This month we not only welcome in a new year, we also mark the beginning of a new decade — the 20s. It is difficult to think of the 20s without thinking of the decade a hundred years ago, known as the “roaring 20s.” While the 20s of the last century might have been times of plenty for large cities and towns across the nation, most of which had been electrified, rural America lagged behind.
The large power companies did not venture far from the cities because it was more costly to serve the rural areas with its lower population and where farms were miles apart from one another.
The U.S. government even referred to rural America as “the dark land,” as farmers continued to use kerosene or “coal oil” lamps for light, and wood or coal to cook. Prior to the Rural Electrification Act in 1936, only a few farmers had access to electricity and many of those were from Delco systems, which used gas to power a generator that produced power stored in batteries.
As part of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the Rural Electrification Act was approved by Congress in 1936, creating the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). Through the REA, electric co-ops could obtain low-interest loans to build and maintain an electric distribution system to serve farmers and rural businesses and homes. The people who were served by the co-op were its owners and members.
Through the REA and the hard work of rural Arkansans, the state went from having only 2.1 percent of its farms with electric service in 1930 to 67% with electric service in 1950. Today, Arkansas’ 17 electric distribution co-ops serve more than 500,000 farms, homes and businesses across 74 of the state’s 75 counties. The distribution co-ops, including Craighead Electric Co-op, also owned a statewide service organization, Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI) and a wholesale power supplier, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC). By working together, Arkansas’ electric co-ops have helped build our local communities and our state.
We look forward to many more decades of service to you, our members. We wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.