About Us

Ward Laboratories – hometown roots, worldwide growth

Ray and Jolene Ward founded Ward laboratories all the way back in 1983, initially operating out of a three-bay garage here in Kearney, Nebraska.

Our team of highly qualified scientists, agronomists, livestock experts and other agriculture professionals have spent nearly four decades analyzing millions of samples and steadily earning a reputation for excellence with our domestic and international clients. Along the way, we gradually expanded our operations to meet the needs of our growing customer base.

Today, Ward Laboratories occupies a nearly 32,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art facility that allows us to process a high volume of samples and ensure the highest standards of accuracy and quality.

We outgrew that three-bay garage a long time ago, but everything we do is still inspired by Ray and Jolene’s foundational principle – to provide quality analytical results so customers can make informed decisions about their operations.

Our Mission

To provide accurate and diverse laboratory analysis swiftly and affordably through commitment to advancement and client relationships.

Our Vision

To be the most trusted and proven laboratory resource to guide food producers around the world.

Our Objectives

  • Honor Ray and Jolene Ward’s founding principal to provide quality results so clients can make informed decisions
  • Create an environment where our people can grow personally and professionally and continue to promote the advancement necessary to stay ahead of the curve
  • Aim beyond the cutting edge in the technology, processes, and services we provide to our current and future customers
  • Create opportunities for our organization to foster and build new relationships based on trust, integrity and passion, in and around the communities we serve throughout the world
  • Strive for excellence in our results and proactively hold ourselves accountable to accept, resolve and eliminate errors
  • Ensure that the producer can continue to have the necessary information to confidently make decisions that benefit their businesses, families and communities
  • Active involvement in professional organizations to provide support and collaboration, while continually learning from other industry leaders

Meet Our Staff

Raymond C. Ward

Chairman of the Board , CPSS, CPAG, CCA

Dr. Ward (Ray) founded Ward Laboratories in 1983. Ray received B.S. and M.S.  Soil Science degrees from University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1959 and 1961 and a Plant Science Ph.D degree from South Dakota State University in 1972.

Nick Ward


Dr. Nick Ward received his B.S. and M.S. in Agronomy from Kansas State University in 2007 and 2010 and Agronomy Ph.D degree from University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2015.

Patrick Freeze

Soil/Soil Health Customer Support and Technical Specialist

Dr. Patrick Freeze received his Ph.D in Soil Science from Washington State University in 2023 with an emphasis in soil chemistry. There, he focused on soil health and environmental quality as a USDA NIFA Needs Fellow, and then abroad in Thailand as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. His B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Nevada – Reno centered on forest soil biogeochemistry and heavy metal(loid) remediation in soil and water.

Rebecca Kern-Lunbery

Feed Testing Product Manager and Strategist, MS, MBA, PAS

Rebecca joined Ward Laboratories in 2016. Rebecca graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2012 with a B.S. in Animal and Veterinary Sciences and again in 2014 with a M.S. in Animal Nutrition.

Ryan Dennhardt

Human Resources/Business Manager

Ryan joined Ward Laboratories, Inc. in the fall of 2019. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and has an MBA with HR emphasis.

Casey Debord

IT Director

Casey has 20 years of experience in Information Technology. Casey’s history includes 10 years at the University of Nebraska, and several years of experience supporting labs and driving HIPAA and PCI compliance in enterprise environments and healthcare settings.

Nikki Kuhr

Laboratory Manager

Nikki joined Ward Laboratories in 2006. She graduated from Southeast Community College-Beatrice with an Associates of Science-Biology Degree.

Sadie Shannon

Log-In Supervisor

Sadie joined Ward Laboratories in the summer of 2017. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2017 with a BS in Animal Science.

Jordan Westengaard

Quality Assurance/Quality Control Manager

Jordan joined Ward Laboratories, Inc. in January 2020. He received his BS in Chemistry from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in 2010.

Terry Buettner

Account Development & Agronomy Support Manager

Terry joined Ward Laboratories in fall of 2017. He graduated from University of Nebraska-Kearney in 1983 with a B.S. in Business Administration. He has been involved in production agriculture and seed sales in the Kearney area for 34 years.

Katie Meysenburg

Account Development & Agronomy Support Manager

Katie joined the Ward Laboratories team in the fall of 2023. She graduated with a B.S. in Agriculture and Environmental Science Communication with a special focus on Agronomy from The University of Nebraska- Lincoln in 2020.

Makayla (MiK) Fox

Account Development & Agronomy Support Manager

MiK joined Ward Laboratories in the fall of 2021. She received an A.A.S. in Agriculture in 2016 from Ivy Tech Community College – Fort Wayne. She graduated from Kansas State University in 2019 where she received a B.S. of Agriculture majoring in Communications and Journalism.

Melissa Schwarz

Senior Customer Service Representative

Melissa joined Ward Laboratories in 2017 and has worked as our Receptionist and Customer Service Representative. She will be attending CCC in Kearney to pursue an AAS Degree in Business Administration.

Stephanie Wootton

Soil Health Supervisor & Microbiology Lead

Stephanie joined Ward Laboratories in 2020. She attended South Dakota State University where she received her B.S. in Biology in 2016 and then her M.S. with specialization in Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology in 2019.

Ram Lee

R&D/Soil Tech Supervisor

Ram joined Ward Laboratories, Inc. in January 2021. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2014.

Dixie Vaughn

Soil Combustion Supervisor

Dixie began working for Ward in 2018. With six years of experience in agriculture, she fully understands the importance of the work she does at Ward.

Sydney Gabriel

Willie Pretorius, MS

Soil Health Consultant

Willie Pretorius received B.S. and M.S. from the Universities of Pretoria and Stellenbosch in 1966 and 1970 respectively majoring in Fruit Science, Horticulture and Plant Physiology. He also obtained a Hons. B from the Stellenbosch Business School in 1984. His background is agricultural research, managing food companies, and soil health.

In Remembrance of Jolene Ward

Born December 6, 1940, Jolene co-founded Ward Labs with her husband, Ray, in 1983. In the early years, she was the all-around support staff, receptionist, coffee-brewer, and customer service representative. She officially retired in the mid-‘90s but never stopped promoting the business. Jolene poured herself out for her community with a spirit of generous giving and greatly enjoyed travel and history. Perhaps her most rewarding moments were those spent as a mom, grandma, and great-grandmother. She leaves behind a legacy of love and learning, having never met a stranger, and always sharing her good humor. Jolene died peacefully on September 15, 2023. We, at Ward, are forever grateful for her life and legacy.

Our Commitment to You

Ward Laboratories, Inc. is committed to the continued enhancement of analytical result excellence and service through the dynamics of its quality assurance system, the integrity of its people, and the professionals engaged in the agricultural analytical testing we provide.

We have an extensive system for maintaining the highest possible standards for quality control of your samples. Your analytical results are our highest priority and everything we do is managed with that in mind. We employ professionals in the fields of chemistry and biology, and we work with many proficiency programs to ensure the quality of each analytical result.

Certifications & Licenses

  • Nebraska Licensed Laboratory
  • Iowa certified
  • MAP certified
  • NFTA certified

Proficiency Programs

  • Agricultural Laboratory Proficiency (Soil, Water, Plant)
  • Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • National Forage Testing Association
  • North American Proficiency Testing Program (Soil, Water, Plant)
  • Magruder Fertilizer Check Sample Program
  • Distillers Grain Technology Council Laboratory Proficiency Testing Program
  • – Animal Feed Scheme
  • – Mineral Scheme


  • Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Oil Chemists Society
  • American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists
    – Professional Animal Scientist
  • American Society of Agronomy
  • American Soybean Association
  • American Registry of Certified Professionals in Agronomy, Crops, and Soils (ARCPACS)
    – Certified Professional Agronomist
    – Certified Professional Soil Scientist
    – Certified Crop Advisor
  • Association of Official Analytical Chemists
  • Bio Nebraska Life Sciences Association
  • Colorado Cattlemen® Association
  • Council for Agricultural Science & Technology
  • Independent Agricultural Consultants of Colorado
  • Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association
  • Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Missouri Agribusiness Association
  • National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association
  • Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild
  • Nebraska Cattlemen
  • Nebraska Chamber of Commerce
  • Nebraska Diplomats Inc.
  • Nebraska Farm Bureau
  • Nebraska Independent Crop Consulting Association
  • Nebraska Poultry Industries
  • NIRS Forage and Feed Testing Consortium
  • Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa
  • Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association
  • Sigma Xi
  • Soil and Plant Analysis Council
  • Soil and Water Conservation Society of America
  • Soil Science Society of America
  • South Dakota Agribusiness Association
  • South Dakota Cattlemen Association
  • South Dakota Independent Crop Consultants Association
  • South Dakota Soil Health Coalition
  • Texas Ag Industries Association
  • Wyoming Livestock Association

Ready to submit a sample?