Consider the Modern Farm Shop

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
A great shop is one laid out with forethought. It has spaces for tools, portable workstations, and enough floor space to accommodate multiple repair or service operations at once. (DTN image courtesy of Morton Buildings)

John Cain worked for Morton Buildings, Inc. for 40 years. His son, Sean Cain followed him into the same construction business headquartered at Morton, Illinois. Employed there for 25 years, Sean Cain has recently been named president of this post-frame manufacturing and construction company in Morton.

Both father and son loved the construction trade. "We've always liked construction," Sean Cain told DTN/Progressive Farmer. "Constructing buildings, designing, everything that goes into making a building come to life."

(Watch for our America's Great Shops Series appearing Sundays at If you have a shop you'd like to show us, send an email to and tell us about it and include some photographs. If we feature your shop, we'll pay you $500.)

Cain joined Morton Buildings as a construction worker and moved up through the ranks as a construction center manager and regional manager, making stops in Iowa and Colorado, before moving to the corporate office as vice president of sales.

Sean Cain spoke for a few minutes with DTNPF about rising costs of building farm shops and building trends in the industry.


DTNPF: How has higher wood prices affected Morton's business outlook?

CAIN: It's not just wood. All input costs are up right now including steel, fuel and labor. Over the last 12 months, I think most businesses, not just in our industry, have seen their input costs drastically increase. That's had an impact on our construction costs and that's impacted our pricing.

DTNPF: Has COVID-19 impacted Morton's business?

CAIN: Early on, people were a bit reserved. But we figured out early on how to become a remote workforce, how to provide safety precautions for our crews, who are socially distanced inherently. That was always a natural insulator. They wore masks when riding in trucks and we provided PPE (personal protection equipment). We made our own hand sanitizer when that was in short supply. COVID has not really had a big impact on the company.

DTNPF: When you walk into a farm shop, what's the first thing you look for -- something that says this is a well-managed shop?

CAIN: When the shop has been laid out with good forethought it is obvious that it's a well-managed shop. Portable workstations have space for tools and support equipment. Multiple repair or service operations can be performed at once. Lighting is (well-designed) and both electric and pneumatic connections are convenient.

DTNPF: What features of a Morton shop are popular among your customers?

CAIN: The size of the overhead or hydraulic doors are important -- wider and taller doors that accommodate current equipment and larger equipment in the future. Walk doors next to every larger equipment door are valuable.

DTNPF: Good shop function includes the distribution of electrical outlets, heating and air, compressed air lines, lights, doors. How does Morton meet digital demands?

CAIN: Digital (function) is an important aspect of the farm function. From finding exploded views of equipment during maintenance to double checking on parts ordered, or connecting with service providers, the Internet (is a key piece of an efficient shop). So is the ability to use a laptop or a tablet on the workbench when doing technical work. You may have several people working online. Each may need a workstation to be effective.

DTNPF: What design features make a shop efficient for the farmer/owner?

CAIN: It's important to consider that longer-term (maintenance and repair) projects may require space in the shop at the same time as emergency repairs. Give yourself enough space that you can tear down a tractor to rebuild a transmission at the same time as you pull a piece of field equipment in to repair a broken or failed component.

DTNPF: From your observations, what features in a workshop are most desired by customers?

CAIN: They want something that will last, where it can be expanded or repurposed in the future. Architecturally it has become important to include various functions under one roof -- ag operations, storage, office, so that it becomes a command center for that operation -- and hobbies, work on motorcycles or boats, for example.

DTNPF: What elements of a Morton building are continuing to evolve?

CAIN: We continue to evolve our Morton Foundation System, which is our concrete lower column. Another evolution is our color selections. We've introduced three new colors with more texture to them -- one is a weathered grey, one is a woodgrain cedar, and we have a rustic bronze. We have one new solid color, a bright red. And, in the darker colors, we're offering a kind of matte color, a low sheen rather than high-gloss paint that has become popular as well.

For more information about farm shops, visit

Dan Miller can be reached at

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