The farm shop is an essential space for farms of any size. It’s here that you store your equipment that’s critical to your operation, work on various projects, and sometimes even unwind at the end of the day. A building this important needs to be as efficient and well-designed as possible, and that means you’ll need to take some time to thoroughly plan before proceeding with your farm shop build.
While farm shops across the country do share some common features, the specifics of your shop will depend on your unique circumstances. When planning for your next agricultural building, you should focus on your needs regarding four main factors: building size, location, machinery use, and “non-shop” uses.
The building size is the most critical factor when planning and designing a shop, and you should take into account your current and future needs for this. Your farm shop must be large enough to house all your equipment and comfortably accommodate any other uses you might have. Are you considering entering a new trade? Buying new equipment? Putting your office, workshop, or shower in the farm shop?
To find the minimum building width and length required, go out to your equipment and measure each piece, or get the specifications from your dealer. After you have this information, you can determine how much space is needed inside for moving and storing any current and future implements. Keep in mind that today’s farm shops are typically 80-foot-wide by 165-foot-long and up for building size.
Then, consider possible work stations you would like to incorporate – workbench, welding, and grinding area, wash bay, office, etc. –and factor those stations into your total square footage. Taking the extra time to carefully measure and map these things out will help ensure that your farm shop is suitable for you.
The size of the building will also impact the cost of the structure and what your budget will allow. If your needs and desires are greater than what your budget will cover, don’t make the mistake of building too small. Consider building in phases, so that when the shop is complete – perhaps in 5 – 7 years or so – it will fulfill the needs you are constructing this for.
It’s much easier and less expensive to add length to a farm shop than width or height. Utilize the smaller shop while your budget gains strength and then do an addition off the endwall for the ultimate expanded shop.
It’s said that the most important aspect of real estate is “location, location, location.” This is even true when you’re setting up a structure on your own property. Your farm shop needs to be centrally located so that you (and anyone else working on your farm) can use it consistently and efficiently.
If your farm shop is at a far end of your property, it’s likely that equipment and tools will get left at other locations throughout the workday. A central location guarantees that everything gets safely stored at the end of the day, and it also allows you to keep an eye on important operations (e.g., trucks arriving and leaving) from the shop.
Additionally, you need to consider how you will use your space (both now and in the future) when choosing the site for your farm shop. As we mentioned in the previous section, it’s much easier to build out a farm shop lengthwise than it is to add height or width. Therefore, it would be wise to choose a site with enough space for an addition should you need it later.
It’s also important to consider your “creature comfort” needs; if you plan to have a shower or kitchen in the farm shop, you’ll need to choose a location where you can easily and safely connect water lines. While it may take time to find the one spot on your property that meets every requirement, the benefits of a good location are well worth the effort.
Beyond the overall size requirement of the structure, the use of your specific machinery and operation will determine many design elements of your new farm shop. For example, staging areas with either a solid gravel pad or a concrete apron are essential for the optimal functionality of your shop. They serve as a preliminary washing area before having the equipment come into the shop. You will not want to have a muddy mess right in front of your operation to add more cleanup inside.
They also add a new approach to the building that provides a safe, easy way to get in and out as well. Plus, this area can be used for additional repair space. You can even put in-floor heat under the concrete to help with snow and ice build-up.
Consider the annual ‘rhythm’ of your equipment usage. As you are finishing with spring tillage does all the maintenance get finished up before the equipment is stored? When you are queueing up for harvest, do you have some maintenance that needs to be completed? Recognize that your shop normally will not be sized to allow storage of every piece of equipment and having a conveniently developed solid pad close to the shop allows minor tasks to be completed outside when weather permits.
In addition, overhead doors will be determined by your machinery size and use. When choosing an overhead door size, always go wider and taller than what you feel is needed. Many of today’s farm shops include a 24’ x 15’ overhead door at a minimum.
Give thought to adding one or two smaller overhead doors for those special pieces which will be regularly parked in your shop. If your primary pickup truck will be housed in the shop you won’t want to be opening a 24’ x 15’ just to get in or out.
Finally, it’s important to remember that your farm shop is not just a garage for storing your machinery. It can be many things: a home office, a family entertainment space, or even a home gym!
Some of the more popular “non-shop” uses include pool tables, dining space (perfect for large family dinners over the holidays), basketball hoops (those high ceilings make farm shops great for indoor basketball on winter days), and offices or conference rooms.
You can add anything you like to your shop – but to accommodate these possibilities, you must make sure you factor them into your size and budget decisions.
Think about what you want to achieve from your farm shop. Is it a place to meet with colleagues and clients? A place to relax at the end of the day? A place for the kids to hang out after school? Factor in these amenities as you plan (and remember, phased building is always an option if necessary). As long as you have the space and the imagination, your farm shop can be just about anything.
–by Dan Nyberg, Morton Buildings | Dan Nyberg has been employed with Morton Buildings for 28 years, where he held a variety of positions such as sales consultant, regional manager, and director of sales. He has also served as a board member of the National Frame Building Association for nine years. Dan has been involved with farming most of his life, from living on a dairy farm as a child, moving back to a mixed livestock and grain farm in high school, to managing a personal farm in Colorado focused on horse-drawn events. He has experience with beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, horses and mules. Dan currently farms 72 acres with a herd of 23 Devon/Hereford cattle and owns three Morton buildings.