Meet your merchant: Nevada County family has built internationally-known fencing company
Live Wire Products, Inc.
Professional fencing solutions
10187 Commercial Ave., Penn Valley
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays
In 1966, Jack and Nancy Henderson moved to Nevada County from Southern California.
For 10 years, they ran Hendersons’ Hardware on Mill Street in Grass Valley, with an accompanying traditional fencing business. But after learning about new fencing technology at the Tulare Farm Show one year, they decided to sell the store and launch their own company, Live Wire Products, Inc., out of their small hay barn in Rough and Ready.
At the farm show, the Hendersons learned about cutting-edge technology coming out of New Zealand, which boasted smooth, low impedance electric fence controllers that offered an affordable and temporary way to contain livestock and manage pastures. This was the kind of product that the American agricultural industry had been looking for, and the Hendersons — possessing a strong entrepreneurial spirit — became the first distributor of New Zealand-style electric fencing in the U.S.
The new technology made it possible to send pulsing voltage effectively to the end of a fence, which caused a fencing revolution in the sheep industry. The fencing does not affect an animal’s heart and doesn’t start fires. As a result, there was a rapidly growing demand for this brand of containment for livestock species, most notably sheep.
“We were lucky — my parents got into the market early,” said Karen Henderson, Jack and Nancy’s daughter, who now works in the Penn Valley office.
“For the U.S. market, this became an affordable and effective defense against predators and my parents went on to work with state legislatures to ensure the products manufactured and sold are within the parameters of all new safety laws.”
Tragedy struck in 1988, when the Hendersons’ Rough and Ready warehouse was not spared from the massive 49er Fire. A year later, however, they found an affordable space in Marysville, where they remained until 2015. Today, their 10,000-square-foot warehouse and showroom is “back home” in Nevada County, located on Commercial Avenue off Pleasant Valley Road in Penn Valley.
Today, Karen is the only Henderson among the staff of five who comes in daily. Her parents, now 86 and 87, only recently stopped coming in every day. Karen’s in-depth knowledge of the agricultural industry is an asset to her family’s company — she taught agricultural science at Nevada Union High School for 20 years before retiring in 2012.
Currently, Live Wire Products, Inc. stocks a full line of permanent livestock fencing as well as permanent and temporary electric fencing. The company ships fencing tools and supplies across the U.S. and portions of Canada. On any given day, it’s not unusual to see a 53-foot trailer tractor with a new shipment sitting outside one of their enormous bays. Some large-scale clients order massive amounts of temporary fencing for grazing their sheep after harvests. Some flocks are as large as 10,000, Karen said.
The store also sells automatic gate operators as well as livestock scales and handling equipment of sheep and beef. Aside from New Zealand, the company prides itself on selling American-made tools and supplies.
Well-known brands include Strainrite Fencing Systems, Bekaert steel wire transformation and coating technologies, Behlan Farm and Ranch Equipment and Powder River Livestock Handling Equipment.
Over the years, the Hendersons have also made it their mission to support the beef and sheep industry within California and across the United States. They have been ongoing supporters and donors to the American Sheep Industry, California Wool Growers Association and California FFA. They are known for their generosity when it comes to donating products or contributing to scholarship fundraisers in the community.
For 35 years, customers come to rely on personal and professional advice on electric fencing and pasture management from the on-site staff at Live Wire, which includes Katie Bielen, Alex Brose, John Marcus, Conner Olsen and, of course, Karen Henderson. The company also routinely hosts educational industry fencing seminars for university field days, county extension advisers, livestock association groups and private ranches.
Every phone call to Live Wire Products, said Karen, is met with a friendly, knowledgeable staff member who has personal experience in the fencing industry. Those who visit the office in person will be treated to several very friendly dogs, who come to work daily with staffers.
“The most rewarding part of this job has been the people,” said Karen. “I love walking them through the steps, helping them design a fence that works for them.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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