Flight of the dragon

New Age Laboratories owner Scott Wall has faced many challenges over the years, but not one as difficult as his battle with cancer.

SOUTH HAVEN — Scott Wall always told his kids “I’m a dragon.”

Considered by him as a symbol of power, strength and wisdom, dragons became even more iconic for him after he found out he had cancer.

“Five years ago I was diagnosed with leukemia,” said Wall, 56, CEO, president and owner of New Age Laboratories. “I was never afraid of death because I had things in place. I was more concerned about how to tell my kids, how to tell my wife.”

After extensive hospital stays at Bronson Hospital and University of Michigan, Wall received a gift of life – a bone marrow transplant.

“No one in my family was a match,” he recalls. “A gentleman from Boston area ended up being a perfect one.”

Now considered “cured,” Wall said beating cancer has been the biggest challenge he has faced so far.

“As a business owner, I was more concerned about being unavailable. Physically, I was out of my company for a year and a half. I had to communicate by telephone, email.”

Luckily, his brother Jason, who worked at New Age, was able to oversee company operations temporarily.

Located in South Haven’s industrial park, New Age Laboratories was established after a group of Landmark Technologies staff, of which Wall was one, purchased the mobile laboratory service lines from Landmark. In 2011, New Age added the testing of agriculture and farming facilities along with food industry products and process lines to its services. A name shift occurred in 2016 when the company re-branded itself by switching out the Landmark part of its name and changed it to New Age Laboratories.

Today, the company not only has an on-site lab, but has a fleet of mobile ones that allows its chemists and technicians to travel all over the 48 states working at numerous facilities testing soil, fertilizer, plant tissue, compost, manure and water for things like contaminants.

Expanding services to farmers is sentimental for Wall. With a degree in natural resource management, he had worked for several years managing a large pig operation in the Holland area.

“I probably would have ended up working for the DNR,” he said, “but in the ’80s, the big push was to balance out Civil Service by hiring women and minorities.”

While working on a pig farm may have been years ago, his love of farming and the soil has remained. Instead of pigs, he now raises sheep, along with his wife, Heidi, on their 150-acre farm in Glenn. Their two children, Jared and Sierra, are pretty much off on their own, leaving Scott and Heidi with the farming chores which is all right with him.

“The soil gives me a way to escape all the corporate stuff,” he said, smiling.

His battle with cancer plus his exhausting work schedule has caused some changes in what he does during his free time. A long-time member of the theater group the Our Town Players, Scott is well-known for his acting roles. He even served as president of the organization for awhile.

Does he think he will ever return to the stage?

“I do miss acting every once in awhile,” he said. “It’s just a lack of time.”