When it comes to posts, Terry Nelson is not dumb.

He remembers mowing the seven acres of grass on his family’s St. Charles farm. It was a chore that would take a day and half, mostly because he had to pull out and replace rusty metal fence posts from the electric fence that stretched across the area.

“It’s very time consuming,” he said.

Often, he would need to dig a post out. Replacing required pounding the posts in or risking his foot on the sharp triangle welded onto the post to allow it to be wrestled into the ground with a step.

That struggle with those old-fashioned posts spurred Nelson to start tinkering to make a better post. Those early experiments led to a four-year process that ended with his patented EZ Step-in Products. The posts are durable enough to be used over and over on a farm or in a garden.

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He calls the posts, which come in black and orange, ”ridiculously overbuilt – by design.”

He created a 60-inch post made from high-end, powder-coated rebar steel, with a 4-inch step platform and a 45-degree edge on the ends to make putting them in and pulling them out the ground easier than a traditional old-style posts.

Terry Nelson demonstrates how the vegetation rings can be manipulated to place around plants Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)
Terry Nelson demonstrates how the vegetation rings can be manipulated to place around plants Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

Nelson soon realized that his patented posts have more uses than fences. That led to the creation of EZ Rings, which clamp on the post to support plants and trees facing challenges like Minnesota weather.

He did a “test run” with the products in more than 50 stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa and found the demand was there. Now Nelson sells the posts and rings direct through his website — ezstepproducts.com. Using the family farm as a base, he packages and ships the posts, rings, trellises and other products in his growing EZ Step-in line.

“We’re shipping out product left and right (during the pandemic.) We think there is going to be a big spike in demand,” he said.

Nelson’s polymer ring system coupled with the steel posts gave Andrew Serio a new choice in how to support his 400 tomato plants and 600 pepper plants last spring.

“I hate tomato cages,” said Serio, owner of Serio Farms in Preston and a regular at the Rochester Farmers Market. “You can’t get your hand in there to pick. The plant can’t breathe.”

The EZ Step-in system allows Serio to adjust the different sized rings to best support each unique plant as it grows, while providing easy access to harvest vegetables. Nelson’s “overbuilt” posts are much sturdier than tomato cages, which often only last a season and take a lot more space to store.

Nelson, who manufactures his products in the Midwest, says his products are made to last and to be reused season after season.

“At the end of the season, a gardener or farmer can break it down, throw it in the shed and not think about it until they need it again,” he said.

Don Kramer, who has farmed near St. Charles for 70 years, likes the ease of use of the posts. Nelson calls Kramer his “field tester.”

He recently put up an electric fence for his 30 head of cattle and used 35 EZ Step-in orange posts. Eliminating pounding the posts made it a simple three hour job instead of a daylong slog.

Kramer also uses the ring system to support young trees he has growing on his farm.

“As a business owner, I always want to push the gauntlet a little higher… This is a 20-year product,” he said. “I’m giving people what they are looking for — a quality product made in the U.S.”