BENSON, Minn. — Cindy Evenson has been president of the employee-owned AGVISE Laboratories, Inc., Northwood, N.D., and Benson, Minn., for a year now.
She leads a soil testing laboratory that serves farmers in the upper Great Plains and Canada. It also provides research for farm chemical makers as well as analysis for independent soil samplers, consultants and dealers.
The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has been a challenge, but the company has faced challenges before. In 1996, the company suffered a fire at its Northwood location. In 2007, a tornado hit the Northwood facilities. The company used those setbacks to expand and remodel.
Today, Evenson is responsible for making sure 60 full-time year-round employees and about 40 seasonal employees stay healthy. Some soil tests last fall were delayed until spring because of wet conditions, but the company has worked out social distancing in its laboratories.
The employee-owned company offers hundreds of tests on soil, plant tissue, fertilizer and water.
It’s always changing. In the past year, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has recommended changes in tests measuring soil health.
AGVISE since about 2015 had offered the “Haney test,” which has several parts, including a weak acid extract, as well “CO2 burst” test to measure how biologically active the soil is.
In 2019, the NRCS started shifting to “aggregate stability test,” to verify that healthy microbes are forming. The company also uses a “permanganate-oxidizable carbon” test to verify how much carbon in the soil has “recently stored” by adding a conservation technique, versus other forms of carbon that are older in the soil organic matter. The NRCS also is recommending an “ACE (autoclaved citrate extractable) protein test, which measures “bioavailable nitrogen.”
AGVISE was founded at Northwood by Ed H. Lloyd, a former North Dakota State University Extension Service plant pathologist. In 1976, it was one of the region’s first private crop consulting companies in the region. Deutsch, a soil scientist, helped establish a testing laboratory in 1977. AGVISE built the satellite office at Benson in 1979. In 1988, the company dropped the consulting service. In 1992, the company converted to employee ownership.
Evenson, 51, was named to the post when former president Bob Deutsch, semi-retired. Deutsch fully retired Jan. 1, 2020.
Raised on a farm in east-central Iowa, Evenson started in 1992 as an AGVISE lab coordinator fresh from gaining her agronomy degree from Iowa State University. She came on-board as farmers shifted to “grid sampling,” requiring more samples per field than “ random composite sampling.”
Evenson married Kent Evenson, a corn and soybean farmer at Benson. They have two children. A son, Grant, is graduating high school and is attending Ridgewater College in Willmar, studying farm operation and management.