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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.”

Crave Brothers Dairy Farm is located in a county that has not yet adopted commercial zoning laws. But the brothers had the foresight to consider that those regulations could be coming in the future. “We have more than 25 employees in the operation, so we wanted the shop to meet OSHA or other governmental standards if and when they are imposed,” Tom says.

Multi work bays


The Crave brothers' shop layout follows a classic L-shape design, with the structure's main 30-foot-wide door located at the south end of the shop. This door provides access to the shop's main service and major repair bay.

A 20-foot-wide area located adjacent to this main bay serves as the shop's welding and fabrication bay.

The Crave brothers' complex is oriented so that the open front cold storage area is located at the north end of the structure with openings toward the east. The complex's wash bay sits between cold storage and the shop. Door placement on two sides of the shop create three work bays. Thanks to the shop's 70-foot depth, these bays can accommodate as many as five or more work projects at a time. A 20-foot-wide welding and fabrication bay is located alongside the main service bay. The shop's office, restroom, tool storage room, and coatroom reside along the southeast corner of the shop. An employee break room and kitchen are located in a lean-to structure added to the shop.


Two work bays in the north end of the shop feature a 30-foot-long service pit. “We went with that length so it would accommodate a semitruck and trailer,” Andy Crave explains. Pallet racks along the north wall of the shop provide ample storage for lubricant containers as well as other storage. Positioned beside the pit is an 18,000-pound-capacity automotive lift, which Andy says the operation employs almost daily. Lubricant and related lube items are stored to the right of the pit.

Two 16-foot-wide overhead doors located along the north end of the east wall of the shop lead into multiple service and maintenance bays.

One of the most innovative features of the Crave shop resides behind one of these east doors. Their service pit/automotive lift/lubrication storage area is one of the most well thought out layouts ever showcased in this magazine. A major feature of this area is the 30-foot-long by 42-inch-wide by 57-inch-deep pit designed to accommodate both small and large vehicles.

All waste oil is dumped into a rolling metal tray, which, in turn, dumps into a plastic tank. When that tank reaches capacity, an internal float automatically turns on an electric pump that propels the waste oil to a storage tank on top of nearby pallet racks.

The pit is equipped with tool racks (for tools commonly used in the pit) as well as a ventilation fan “that captures heavy exhaust gas,” explains Andy Crave (Charles's son).

Those racks also hold a wide variety of storage tanks and engine, hydraulic, and transmission fluids as well as antifreeze. Four of these tanks (those holding 10W-30, 15W-40, and 5W-20 engine oil and hydraulic fluid) have their fluid dispersed through hose reels via a Graco pump system with meter spouts. Other bulk fluids are tapped through traditional spigots at ground level.

The service area is complemented by an 18,000-pound-capacity automotive lift used “for taking off tires, clutch and brake jobs, and tranny work. We find we use it constantly,” Andy says.

The Crave shop includes a variety of other supporting features including:

The farm's welding and fabrication bay, measuring 20 feet wide and nearly 50 feet long, is equipped with a massive welding table surrounded by a variety of metalworking implements. A ventilation duct is positioned on a nearby wall to directly vent welding fumes outdoors. Otherwise, the entire shop is ventilated with a 12-inch-diameter steel tube with perforations that runs the entire length of the shop along the ceiling's peak.

● A ventilation tube that runs the length of the shop at the top of the ceiling as well as a separate ventilation fan in the welding area.

● Floor heat, “which is one of the best investments we made, because we are constantly opening these doors in the winter,” Tom says. “The floor acts as a heat sink that quickly rewarms the shop.”

● A tool storage room “that forces us to accumulate tools and keep them locked up,” Tom says.

● The 4×10-foot windows along the entire west side of the shop, “let in an enormous amount of sunlight, especially during the winter, making this a great place to work,” Tom says.

● T5 fluorescent six-bulb fixtures, which are highly efficient and provide as near to sunlight illumination that is available.

● A large employee break room and kitchen that is in constant use in this 1,400-head dairy.

New Holland Skid Steer Loader Is The Grand Prize


Winning the Grand Prize in the Top Shops® Contest earned the Crave brothers a Model L218 skid steer loader from New Holland. The L218 is powered with a 60-hp., four-cylinder diesel that provides the skid steer loader with a 3,600-pound rated operating load with 5,435 pounds of breakout force.

The L218 is awarded by Dave December of New Holland (in the black shirt). Receiving the key is Tom Crave. Other Crave family members on hand include (from left to right) Jordan, Andy, Mark, John, and Charles.

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