Build a Shop Big Enough for the Runway

Farm Shop Built to Serve Aerial Application Business and Farm

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Glenn Heinen built his shop to service his farm equipment and to one day house the biggest plane that could use the aerial applicators runway. (DTN photo by Jim Patrico)

When you're passionate about businesses, planning a multipurpose shop takes on new dimensions. Just ask Glenn Heinen, who owns and fly's aerial application aircraft, and runs a grain farm near Seneca, Kansas. "We had to work the planning backward," he said of his building.

In this case, the starting point for planning was a 2,400-foot grass runway Heinen already had on his farm. The end point was the existing hangar and farm shop 200 feet east of his house. The goal was to deconstruct the 50-by-70-foot hoop building he had used for about 20 years and put up a metal building in the same footprint for both aircraft and farm equipment.

Before the design process even began, the Morton Buildings rep asked Heinen an insightful question: What's the largest plane you might ever want to store in the building? Heinen considered then responded that, based on the length of his runway, the largest plane he could land there was an Air Tractor AT-802 with a wingspan of about 60 feet.

Like many farmers before him, Heinen learned that size does matter, and he had to plan a building larger than he originally thought. Otherwise, his largest plane might not fit.

"The size of the runway determined the size of the building," he said. It's a similar strategy to consider before raising a structure that will house only farm equipment -- to anticipate, and to account for the ever-increasing size of farm equipment, too.

HOW THE BUSINESS STARTED

Heinen and his brother, Scott, grew up on a farm near Seneca that their father told them was too small to support three families. So, the boys -- each in turn -- went off to Kansas State University (KSU) to find other careers. Scott, who is seven years older than Heinen, studied aeronautical technology and, after graduation, founded an aerial application business.

When Heinen went to KSU, he studied agronomy and worked for his brother in the summers flying planes and driving tender trucks. "I sprayed my way through college," SAID Heinen, who graduated in 2000.

The brothers quickly built a successful business in aerial and ground application services. Heinen Brothers Agra Services now operates in six states from Nebraska to Texas. That should have been enough to keep the brothers busy.

But, when their father retired in 2004, nostalgia and a love of farming returned them to their roots. They took over their father's 500-acre corn and soybean cropping operation, and soon grew it to fit the needs of two families.

A few years later, they added some purebred Angus cows and now have 150. They background and sell yearlings.

"Scott helps me with my farming habit, and I help him with his cattle habit," Heinen said. Along the way, Heinen met and married Leah in 2001.

Finances were tighter back then, and Heinen did most of the work on the original hoop building with Scott's help. They poured the concrete pad, erected the frame, covered it with fabric and built end walls. Heinen stored planes and farm equipment in it. He also did maintenance and repair on farm vehicles.

A larger shop at the headquarters a few miles away does most of the repairs for Heinen Brothers, so Heinen didn't need an all-purpose shop. But, his personal equipment needs had outgrown the hoop building, which was unheated and in a spot that didn't drain well. "I got tired of being cold while I worked on equipment," Heinen said.

Five years ago, he started planning a replacement near the original footprint. Priorities included storage space for planes and farm equipment, and better facilities for maintenance and repair.

Construction began in mid-2020. "Ten days of two tractors scraping raised the ground about five feet (for better drainage)," Heinen said. The new building, a wood-framed Morton building with a footprint of 81-by-112 feet, has plenty of room for airplanes and tractors. It has 18-foot sidewalls, the top 10 feet are acoustical panels that absorb sound.

During the planning stages, Heinen made clear to the builders that he wanted an attractive building. So, designers added wide fascias, decorative window shutters and a stonework facade

along the bottom of the exterior walls. A porch roof supported by stone column bases frames the entrance to the office area. River rock landscaping completes the picture.

Appearance was important to Heinen because the building is close to the farmhouse he and Leah built in 2006. They had worked hard on the house and both wanted a shop that enhanced the overall feel of the farm site.

There is some history to this. Heinen had made a couple of miscalculations when he placed that hoop building 20 years ago near the old farmhouse he and Leah then shared. First, hoop buildings don't have a lot of curb appeal. Worse, "I built it before I worked on the new house, which was a point of contention with my wife," he now admits with a laugh.

USEFUL FEATURES

The building is full of useful, time-saving features, but here are a few of the more notable in Heinen's mind.

-- Five radiant heaters hang on the sides of the wall near the ceiling.

-- Sixteen energy-efficient LED ceiling fixtures give plenty of light, aided by windows, 25 in all.

-- A 63-by-18-foot hydraulic lift door is a perfect entryway for airplanes. Other large doors a 16-by-16-foot roll-up and a 40-by-18-foot hydraulic lift door for easy entry of farm equipment. Heinen laid a 40-by-70-foot concrete pad outside the larger hydraulic door for the planes and extra workspace.

-- The floor has seven coats of sealant to ward off stains. It also has three 10-foot-long floor drains "for wintertime slop and washing equipment," Heinen said.

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This is one in a series of America's Best Shops. If you have a shop you'd like us to feature, send a note to: dan.miller@dtn.com. If we publish your shop story, we'll pay you $500.

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Dan Miller