—Gary and Barbara Waer left city life and the corporate world behind for the Valley.
While some people fit snugly into the corporate world, others chafe under its regimented style and endless committee meetings. The culture of conformity stifles their creativity. And yet sometimes in reaction, a giant leap of faith into a life rich beyond expectations is taken.
After spending more than a decade as an oil company executive in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, New England and North Carolina, Gary Waer gave up his lucrative career in 1978. Eager for a change, he and his wife, Barbara, moved to the Santa Ynez Valley, ready to start over and forge a new life path.
“I didn’t fit,” Waer, 68, says of his corporate experience. “I was always the odd man out. I have to be able to move about freely, and mentally I have to be free. Fortunately, I’m blessed with a wife who understands.
“We really liked the small town feel of the Valley,” he continues. “I thought, ‘This is really nice. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m going to do it.’” Waer, who holds an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, an MBA in finance and a PhD in soils chemistry, immediately deployed his many talents to launch a construction business.
Under the aegis of Farm and Ranch Maintenance Company (F.A.R.M. Co.), he designed and built a variety of structures throughout the Valley, including homes, ranches, stables and even racetracks.
In 1987, Waer tapped his background as a chemical engineer to begin researching an innovative fertilization method that involved the action of humic acids on soil fertility. Ten years later, he developed a dissertation around the subject and earned his PhD. Waer explains that humic acids are naturally occurring in most soils in this country, and that they result from the decomposition of dense layers of leaf and organic matter.
“We’re basically a desert here,” he says, “so our soils contain only a small amount of humic acid. The introduction of humic acid increases the fertility of the soil tremendously.
“I heard about [the fertilization method] from an old German fellow,” he continues. “He found out I was a chemical engineer, so we started doing some work together. When he died, I continued the work.”
In his Santa Ynez Valley lab, Waer developed a proprietary formula that contains humic, fulvic and ulmic acids, naturally occurring ingredients in soil humus. He then ensured the reproducibility of the formula and introduced it as a product called MPXA (pronounced “em-pax-uh”), an acronym that stands for “multi-plex complexing agent.”
Because it increases the availability of fertilizers and micronutrients, MPXA qualifies as a soil amendment. It is a form of soluble fulvic acid that makes certain nutrients, such as calcium, copper and iron, available for absorption by plants. “My product is a chelating agent,” Waer explains. “Most chelating agents only work in alkaline solutions. I have one of the few methods of producing a pure 98% fulvic acid which is soluble in both acids and bases.
“What it does,” he continues, “is increase the efficacy of salts like calcium or iron sulfates, from maybe thirty or forty percent to ninety-nine percent.”
Although he doesn’t advertise MPXA beyond his website, Waer has garnered steady customers ranging from Dole to Driscoll’s to DB Specialty Farms in Santa Maria. Berry farmers, almond growers in the San Joaquin Valley, Canadian strawberry nurseries and midwestern agro concerns producing thousands of acres of corn and alfalfa all use it.
When a local Rotarian approached Waer about donating some MPXA (which holds multi-state certification as an organic product) to farmers in the Philippines, he readily agreed. Under the auspices of the Indigenous Development Coordinators Foundation, volunteers hope to increase crop production.
“The guy who operates the foundation onsite is Dr. Rick Zander,” Waer says. “He’s a Valley veterinarian, retired. He’s been there seven or eight years, trying to do some good for these people.
“We’re looking at Jatropha plant seeds,” he continues. “You can press those and the oil is directly burnable as a filler/extender with diesel. Our results with that plant have been very good.” Soon to hit the market, Vita-Root will serve as the consumer version of MPXA. Priced at under $10, it comes with biologically beneficial microbes that destroy pathogens and has already proved effective on oak trees threatened by root disease.
Waer packages his powdered MPXA in an envelope with the beneficial microbes and bundles that with a small bottle of enzymes, whose action accelerates the growth of the microbes.
“You add those two components to five gallons of water and mix them,” he explains. “Use them at about one quart per one-gallon-size plant, and put it in the hole before you plant.
“You can mix it with soil supplements,” he continues, “and it’s good on its own for promoting root development.”
In addition to Vita-Root, Waer has developed a line of products for home gardeners that include MPXA Humic-Based plant pots and pre-plant pots, as well as foliar and lawn sprays. Ever the restless experimenter, he’s also working to coat seeds with MPXA to give them a head- start after germination.
But Dr. Waer’s lively intellect and extraordinary energy don’t rest there, for he also has developed a line of synthetic lubricants and cleaners. Currently on the market are EEZOX (for guns), Cycle Tune-up (for bicycles) and REEL Boating (for boats and fishing reels), as well as Stain Less STEEL Premium Metal Care. This product is currently available at the local Ace Valley Hardware.
When not busy in the lab or personally making sales trips on behalf of MPXA, Waer collects (and sells via website) antique military firearms, medals and books.
“My specialty is World War I,” he reveals. “My first taste of it was in 2002 when I went to Europe to see where some of these antique firearms came from. I got horribly hooked.
“The whole thing is intriguing and historically very significant,” he continues, “because it was instrumental in leading to the advent of the the second world war. I would like more people to understand what happened.”
To that end, Waer has written The Great War Field Guide: From Flanders to the Vosges, due to be published next year. A guide to the Western Front of World War I, it will contain descriptions, detailed maps and GPS coordinates pinpointing each site. Waer has traveled to Europe nearly a dozen times and taken more than 10,000 photographs, about 450 of which will appear in the book.
“There are other field guides out there,” Waer admits, “however, this is the first definitive guide, in English, that covers the entire Western Front.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” he smiles. “Everybody’s got to latch onto something to keep their life interesting.”
Also in the works is a memoir about World War II’s 747th Independent Tank Battalion. Waer edited the war diary of a battalion member who recorded his memories as a kind of therapy after returning from the bloody conflict. While Waer pursues his diverse interests, Barbara keeps busy with her own pursuits, which include tennis. A dress designer and accomplished seamstress, she also makes one-of-a-kind dresses and does complex alterations for Valley customers.
“We get along well and have a lot of fun together,” Waer laughs, “and we both have separate lives. That’s probably why we’ve been married 40 years.” When the Waers moved to the Santa Ynez Valley, they made a dramatic life change. With energy and imagination, they have proved that sometimes the best decisions start with a giant leap of faith.
INFORMATION: To learn more about Dr. Gary Waer’s farm and lubrication products, visit HumicsbyFARMCo.com, EEZOX.info and GBDistributors.com. To view his military antiques collection, log on to GunsAndTreasures.com