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Build Grain Storage with Room to Expand

In 2007, a restless dairy farmer from Augusta, Kentucky, decided that despite being born into a dairy operation, being a dairy producer wasn’t in his blood. So, he sold the dairy and opted to try his hand at grain farming.

For Dale Appleman, there were many learning curves along the road to becoming a successful row-crop farmer. One main challenge was building an on-farm grain storage site.

Find the right partner
A month after the dairy was sold, Appleman attended the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky. He had his heart set on building a grain storage system, so he visited three manufacturers to request information.

Only one manufacturer followed up with Appleman. “I talked to a few of my farmer friends and was told that telling the manufacturers I was a dairyman interested in grain farming was a turnoff,” he remembers. “They didn’t think I was serious about building a grain storage system.”

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Two weeks after the show, two representatives from Schafstall Group, a GSI dealer, visited Appleman and his two brothers. “We looked at different sites, then talked about what we wanted to build and our future goals. The next thing I knew, we were talking about putting in an underground pit, a grain dryer, and a leg,” says Appleman.

Appleman told Larry McFarland of Schafstall that he didn’t need anything that elaborate. “He told me that if I wanted to do what I was telling him, I needed to build this,” says Appleman. A month later, Appleman signed the contract.

“Every day McFarland would tell us to build the system so we could expand it,” says Appleman.

A key part was selecting a site with room to add on more bins.

“When we built the initial system, we were told to build bigger,” says Appleman. “At the time, we thought we were building a system we would never outgrow.”

Two years after the first bins were installed, Appleman added an 80,000-bushel bin. He can now store 197,000 bushels.

“It was great insight on the part of the Schafstall Group that allowed us to expand without adding a lot of cost since we could use our current dryer and leg,” says Appleman.

McFarland also had foresight when it came to drying needs. He convinced Appleman to put in an extra cement pad when the concrete work was done, so a second drying unit could be easily added.

In 2014, Appleman did just what McFarland predicted – he added a second unit to his GSI TopDry dryer. “The concrete was already there. The bin had been set up to handle a second drying unit. All we had to do was install it,” says Appleman. “The only mistake we made was not installing it sooner.

“We got into a situation where we were catching the dryer. The wet tanks were full, trucks were loaded, and we had to quit early because the dryer couldn’t keep up,” he adds. “The second drying unit made us about 75% more efficient.”

Lessons learned
The lessons learned at Appleman’s farm ring true for most grain storage builds. “Always anticipate expanding and have a well thought-out plan that factors in growth and future technology changes,” says Gary Woodruff of GSI.

Woodruff has four recommendations:
• Leave space for more bins.
• Create a traffic pattern for separate grain dumping and loading stations.
• Plan for expansion of drying and wet storage.
• Select a site that is close to a state highway, has three-phase power available, has access to natural gas (or is LP delivery-friendly), and is close to farm fields.

“No two farms are exactly alike, which is why a grain storage system must be designed to meet each farm’s needs,” he says. “A poorly designed on-farm storage system may increase labor, reduce efficiency, and create safety issues that a well-planned system avoids.”

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