By Kelsie Hoitomt
GLENWOOD CITY — Just over a year ago, Rick Vanden-Heuvel purchased the old Harmony Hills building in order to expand his agricultural consulting and soil testing business, VH Consulting, Inc.
Rick is from the Hudson area and that is where he ran his consulting business for over ten years before he incorporated this new building for a lab.
A look inside the world of soil
Inside the main building, which is better known as the laboratory, there are five separate stations where soils are sampled and tests are run.
First, soil samples from various farms are brought to the Grind Room and lined up for drying. There is no oven or stove, these samples are all dried naturally over the course of a day or two.
Once dry the sample goes through a grinder, which sifts the material and then the soil is re-bagged.
The samples are then brought to another room where they are placed in small containers and tested in chemicals like zinc, phosphorus, potassium, pH solution and organic matter.
For example, when tested with zinc, the soil has to be placed in a shaker and shaken for two hours while potassium only takes about five minutes.
Typically one person, possibly around three during the busy season, does this job throughout the course of the day and around 500 samples can be done.
At the next station just down the hall, there is an area set up with more testing equipment that includes hot plates and an automated machine that go over Nitrogen levels.
This is what is known as I.S.N.T testing or the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test.
This is Rick’s expertise as he not only has a Master’s Degree but a Ph.D in Soil Science with an emphasis in Nitrogen.
His Nitrogen testing is what sets him apart from many others in the field. This is a big reason why his relationship with SciMax Solutions and MaxYield Cooperative was formed.
In order to grow the best crops on ones farm, the pH levels and various chemicals in the soil need to be known so the right amount of lime can be laid on the farm land.
Lime is just one component of the growing process however. The art of growing the best quality crop and the highest quantity is a true science and that is where VH Consulting Inc. comes into the picture.
Rick along with his handful of employees do consulting work and run soil samples for 65,000 acres of farm land through SciMax and MaxYield, which is out of Iowa.
Just eight years ago, Rick was working with two to maybe three thousands acres and over the years his work and relationships with farmers in that area has expanded greatly.
Inside the main building there are two other lab stations where the pH and organic matter are tested for.
Each of these tests are done individually with one sample at a time, which Rick believes is time consuming, but truly provides the best result for the customer.
Out of the laboratory, there is a new shed that was constructed this past spring/summer. That area serves as storage for all the soil samples and also doubled as a meeting room for his customers from Iowa during a tour on September 3.