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Tips in Tech: Gardening Gadgets for Great Greens

Father and son work in a gardenIt’s gardening season! As spring rolls into summer through the Ozarks, make getting your yard ready a little easier with these gardening gadgets that will help you keep up with your greens.

Soil MeterGet the soil ready for your sprouts with a soil meter. Different models will read different things, but we recommend this one that has over 28,000 reviews on Amazon. It will read the soil moisture, pH balance, and light intensity. Use these metrics to help you plan the perfect growing conditions. It can be used outside in your vegetable or flower gardens and inside in your potted plants. Soil Meter Product Photo from Amazon.

GE Smart Plug Product PhotoIf you’re germinating seeds indoors, or if you want to keep plants in a place without great natural lighting, you’ll likely be using grow lights. You’ll want to make sure your little seedlings are getting the proper amount of light without burning them. If you’re forgetting to turn your grow light on and off, try using it with a smart plug! You’ll be able to set an on and off schedule to make sure your plants get consistent lighting day after day. There are so many smart plug offerings on the market – we recommend making sure you select one from a reputable company. Cheaper versions may be more prone to security risks. Amazon, GE, and Kasa are three companies to consider. Smart Plug Product Photo from Amazon.

B-Hyve Product PhotoWater + Light = Happy Plants. Make sure your plants get all the water they need with a smart hose timer. These can be significantly cheaper than a full smart sprinkler system, which require underground plumbing. With a smart hose timer like the Orbit B-hyve, you’ll be able to set a watering schedule, monitor your H20 usage, and automatically re-adjust your watering based on rainy weather. While the setup for these may be a little tech-centric, a smart hose timer may help take some of the work out of gardening so you can focus more on collecting your produce. B-Hyve Product Photo from Amazon.

Husqvarna Smart MowerIf you’re looking to make more time in your schedule this summer, investing in a robot lawn mower may save you hours out in the hot sun. They function on technology very similar to a robot vacuum cleaner, allowing you to set a mowing schedule and keep your yard looking fresh. While many smart mowers don’t come cheap, you may find that some models are comparable to mid-to-high-range mowers, or even to paying a professional to mow for you. Smart mowers are generally best suited for smaller yard spaces, but manufacturers are releasing more models every year with more advanced technology and capabilities. Make sure to do your research to get the most out of your smart mower investment. This article from PCMag is a great place to start learning about the best robot lawn mowers of 2022. Smart Mower Product Photo from Husqvarna.

Aerogarden Product PhotoOutdoor gardening not for you? A hydroponic garden could be your ticket to fresh produce year-round whether your outdoor space isn’t right for a garden, or if you just don’t have a green thumb. These units range in size from 3-4 plant “pods” perfect for a kitchen herb harden to towers made for a range and variety of produce. They’re simple to set up, incredibly fast-growing, and great for gardening beginners. Hydroponic gardening requires no soil and uses less water than a typical garden. A water pump will move water through the roots of the plants (aided by regularly feeding the plants with liquid food), meaning the plants have easier access to the nutrients they need to grow quicker and stronger than in the ground. There are so many different hydroponic growing systems and methods online, but don’t let that overwhelm you. Start small with a countertop system to get a feel for hydroponics and be amazed with how fast you can start enjoying the (literal) fruits of your labor. Aerogarden is a very popular brand, but you’ll also find countless other more budget-friendly options online. Aerogarden Product Photo from Amazon.

Don’t let the hard work take the fun out of summer gardening. Use these gardening gadgets to get great greens this summer!

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Looking for a career? Come work with us!

We’re always looking for individuals with a passion for outstanding customer service, an interest in technology, and a heart for the community!

Since we were founded in 1951, our company motto has been “Watch us grow,” and that includes our expanding team of local experts. As a business, NATCO is constantly advancing our communications and Internet services, striving to bring state-of-the-art technologies right here to rural north-central Arkansas.

NATCO is looking to hire team members who care about making a difference in our community by providing outstanding customer service and support for our residents and businesses. A job at NATCO brings excellent benefits, opportunities for personal growth, and opportunities for job-related education and advancements.

For more information, head over to our Careers page or email us at

Apply Today!

Free Online Career Advancement Opportunities for Arkansans

Laptop open with "Join us online" showing on screenIf COVID has taught us anything, it’s that so many resources are available online, including education, skill, and career advancement opportunities. From Excel skills to workforce training, Arkansas offers so many training resources for FREE right here at home for our workforce. We’ve gathered up just a few of them for you.

Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project sponsored by the University of Arkansas

ReImagine LogoWhat they say: “The Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project can help you enter or thrive in the workplace by providing free, short-term, job training online. You choose the type of training you need from 15 career fields offered through the University of Arkansas. A grant from the U.S. Department of Education covers the training costs for those who qualify.

While training is a significant investment of your time, upgrading your skills and knowledge provides a pathway to higher income and job stability.”

Why it’s great: From accounting to health care to legal, technology, manufacturing, and more – the Reimagine program is a valuable resource for Arkansans looking to change career paths or advance their skills. It also offers training and candidate searches for businesses.

Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center

ASBTDC LogoWhat they say: “The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is a higher-education-based economic development program that assists entrepreneurs, both new and seasoned. We help with every aspect of business creation, management, and operation.

Through our locations around the state, ASBTDC works with all types of for-profit businesses, from home-based to high-tech. You can receive one-to-one confidential consulting and cutting-edge market research at no charge, or expand your expertise by participating in our affordable training.”

Why it’s great: The ASBTDC is a free resource for new business owners and entrepreneurs in Arkansas. They provide a wealth of knowledge for those who are looking to start or grow a business, or to grow their own personal skillset. The ASBTDC hosts monthly personal and professional development events, with courses like, “Is Quickbooks right for me?,” “Starting a Business in Arkansas,” and “Financial Boot Camp.” Many of these events are hosted online, and many are free.

ReSkill Arkansas, a program by the Arkansas Office of Skills Development

Reskill Arkansas LogoWhat they say: “The goal of the ReSkill Arkansas program is to help unemployed or underemployed individuals find stable, good-paying careers at no cost to you through training programs and Apprenticeship. Individuals who participate and gain experience through career-focused training will find their skills in demand throughout the state of Arkansas.  Our training programs can be anywhere, anytime and will open the door to a career in an industry that creates products for nearly every industry.”

Why it’s great: ReSkill Arkansas provides free retraining programs for those looking to go into new careers in Information Technology and Advanced Manufacturing. Applicants take a skills and aptitude assessment. Those who reflect an aptitude for the ReSkill programs will then enroll in the free training programs. These programs are available online, meaning trainees are able to learn new skills from anywhere in the state!

Arkansas Career Development Center: Vocational Training

Arkansas Career Development Center LogoWhat they say: “Arkansas Career Development Center partners with employers and other State agencies to ensure skills learned are skills needed by the industry. Training offers small blended class sizes. Soft skills training, specific to the field of study, is provided in both online and hands-on instruction from caring instructors experienced in working with job seekers who have disabilities. Attain industry-recognized credentials or certificates to stand out from competitors with the opportunity to be recommended for an internship or paid apprenticeship. Arkansas Career Development Center provides an ideal start to the future. Training is the first step toward a satisfying work experience and advancement opportunities.”

Why it’s great: The Vocational Training provided by the Arkansas Career Development Center gets trainees ready for positions needed by Arkansas employers in as little as 3 to 9 weeks! Plus, tuition is paid for qualified applicants. Currently, they are training for Certified Nursing Assistants, Construction, Culinary Arts, and Welding. They also provide online training in areas including retail, security, and hospitality.

Finding a new career path isn’t unattainable, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Get training right here at home with the free resources available to Arkansans. With so many businesses across the state of Arkansas looking for skilled labor, now is the time to take advantage of the resources available to you.

Over the years, technology has changed drastically and often in ways we couldn’t anticipate. We’re grateful to be part of helping our communities stay connected to each other and to the world.

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Industry Expertise: How does the Internet get from A to B?

Network Status Connected to Internet screenshot

Not all Internet is created equally. The way information gets to your devices on the Internet can make a big difference in your online experience. So, how does the Internet get information from point A to point B? Check out the list below to understand the distinctions in the different types of Internet delivery and why some methods (*cough* fiber *cough*) are better than others.

Cellular TowerCellular: Mobile “hotspots” are dependent on cellular signals. Essentially, a mobile hotspot will take a cellular signal and turn it into a wireless Internet network that can be accessed by devices just like you connect to a regular WiFi router. Hotspots are:

  • Dependent on cellular signal, which can be spotty in the Ozark mountains and woods.
  • Prone to higher latency, which is the speed at which the signal is broadcast from the transmitters (in this case, cell towers) to the receiver (your hotspot).
  • Subject to data caps, which can throttle your speeds or increase your bill amount.

Learn more at CNET.

Satellite DishSatellite: Like mobile hotspots, satellite Internet receives a wireless signal and is dependent on a wireless signal for the strength of the connection. Satellite Internet is:

  • Dependent on line-of-site from a satellite receiver to transmitters in the sky, meaning storms, snow, and even heavy fog could block the signal.
  • Prone to very high latency, which can cause lagging on streaming TV and online gaming.
  • Often packaged with very low data caps.
  • Usually relatively expensive with lower speed options available.

Learn more at Techopedia.

DSL ModemDSL: A Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL, transmits data along a copper wire that is also used for telephone service. Unlike dial-up, phone calls can be made while someone is online. DSL is:

  • On a dedicated connection to a home, meaning it isn’t shared with neighbors.
  • Stable, reliable service (which makes it essential for 911 services).
  • Often slower speeds in more rural areas.

Learn more at HowStuffWorks.

Cable: Internet delivered on cable networks travels along coaxial cables, which are made of copper, aluminum, and plastic. Cable is more capable of delivering faster speeds than the previously mentioned services, but:

  • It operates on a shared connection, meaning that when everyone in your neighborhood is online and using the connection at the same time, such as in the evenings after work, you are much more likely to notice slowdowns.
  • Depends on electricity for delivery, which could be an issue in power outages or with electronic interference near the line.
  • Is more susceptible to slowdowns during extreme cold, heat, and storms.

Learn more at Techslang.

Fiber Optic Connection CablesFiber: Fiber-optic Internet is powered by the speed of light. Information is transmitted on a tiny strand of glass via a laser light signal, meaning that it is not prone to interference from outside sources like weather or electricity. It can carry huge amounts of data extreme distances and incredibly fast. It can also support symmetrical speeds, meaning the download and upload speeds can both go as high as 1Gbps (or even faster for enterprise uses). Fiber is:

  • The fastest Internet delivery method available.
  • Not prone to high or even moderate latency.
  • A dedicated connection to the home, with no sharing.
  • A future-proofed technology, meaning it is infrastructure that is built to support uses we haven’t even invented yet.

Learn more at How-To Geek.

NATCO is the region’s leader in Fiber-to-the-Home Internet with speeds up to 1Gig download AND upload. We currently offer FTTH in Bull Shoals, Lead Hill, Diamond City, and portions of Flippin, Omaha, and Pyatt. We are constantly working to invest in your connectivity and expand our fiber network throughout our entire service area. For our customers still awaiting fiber, we appreciate your patience as we work towards building out our networks. We are committed to bringing the latest telecommunications technologies to our communities on the last mile. Learn more at

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NATCO Participates in the Affordable Connectivity Program

Affordable Connectivity Program - Helping households pay for essential broadband service & Internet connected devices.
We are working to help build awareness about the Affordable Connectivity Program, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program.  The new long-term benefit will help to lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households struggling to afford internet service.

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