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The farm shop means different things to different farmers, but there is no denying how important the shop is to the operation.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

March 24, 2023

2 Min Read
Ricky and his son, Brandon Christiansen in their farm shop
WORKSPACE: One of the cool farm shops we have visited over the years is that of Ricky Christiansen (left) and his son, Brandon, of Plainview, Neb., pictured here in our file photo from 2014. Curt Arens

When I was young, working with my family on the farm with my dad, brother and a full-time hired man, I was in charge of breaking things. I did this job quite well at times.

Our hired man, who was a part of our family — like a brother — was also a gifted welder and fabricator in the shop. He was in charge of fixing the machinery I had broken. It was a practical arrangement that worked. Our farm shop was nothing fancy at all — nice-sized machine shed, dirt floor — but plenty of tools.

As Dad aged and couldn’t be on the tractor or combine as much because of health concerns, he would still come out to the farm almost daily, poke his head into the barn or house and yell out, “I’ll be working in the shop.” He always found something to fix, something to build or something to work on. The shop was his happy place to be on the farm.

Shops are crucial

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of farm shops to producers. In Nebraska, all kinds of ag machinery and farm product companies originated in someone’s farm shop. Almost every great Nebraska-based center pivot or farm implement or tech company operating today started in a farm shop or office with an idea someone had to make life on the farm just a little easier.

This was true when my great-grandfather was farming in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it is just as true today. The machines have changed, but the importance of the shop has not.

Farmers modify, manufacture and reinforce machinery, and have been doing so for decades. The farm shop is the place of repairs, farm meetings, neighborhood functions and farm transition planning. More probably gets accomplished in the shop than any other single structure on the farm.

Yes, farm shops have changed over the years. Better facilities, better lighting, better tools and a more comfortable environment to work in are all a part of this evolution. I’ve had the privilege in this job to visit my fair share of extremely well-equipped and planned shops, customized to the needs of the producer.

That said, all farm shops, old and new, can be the place where concepts become reality, repairs get things ready for the growing season or the calving season, and farmers work to get their machines and technology working better.

Comments or questions? Drop me an email at [email protected].

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About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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