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Designing a farm shop to fit the operation

For father and son Gary and Randy Reinke, building a new shop meant getting the design right from the get-go — and leaving room to expand.

About 30 years ago, Gary Reinke built a new farm shop on his farm in eastern North Dakota. However, he says, "I never quite finished it."

Five years ago, Reinke moved the farming operation to southeast Nebraska, where he and his sons Randy and Ryan farm together. In 2017, they began designing a new farm shop on some land near Unadilla, Neb.

"This time, we said, 'We're going to do what we're going to do and get it all done,'" Gary says.

When they first moved the farming operation to Nebraska five years ago, they had a farmstead near Lincoln, Randy says.

"But it wasn't really set up for a farm shop," he says. "Once we consolidated the operation to Otoe County three years ago, we wanted to get serious about it."

The new 81-by-200-foot building, which was completed by Morton Buildings in early 2018, houses a 25-by-25-foot office, a 40-by-81-foot heated area and a roughly 81-by-160-foot area of space for combines, tractors, planters and other equipment.

Out of the elements

Of course, agriculture has changed over the past 20 to 30 years, and in that time, farm shops also have changed. In a sense, these aren't your grandfather's farm shops, but they still serve their purpose in keeping equipment out of the elements.

"I've always felt you got your money's worth when trading your equipment back by taking care of it," Gary says. "That was my experience in North Dakota. I worked with several dealers in North Dakota, but it got to the point when I traded in a piece of equipment, they wouldn't even need to look at it because the machinery was always clean and in good condition."

And the new location has paid off in the past year, Randy says.

"We had some planter adjustments last spring — we were adding some scrapers, and it was really nice to have a place to work on it at night," he says. "We're continuing to add to that planter every year, adding to it gradually as opposed to upgrading it all at once. It's nice to have a place to do that."

Design considerations

When it comes to designing a new farm shop, every farm is different. "Everybody's situation is a little different," Randy says. "You have to design the shop for your operation."

However, there are certain considerations to make for most farm shops — including heated area size, drains, overhead and access doors, offices or living quarters, and sidewall height.

"My friends that I grew up with in North Dakota had put up shops in the last two years,” Randy says. “So, I went up to North Dakota, took some photos and asked questions.”

"Up there, heated areas are a lot bigger,” he adds. “My friends up north have in-floor heating. This winter aside, typically it's a lot colder up there compared to Nebraska. Because we're further south in a warmer climate, we went with forced air tubes for heating — it hardly uses any propane, and it's really economical. The shop is also very well-insulated."

One of Randy’s friends in North Dakota also had built an attached apartment in the farm shop.

"For us, we didn't feel it was necessary, because we wouldn't use it, and we still could add on later," Randy says. "It's made so we can use it either way — for a small living space or an office."

They also installed drains in the heated shop to allow light washing of equipment.

The shop has 6 inches of concrete in the heated 40-by-80-foot area, although some pads have 8 inches of concrete.

Two big factors are sidewalls and overhead doors. Gary notes while shops accommodating bigger equipment may need sidewalls about 20 feet tall for taller overhead doors, 18-foot sidewalls were enough for their needs.

"Make sure you put in enough doors — and high enough doors,” Gary says. “If your doors aren't accommodating, it's going to be inconvenient to use the shop. We made this so we could pull trucks and equipment all the way through. We're happy with having three overhead doors, but we're putting in a fourth access door."

Adjusting to curveballs

However, some things can't be planned for.

The Reinkes’ new farm shop was built on an old dump site, with an older building buried below the new one. This meant that instead of digging deeper to build the foundation, they had to build the foundation 2 to 3 feet higher than they originally planned.

"So, we put in a retaining wall that's anywhere from 4 to 5.5 feet tall,” Gary says. “On the tier between the retaining wall and the building, we put in some drain tile and ran it out to the ditch, and that takes care of all the water that could collect there. That bottom tier also gives a staging area where we can load fertilizer and other inputs."

"There are things you don't plan for," Gary says. "It's kind of like building a house — just when you have all of your bases covered, you think, 'Well, I could have done something else.' That's why we've built it so we can expand if we need to."

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