Many Pike County residents have likely driven by Perry Agricultural Laboratory on Hwy. 54 many times and wondered what goes on there.
It turns out plenty.
The firm on the highway just south of the Pike County Fairgrounds is home to an international soil testing, farm consulting, agricultural law consortium that even has a small coffee business on the side.
The companies have grown quickly in the past few years from seven employees to 15 workers and is expanding its building to handle the load. Existing offices will go into a new, two-story building, which will leave more room for laboratory functions.
Bob Perry III started the business in Ohio in 1992 with his wife, attorney Kristin Perry.
They moved between Louisiana and Bowling Green in 1992 to come back to Missouri and to be closer to relatives.
“We knew (soil and plant tissue) samples would be coming in by UPS. I wanted to be close to the UPS depot in Bowling Green for quicker turnaround” of samples, Perry said.
On one recent day, soils from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Texas had just arrived to be analyzed. Samples come from all 50 states and 12 foreign countries.
There are three levels of customers, Perry said. They are consultants who send samples, fertilizer dealers who use Perry as a service for their customers and farmers.
Perry’s technicians dry the samples and then pulverize them for testing. A large number of computer-driven machines and even robots help complete the tests.
“We test for various nutrients and then we make recommendations to the farmers on what they should add or subtract,” Perry said.
“We can also test manure to tell them when to put it on the field at the right time. Agriculture keeps getting more and more sophisticated with technology. The input is so costly and the risks like weather so strong that (customers) rely on analysis to make their decisions.
“It’s also stewardship,” Perry said. “They don’t want to put too much of something on an area and cause a problem either.”
For soils “we can look at the chemical analysis and tell what is well-drained and what is compacted,” Perry said. “People are surprised what we can tell them by looking at the chemistry like we do.”
Kristin Perry works in the legal department with son Bob Perry IV.
“We specialize in agricultural issues,” Kristin Perry said. “We want to be a full-service agriculture business from all sorts of aspects.”
Kristin Perry is the former chairperson of the Missouri Clean Water Commission, “so we know all about environmental issues too.”
Daughter Maureen Perry is the main secretary, runs the soil rooms in the busy season and has a coffee business.
The Mo Bettah Kona Coffee LLC owner roasts coffee from Hawaiian growers and has direct sales in the area as well as online.
All in the family
Daughter Meagan Kaiser is a soil scientist and joined Perry as the chief operating officer after a stint as an agricultural advisor to Senator Kit Bond in Washington, D.C.
She married Marc Kaiser in 2012 and then he joined Perry Labs. Kaiser still runs the family farm near Carrollton and his background is in agricultural finance.
The Kaisers now run PAL Farm Management to help producers take GPS coordinated samples for analyzation.
“We do things like write prescriptions for fertilizer applications,” Meagan Kaiser said.
The firm also does GPS soil grid testing, GPS soil zone sampling and GPS plant tissue sampling.
“The best part is that people come in with a problem on Monday and we have an answer on Friday, which is rewarding,” Megan Kaiser said. “We like helping people solve problems. That’s what we do. Expansion into precision ag has grown.”
One might think the Perry family could get in each other’s hair with all that time spent at work and home together. But they do get along and spend three to four nights per week at the same dinner table.
“The thing about mom and dad is that there are no blockades,” Meagan Kaiser said. “They ask what we think about things.”