In 1927, Harold Anderson was teaching High School chemistry in Fountain Colorado. Since many of his students were from the neighboring farms, he wanted to find something with which to relate their chemistry lessons. He wrote the USDA for the methods of soil and water analyses for agriculture. We still have Harold’s original letter. Even though his training was as a chemical engineer, he knew that the kids would need to be able to see the use of chemistry in their everyday lives for it to make any sense. From this modest beginning, he found there was a need for boiler water analysis and in 1938, started a testing business to serve the area.
In the mid 1940’s, Harold moved to California to work for the Water Department for the City of Mountain View. Once again he found there was a need for boiler water analysis for many of the fresh cut flower nurseries up and down the San Francisco peninsula. He again started his testing business and to avoid any possible conflict of interest with the City of Mt. View, Harold used his middle name and called his business Perry Laboratory.
Before too long, the flower growers asked Harold if he could also test their soils for fertility status. With his background in chemistry, it was very easy for Harold to utilize the information he received from the University of Michigan to begin soil testing for the flower growers. We are proud to report that some of the original clients Harold started with are still using Perry Laboratory for their testing needs.
During the years Harold ran his “side business,” he became acquainted with Don Holbrook (formerly a partner in Moyer Agricultural Products), who was a sales representative for Oxy Chemicals in Sacramento. When Harold decided to retire, he approached Don about buying the Perry Laboratory.
Don thought it would be a good business but did not want to run the lab on a day-to-day basis. He thought his good friend P. Jerry Duval might be interested and they bought the business together.
Jerry Duval went to work for the UC Ag Extension Service at the Citrus Experiment Station in Riverside, CA when he finished his Soil Science degree at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo. He was the first Cal Poly Soil Science graduate hired by the UC Extension Service. From there he moved on to the California Department of Water Resources and was stationed in Fall River Mills, CA. He was monitoring the climatological stations throughout northern California and also performing research on the water use of alfalfa.
When Don asked him if he was interested in the Perry Laboratory, he thought it would be a good opportunity for him to utilize his soil science training. When Jerry first started, he didn’t know very many horticultural crops, however soon learned many of them and how to grow them. Jerry and his wife Lilli eventually bought Don’s interest and ran Perry Laboratory for the next 23 years.
Cliff’s 30+ years of experience helps in having seen many different situations that complement his formal education with real life solutions to horticultural problems. This theoretical and practical approach to horticulture is invaluable in the dynamic horticultural industries of today. As the development of new growing practices and tools to efficiently grow plants continues, it is important to be able to adjust cultural practices to best utilize personnel, equipment, fertilizers and chemicals and know why we are using them.
Clifford Low had finished his Masters of Science degree in Horticulture from the University of California at Davis and was researching the cultural requirements of new potential horticultural crops when he thought it was time to utilize his academic and growing experience and follow his dream of becoming a Horticultural Consultant. He began working with Jerry and Lilli and found the work both challenging and satisfying. When Jerry and Lilli decided to sell the business, Clifford bought it from them in 1985.
Cliff now runs Perry Laboratory and there are currently a field consultant, two full time and one part time laboratory technicians, that make up the staff. Perry Laboratory has come “full circle,” in that it was originated by a chemical engineer, run for a long time by a soil scientist, and now is operated by a horticulturist. We currently provide Horticultural Testing and Advising Services, specializing in Floriculture, Ornamental Nursery Production, Landscapes, Turf, Viticulture and Intensive Agriculture Growing.
Cliff has received his Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Plant Science and his Masters of Science (MS) in Horticulture from the University of California at Davis. Having worked in various areas of horticulture, including nursery production, landscape management and construction and field research; he brings a practical approach to utilizing the laboratory test results to grow the best plants possible for many situations.