Joe Nichols' shop outside Cadiz, Kentucky, "was/is" a fairly amazing sight. At the time it was built in 2008, the half-million-dollar project yielded 14,500 square feet of work and administrative spaces. The maintenance area alone measured 8,000 square feet. On the day of a visit back then, the space all but consumed a John Deere DB60 planter. Unfolded it is 60 feet from tip to tip, and the Deere 9230 -- all 350 horsepower of it -- attached to the planter.
"Some people might say this is over the top," Joe Nichols said, who was then farming only 17,000 acres (he's farming more than 35,000 acres today). "But we operate on the right side of the decimal points," he said, explaining the thin operating margins by which his Seven Springs Farm operated. "The detail and the organization of this shop are part of that."
Marty Cummings, a fourth generation farmer from Malcom, Iowa, laid down an important mandate when he built his new shop. "It better be big enough. We are only doing this once." Brant Klenk, a long-time employee, and Cumming's son-in-law Curtis Michalek oversaw the building of the 100- by 150-foot building; 15,000 square feet in all, with 20-foot sidewalls.
"The greatest overall benefit of our new shop is that it allows us plenty of room to work on multiple pieces of equipment," Michalek said. The shop has space to unfold 120-foot sprayer booms. It is heated by a large geothermal field and lighted by new-tech LED lights. It includes a modern apartment space, full kitchen and bath, with its own indoor "deck" with a flat screen TV.
"We want to make sure that 20 years from now, this shop still fits into the operation," Michalek said.
Ron Brooks of Waupaca, Wisconsin, uses the winter sun to cut a quarter of the cost spent heating his 8,400-square-foot shop.
High on the south, 20-foot high wall of Brook's shop is a bank of eight, 3-foot clerestory windows.
At 44 degrees north latitude -- Brooks' farm is west and a bit south of Green Bay, Wisconsin -- the shop benefits from solar warming as the sun streams in through those windows from mid-September to mid-April. On Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, the low angle of the sun delivers a day of warming sunlight spreading nearly the width of his shop floor.
Brooks is thrilled with the solar efficiency of his building, but he would reconsider the artificial lighting source inside. Brooks installed T8 fluorescents for lighting. "I wish I had gone with LEDs," he said of light emitting diodes. "I love LEDs. They produce a whiter, better working light."
The Cumming's, Brook's and Nichols' shops, all three were winners of past Great American Shops Contests. They represent high levels of design and thought. They are shops that make each operation more productive and more efficient.
And so, the next Great American Shops contest has arrived.
DTN/The Progressive Farmer is again looking for the best shops in America. It is time to show what you can do. Show us the shops you run -- shops planned for hard work, equipped to make work profitable and filled imaginative ideas that make work efficient.
We will pay every winner $500, plus an additional prize or two. Watch for future announcements.
Tell us about your Great Shop (send photos, too).
* What makes your shop great?
* How does the design of your shop make your work easier?
* What tools and storage ideas make your shop work for you?
* What are the coolest features you dreamed up that have paid off big time?
* What is the best idea in your shop?
DTN/The Progressive Farmer are accepting entries in four categories:
1. Shops 1,500 square feet and less.
2. Shops 1,501 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
3. Shops 5,001 square feet and more.
4. Recycled/Rehabbed shops (older buildings converted into new and productive space).
The deadline for Great American Shops contest is Friday, July 7, 2017.
Send your entries by mail or email:
Senior Editor, The Progressive Farmer
2204 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35209
Let the Great American Shops Win!
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