Grand prize Top Shop
When the Crave brothers (Charles, George, Tom, and Mark) had to tear down their machine shed several years ago to make way for a new dairy building, they lost a desperately needed shop. So in typical innovative Crave brothers fashion, the family set about creating a new complex to accommodate their growing dairy and cheese operation near Waterloo, Wisconsin.
“We needed a facility that would be in use 365 days a year, and it had to accommodate a wide variety of equipment from combines and field implements to semis, feed trucks, pickups, and various size loaders,” explains Tom. “We knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime investment, so we wanted to do it right the first time.”
They did indeed do it right, and their shop complex was selected the Grand Prize winner in Successful Farming magazine's Top Shops® Contest. With that honor went a Model L218 skid steer loader donated by New Holland.
Size was not a factor in the decision to award the Crave brothers the Grand Prize honors. Instead, the deciding factor was how well that structure was laid out to accommodate a wide variety of repair, maintenance, and fabrication chores.
The 70-foot-wide by 210-foot-long structure was divided into a 70×110-foot shop (located at the south end of the structure), a 70×20-foot wash bay (in the center), and a 70×80-foot open-front cold storage area. “We have another building for long-term storage of such items as field implements, seeding equipment, and combines,” Tom explains. “We left doors off the cold storage area since equipment for the dairy – like loaders and feed trucks – is constantly being removed or parked in there all day long. Having doors to open and shut would slow work down and quickly wear out the doors.”
Wash bay great addition
Including room for positioning a wash bay between open storage and the shop was a no-brainer, Tom says. “We used to wash outdoors and that can be a challenge during Wisconsin winters. This bay is heated and enclosed, plus it's long enough to accommodate a semitruck and trailer,” he says.
What earned the Crave brothers the most points toward winning the contest, however, was their shop. For starters, it was designed in order to accommodate a wide variety of machinery – both field implements and feeding equipment and vehicles – at one time.
“We have had as many as two trucks, a payloader, combine, and tractor in the shop being worked on at once,” Tom says. “And machinery is constantly flowing in and out of the shop during the day.”
A half year in planning
The need to work on multiple vehicles at a time was a primary motivator in the shop's design. And before the first yard of concrete was poured for the structure, the brothers spent at least six months brainstorming the facility.
“We would do some drawing, toss out suggestions, make additions, and then walk away for a while. In the meantime, we visited a lot of other farm shops to garner ideas,” Tom says. “A crucial decision we made was to include an engineer in our planning process. Not only did he offer a lot of very good ideas, but also he advised us on how to build the shop to commercial standards.”