small rural town they do today.

For many North Dakotans, like Hilary, growing up in a small town is an experience they hope to pass on. The sense of community, the connection to the outdoors, and strong work ethic make it a place where many North Dakotans want to raise kids of their own. They want them to be able to go out and play in the streets and know when the noon and six o’clock whistle blows that it’s time to come home.

Of course, living in a rural area has its challenges, too.

Kent Schimke, General Manager of Dicky Rural Networks in Ellendale, acknowledges that the challenges of rural areas are overcome by the cooperative spirit of the community.

“It can be hard work to live in a rural community,” he said. “But that’s what rural communities do. We all support each other to be stronger and to continue to be able to live in those rural communities. The resources that BAND provides helps support those communities by connecting them to the rest of the world.”

BAND, the broadband association of North Dakota, was formed 65 years ago with a mission to bring top-of-the-line communication technology to the communities across North Dakota. That mission has transformed from telephone party lines to today, where high-speed internet has become a necessity. Today, BAND represents 18 members companies, each working to bring quality broadband to their customers — no matter if they’re in town, or 30 miles from town.

With the power of the internet at our fingertips, North Dakotans are now able to continue to live in the rural communities we love while building businesses, working remotely, and staying competitive in a global market.

BAND opportunites quote

“The opportunities we can have in rural communities… they’re pretty much endless,” Kent said.

Of course, nothing is made possible without hard work — a value that has been ingrained in the culture of North Dakota since the first families settled and tended to the land. You’ve probably heard the common phrase, “work smarter, not harder.” But, we’re North Dakotans. We always work hard. We don’t know any other way.

The difference today, with the services of BAND and its member companies, is that North Dakotans can work smarter and harder; combining the strength of our work ethic with the resources of technology to make our businesses thrive.

Take a look at our video “Work Smarter and Harder” to see for yourself!

Impact in Our Communities

The stories that highlight the impact of broadband in our communities are all around us. In “Work Smarter and Harder” we hear just a few of these stories from towns like Epping, Forman, and Maddock, North Dakota.

Gene Vandeberg, owner Of Sandhill Performance Quarter Horses near Epping, North Dakota,  uses the services offered by Northwest Communications Cooperative (NCC) to take care of his horses. Before he had access to broadband that allowed him to check on is horses at night, Gene was often forced to get out of bed to go check on them himself.

 “I was lucky if I’d get 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, and checking on the horses took up to 45 minutes,” he said. “Now, I can look at the cameras to check on the horses, and I can be done in 10 minutes.”

Sixteen miles away in Forman, North Dakota, Hilary and her husband Shannon run and operate  Dakota Precision Fabricating, a metal fabrications manufacturer that provides services across the country to customers such as BOEING and NYC’s LaGuardia Airport. With a growing business and a growing family, the services from their local broadband provider, Dickey Rural Networks (DRN),  allows them to remain to have the best of both worlds.

BAND Quality Broadband Quote

Quality broadband allows us to be competitive in a national market while staying in small-town North Dakota,” Hilary said.

For Amanda Johnson with Ag Resources in Maddock, the broadband services offered by the North Dakota Telephone Company (NDTC) allow her to conduct her work with farmers and those in the ag industry in a streamlined fashion, with quicker communication and better delivery service systems. Through the work that she does selling tractors and various farming equipment to farmers across the state, she is empowering farmers to work harder and smarter, too.

“With broadband, it makes our job easier to help farmers be better stewards of the land,” Amanda said.

Building a Better Future with BAND

These stories are why the work of BAND matters. Through our efforts to advocate and empower North Dakotans with quality broadband, BAND is keeping rural communities connected with the world.

And what does this mean?

It means North Dakota families like Gene’s, Hilary’s, and Amanda’s, can run a thriving business while enjoying the rural lifestyle they love and raising their kids with the values they cherish. Values like caring for your neighbor. Being kind. And of course, working hard. As the future continues to bring us further and faster into an age of technology, it’s more important than ever that we work harder — and smarter, too.

To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider visit www.broadbandnd.com.

Dakota Central Hosts Ribbon Cutting and Business After Hours To Celebrate Their New Addition In Jamestown

JAMESTOWN, ND,   Members of the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors and the Young Professionals of Jamestown held a ribbon cutting ceremony for Dakota Central to celebrate their new addition to their Jamestown office.  This business is located at 604 18th St SW in Jamestown.  The new addition, which has been in use since April, came about when Daktel realized the need for more space. The new space currently contains employees in the finance department, customer service and marketing while most of the technicians remain in the old building.

Businesses qualify for a ribbon-cutting ceremony if they open, move, remodel, are under new ownership or change their name.  For more information, contact Emily Bivens by emailing: director@jamestownchamber.com or call the chamber at 701-252-4830.

Tech Tip Thursday

Introducing…Tech Tip Thursday!

We are excited to launch our BRAND NEW social media series where we will share answers to the most frequently asked questions about technology, tips and tricks and most importantly, any questions you may have for us! We will share helpful apps, scam alerts, product reviews, and so much more!

On this week’s episode we share with you some helpful tips when streaming your TV content, as well as a helpful app you didn’t even know you had on your device! If there is a topic you would like to learn more about, please comment on the video and we will get it covered!

Visit our YouTube channel, Facebook or Instagram profile (IGTV) Thursday nights at 7 PM to catch the newest episodes!

Episode 1 – Intro and Apple TV app
Episode 2 – All about Alexa
Episode 3 – Instagram
Episode 4 – Reboot vs. Restart
Episode 5 – Passwords

Episode 6 – Email Spam Filter
Episode 7 – MyTVs mobile app

Episode 8 – Wi-Fi Tips
Episode 9 – Call Screening

Episode 10 – Mesh Wi-Fi

Episode 11 – Apple Music Family Sharing
Episode 12 – Ring Doorbell Review 
Episode 13 – Streaming 101 
Episode 14 – Phishing 
Episode 15 – WatchTVEverywhere 
Episode 16 – Grad Gift Ideas 
Episode 17 – Mesh Wi-Fi FAQ’s 
Episode 18 – iPhone Hide Alerts 
Episode 19 – Pairing a Bluetooth Device 
Episode 20 – What is Cyber Security?  
Episode 21 – Hacked Accounts 
Episode 22 – Cyber Security for Business 
Episode 23 – Don’t Take the Quiz! 
Episode 24 – Two-Factor Authentication

December Free Preview Event

The New Year’s Free Preview event invites customers to experience the best of HBO and CINEMAX and provides the perfect opportunity to catch-up or binge watch all that both have to offer, including the year’s biggest movies and of course, don’t miss the annual Game of Thrones marathon event! Find the coziest seat in the house this New Year and enjoy the show!

Game of Thrones Marathon Event (Seasons 4-7)
Big Little Lies
Jane Fonda Documentary
Life of the Party
The Greatest Showman
Tomb Raider
Justice League
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Fifty Shades Freed
Plus special shows and movies playing on HBO Family!

SD         HD
500   |   600   |    HBO East
501   |   602   |    HBO2 East
502   |   608   |    HBO Signature
503       604   |   HBO Family
504                      HBO Pacific
505                      HBO Pacific
520   |   620   |    Cinemax
521   |   621   |    MoreMax
522   |   622   |    ActionMax

Introducing BAND: the Broadband Association of North Dakota

NDATC announces launch of new brand as BAND: Broadband Association of North Dakota
Carrington/Jamestown-based Dakota Central
celebrates new brand

(Jamestown, ND) — The North Dakota Association of Telecommunication Cooperatives (NDATC), an organization representing members of North Dakota’s independent telecommunication industry including Carrington and Jamestown – based Dakota Central, announced today the launch of a new brand and identity. The organization will now be known as BAND: Broadband Association of North Dakota.

Dakota Central is one of 18 member organizations that are part of BAND. The change in name reflects the commitment of the member organizations to evolve with the communication needs of North Dakotans, with an important shift from telephone to broadband.

[Why BAND?]  “As communication has shifted globally, our services have, too,” said GM/CEO Keith Larson “We wanted our name to reflect that. It’s no longer about telephone — it’s about broadband.”

BAND was formed sixty-five years ago when a group of North Dakota telephone cooperatives met at the Patterson Hotel in Bismarck. Their mission: to guard against unfavorable legislation, and to ensure the highest quality communication systems were available across North Dakota.

This mission has carried the organization through a revolutionary era of communication. At the time of the association’s creation, a majority of rural North Dakota residents had party-line service, wires were strung from pole to pole and “long distance” calls were prohibitively expensive. Today, rural areas of the State have access to some of the fastest and most affordable broadband technology found anywhere in the United States.

As communication methods evolved around the world, BAND and its member organizations have evolved with them. In the past decade, Dakota Central has laid over 4,000 miles of fiber optic across the Jamestown, Carrington and surrounding area, and has continued to expand further into rural areas that were previously underserved. With a 100% Fiber-connected service area, Dakota Central is a Certified Gig-Capable Provider, named by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association.

[BAND commitment] “BAND and our member organizations have changed a lot in the past 65 years,” said Larson. “But what hasn’t changed is our commitment to working together, staying innovative, and providing unparalleled service.”

Today, BAND and its member organizations continue to build off of their 65-year-old promise: to evolve with the needs of its subscribers “at the end of the line.” Together, they are ensuring North Dakota is the most connected state in the U.S.

“We don’t know what services and technologies customers will use in the future,” said BAND executive Vice President David Crothers, “but we do know that it will be broadband and Internet-based and it will require more capacity and more speed in more places.  Dakota Central and the other independent broadband providers in North Dakota are committed to meeting that challenge just as we have done for the last 65 years.”


Business Spotlight

Security Cameras


If you were to tell any rancher ten years ago that he would be able to save babies during calving with a camera and a cell
phone, he would probably tell you you’re crazy. If you ask the Browns of Montpelier today, they would tell you that now they have it, they couldn’t go without.

The C-B Charolais farm and ranch operation has had a security camera system for three years now, and it has completely changed the way they operate during calving season. The C-B Charolais’s calve out around 450 calves each year, and third generation Troy Brown claims that even with three of them around there, it was still hard to keep up without a way to monitor the cows, which resulted in lost calves each year.

Troy explained how calving season went before having a  camera system. The process went something like this: someone would physically go check on the cows at least every hour to see if any of them had started calving. Once one had started, they would move them into the barn (if they weren’t there already) and keep checking every hour at least. There’s a chance a calf would be born shortly after the last check, and if anything was wrong the calf probably wouldn’t
make it. In doing the checks hourly in the middle of the night, the cows would stir, causing them to go through more straw. He also noted that when they were stirring up the cows at night, more calves were born then too.

Once they realized that the calving process could be done so much more efficiently if they had a way to monitor the cows without actually going out to the barn, they decided to invest in a professional grade camera system. Dakota Central  technicians installed a point-to-point solution that brings service from the house to the barn with Access Points, eliminating the need to bury fiber to the barn. Four cameras were installed, three inside the barn in different areas, and one outside. Three of the cameras have the ability to rotate or zoom, which they can control from an app.

Now, things run a little different. It really is a complete family operation, down to Troy’s two year old son who already helps watch the cows on the iPad. If the guys are out in the field or busy, Troy’s wife or mom can watch the cameras from the phone or iPad, and let them know if anything is wrong. Troy said even if all of them are gone, they can still be checking the cameras. Before cameras, they weren’t able to go anywhere together during calving; now, they can all run into town for dinner and they don’t miss a thing.

When a cow starts to calf, they make sure they are watching her closely because if there is an issue they usually only have minutes to get to the calf to save it. “The camera system is definitely worth it for us,” Troy said. “It saves us at least five calves a year, if not more.” He explained how he saved one specific bull calf last winter, and when they sold that
one alone it covered the cost of the camera system. Calves aren’t the only thing the cameras have saved. Troy explained
that they weren’t expecting the cameras to save straw as well. Because they are not stirring up the cows in the middle of the night, they tend to rest more at night. This also means less calves are born in the middle of the night because the cows aren’t moving around as much, and waking up less in the middle of the night is always a good thing. “The cameras
save me plenty of sleep,” Troy said as he laughed. “My dad can go right back to sleep after going out, but if I go out at 3:00 in the morning, I’m up for the day,” he said.

The Brown’s are also impressed with the picture quality of the cameras. Because the picture quality is so good, with the outdoor camera they are able to see other things farther away, like coyotes moving through the calving pens at night. Troy explained, “Now that we have the cameras, we find other ways to utilize them other than for calving. We are able to aim the camera at the house when we’re gone in the summer to keep an eye on it.” He said it’s nice to be able to see what the weather is doing when they’re away, and they are able to tell if the power goes out because they will lose connectivity to the cameras.

Of course, as with all technology there are sometimes hiccups. Outdoor cameras may have issues more often due to the elements. For example, Troy explained how there have been times when the snow has been too heavy to see through or the camera has iced up, but he was able to troubleshoot from his phone and rotate the camera so that it thawed itself out.
Overall, the Brown’s are pleased with their camera system, and we are happy to help their operation run more efficiently. Now, if the cameras could feed the cows too, they would be set!

NDSU vs. Missouri State on ESPN+

NDSU Football on ESPN+
Important information regarding the NDSU vs. Missouri State Football game this Saturday, Nov. 10 (because we know you’re wondering!)
This away game will NOT be aired on TV- you will have to STREAM the game via ESPN+, which is a subscription-based channel through ESPN. The good news is that they are currently offering a 7-day free trial, so you will be able to watch the game for free.
You need to CANCEL your subscription before the 7-day free trial ends, or you will automatically be billed $4.99.
You will need a device that is connected to wireless Internet. Devices that can be used are smart phones, tablets (iPad), smart TV, or streaming devices (Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, etc.).
On your device you will need to find and download the ESPN app, and then search for North Dakota State University vs.Missouri State on ESPN+. You will then be directed to create an account to begin the free trial.