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“PENNED IN”
A VIEW FROM INSIDE THE FARMING LIFE

You’re the Girl with Blue Insulators

Posted by Jamie Whitbeck on

Cattle producers use fencing to keep animals both inside a specified area and outside a specified area. But what kind of fencing works best? More and more producers are finding that electric fencing offers many advantages over the standard barbed wire fencing from ease of installation to fewer maintenance costs, versatility and safety. The electric fence insulators that are used with steel T-posts or wood posts play an important part with electric fence performance. In fact, it’s one of the most important accessories for electric fencing. The purpose for the insulator is to extend the wire away from the post. Helping to maintain the integrity of the electric fence charge and prevent the hot wire from grounding out. Although there are many kinds of insulators out there, not all insulators are the same. JAG Products, Inc., located in Scandia, MN, https://jagproductsinc.com/ offers field tested electric fence insulators that are strong, durable, easy to use and unique.

Kelly Vaughan, who has been a part of JAG Products, Inc., since 2000 and sole owner of the growing business since 2003, smiles as she shares the JAG Products, Inc. success story. “From the start, we have had a deep appreciation for the demands placed on customers needing electric fencing because we need them, too. We have customers in all 50 states and even in Canada and the United Kingdom. JAG Products began in Montana with inventor and wrangler Jim Gravelle.”

Western Ranch Supply in Billings Montana has been with JAG Products since the very beginning. “Here at Western Ranch Supply we strive to serve the big country with top quality products. The added bonus to carry.ing top quality products is when they are made in the USA!  This is just one reason why we are happy to be carrying the JAG Products Inc, Electric Fence Insulators. Our staff and customers rave about the way that the insulators will mount to both sides of the t-post. They are extremely quick and easy to install.  We will be certain you will be satisfied with your purchase of any of the JAG Products, Inc items.”

The beginning

One day as Gravelle installed a new electric fence, he found that the T-posts were placed in the ground backwards. With only a .-mile left to install, he wasn’t about to dismantle the entire fence and start over. So, he re-engineered an insulator to work on the “backward” placed posts. Thus, out of necessity, the INVERSETM Insulator had its beginning. Today, JAG Products proudly manufactures and sells four different insulators: the INVER.SETM Insulator for T-Posts, the Wood Post Insulator, the INVERSETM Glow Insulator and the Wood Post Glow Insulator. Each insulator is manufactured with engineering grade high density polyethylene for weather durability and UV protected to prevent fading. The Wood Post Extending Insulator does away with the need to use nails. Instead, it is designed to use screws for faster installation and easier removal. The two-inch wide base allows for a secure close contact fit. JAG Products has truly changed the world of electric fencing insulators.

After all this time, Vaughan still gets the question, “How did you (a woman) become owner of an electric fence insulator company?” The answer: a cattle drive in Montana! Vaughan explains, “I met Jim back in May of 2000, when a group of friends and I headed out to a Montana guest ranch to experience a week in the mountains riding horses and taking part in a cattle drive.” Long story short, Gravelle and Vaughan connected immediately and during one of their many conversations, Gravelle explained his insulator idea. Vaughan, who was working full-time, and going to college on the weekend, said she was going to be working on a research paper for a marketing class when she returned home. Gravelle made an offer she couldn’t refuse, saying, “Well, I need research and marketing done for the insulator idea, and you need to write a paper. Let’s be partners and do this together!” Vaughan’s answer was yes, and she took on the research and development, marketing, and sales role. “Jim lived by the age-old Cowboy Code. Shake on it, and it’s a deal kind of guy. No explanation of experience necessary. Nope, with Jim a deal’s a deal, and we shook on it. That was it.”

Journey from co-owner to sole owner

April of 2003 was the first pub.lic unveiling of the INVERSE™ Insulator at the Minnesota Horse Expo. “We sold all the insulators we brought with us, and the INVERSE™ Insulator was officially launched” says Vaughan. “We were ecstatic, and I was so proud of Jim and honored to be part of the entrepreneur adventure.”

But just four months later their partnership would abruptly end on August 2003, when Gravelle died of a sudden heart attack. “I will never forget the day he died. Jim had been working at a guest ranch in West Yellowstone, Montana. I had spoken to him earlier that day, and I could tell something was wrong. His voice just didn’t sound right.” Vaughan booked a flight to Bozeman, but the flight was oversold, and the next flight left later that evening. “My luggage made it to Bozeman, but not me. I called Jim to let him know that the next flight would land at 9 p.m. He said, ‘Don’t worry. Just meet me in Kalispell, and I’ll see you there.’ I went back to work, and thought I’d stay there until I needed to leave for the airport. I could not shake the feeling that something was horribly wrong. Then a phone call from a Sheriff Deputy changed every.thing. Jim was gone. I think anyone who’s ever had that type of phone call knows the feeling. It’s indescribable pain. You never forget it.”

Vaughan says, “It’s a bitter sweet history. But you don’t learn from easy, and you never will know how strong you can be if you never face a difficult situation. I faced the worst: death. You can’t fix that. So, any problems or issues that do not involve mortal danger, are really just an opportunity to improve and try something new.” Vaughan credits the outpouring of encouragement from friends and family in Montana and Minnesota, and all the wonderful customers that lifted Vaughan up and gave her the support and confidence to keep moving forward. “A house with a strong foundation can weather many storms. The foundations on which JAG Products, Inc. was built is solid as a rock.” Always looking to improve

JAG Products, Inc. evolves with purpose. Choosing the highest quality plastic and manufacturing in the USA, including non-corrosive wood screws inside each package of the Wood Post Insulator, and the functional design for flexibility with the INVERSE™ Insulator for T-posts. Fencing applications where the customer is ‘fencing in’ to manage valuable livestock, or ‘fencing out’ to protect sensitive areas like gardens, orchards, bee hives, natural ground water and native grasslands, each has unique and different needs. “We know we have something to help.”

The color of the JAG insulators was chosen for specific reasons, too. Vaughan learned early on that what most customers complained about was the fading and brittleness from the outdoor elements with other insulators. Hoping to address that need, choosing the right color became a priority. “Color can impact longevity for durable plastics exposed to outdoor elements. Insulators are exposed to wide ranges of environmental influences from extreme heat during sum.mer, to brutal cold temperatures of winter. After testing different shades of colors, two colors kept out performing the others: ultra-blue and black. Vaughan says, “We chose ultra-blue because it is not native to the environment and stands out visually. Blue also has been associated with the color that signifies trust. We want our customers to know they can trust that the JAG Products insulators will not fade and will work as intended. Ask most people what’s your favorite color, the majority will say ‘blue’.” How identifiable is the blue? Vaughan was attending a recent local event in Minnesota for the Inter.national Association of Women, when Kristin Davidson, President of Ultra Green Packaging looked at Vaughan and said, “I know you. Seriously. I know you. You’re the girl who makes blue insulators for cattle and horses!”

Your mind just works different

That was the first comment Vaughan heard when she publicly introduced the GLOW in the dark insulators. Vaughan happily took that comment as the highest compliment. The GLOW insulators just reached an incredible milestone. 2019 is the 10th year of the GLOW in the dark insulators. They look off-white during the day, and then glow a soft neon green at night, helping to improve visibility for both humans and animals to see the fence line at night. The many applications include being able to quickly check for downed fences at night, enhancing visibility for pastures that border driveways, roads or snowmobile/ATV trails, marking property lines in low light conditions for hunters and hikers.Vaughan says, “The creative way people have used the GLOW is pretty impressive.” For instance, a gentleman wanted to mark his driveway so his wife would stop driving on the grass. A young family passionate about living off the grid hung up the GLOW in place of patio lights. Rescue ranches with special needs livestock to see where the paddock gate is. Some customers have noticed improved areas from deer damage, and Vaughan’s own granddaughter who likes to use the GLOW in her bedroom in place of a night light.

Optimizing the customer experience

Always looking to create more value for customers and to optimize the customer experience, through the help of Jamie Whitbeck, Operations Manager for JAG Products, Inc. Vaughan recently launched the JAG Products, Inc. Fencing Calculator. “If you require electric fencing, then you have an asset that you need to protect. For a cow/calf producing ranch operations, knowing your numbers is critical to cash flow and budgeting. Is fencing included in the overall ranch cost/profit discussions? For the most part it is not, but it should be. That was the purpose of the calculator: to assist with better planning, forecasting, purchasing, and design.ing. “When we were ready to launch the Fencing Calculator, we interviewed quite a few farm and ranch producers. The response was so positive. It showed that we were moving in the right direction, but we also wanted the input from a Farm and Ranch Supplier. So, we asked our long-standing retail partner, Western Ranch Supply in Billings, Montana to test it out as well. We were looking for accuracy, ease of use, and to better optimize the customer’s fencing needs. Western Ranch Supply gave it the thumbs up and has already used it with customers that fence by the mile, not just by acreage.”

JAG Products, Inc. does not supply posts or wire, but the Fencing Calculator makes it easy for customers to visit Western Ranch Supply to purchase the JAG Products, Inc. insulators, along with the other fencing items as well. Quality made insulators are go.ing to help keep the integrity of your fence functioning. It’s one of the most important accessories and shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed. The fencing calculator was designed to make it easier to plan for the fencing needs of livestock owners, and other electric fencing situations, even the popularity of invisible fencing for dogs. The more you know, the better you plan, and the faster you can make an informed decision. Vaughan notes, “The consumption of grass-fed beef is a growing trend among cow/calf producers with no signs of slowing down. A report by Supermarket News stated that grass fed beef has grown 25-30 percent annually. It is well known that good pasture management and rotational grazing is critical to the sustainability and health of adequate pasture forage. Documented best practices with grazing helps improve soil nutrients, plant life and bird habitats.”

Keeping it Simple

A few years back, a dynamic little company called Simply Josephine caught my attention. “I reached out and said, I have this design idea. Could you make me a fencing apron?” Without hesitation, the owner said, “Sure, what color fabric?” I said, “Use your creative side, surprise me, and I knew we could work together when she responded with, ‘I have the perfect fabric for that’.” Why an apron for fencing? Who hasn’t wished for a third hand when juggling bags of insulators, plus a fence pliers or hammer?

The fencing apron was designed specifically to have sturdy fabric, deep pockets, and a loop for tools. Men and women have all loved the apron for do-it-yourself projects, grooming, rodeos, 4H shows, and a host of other things. The goal was to keep it simple, reusable and useful. Mission accomplished!

Simply put, JAG Products, Inc., vi.sion for the future was written from lessons of the past. “We value our customer relationships. We are dedicated to manufacturing American made electric fencing insulators, and Loyal to our entrepreneurial roots with Side Kick.”

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