Shop and Storage Fits the Farm

March 14, 2009 02:07 PM

The highlights of the shop built by Gary Freeburg near Gayville, S.D., go on and on. Among them are lots of room for machinery, easy access, radiant heat, bright lighting, a professional-quality wash bay, plenty of storage and a comfortable office. Oh, and the yard is asphalt.

The Freeburg operation includes Gary's wife, Amy, their sons, Jory and John, and Amy's brother, Kent Wathier. The Freeburgs and Wathier spend their time raising hay, which they ship throughout the U.S. Because some of their customers come to the farm, they need a place for visitors to park and an office where they can meet with them.

The Freeburgs also partner in a row-crop operation with Tom Dreesen and his son, Jeff. So the shop serves four semis, four balers, two swathers, three rakes, four loaders and a full line of row-crop equipment.

"We do basic repairs and general maintenance," Jory says. "We replace bearings and components that wear out. We don't rebuild engines or do electrical work."
The shop is housed in a 70'x210' Varco Pruden steel building ( with 20' walls. Of that space, a 70'x105' area on the west end is used to store four semis, which often sit overnight loaded with hay. The shop bay is 70'x105'.

"We wanted enough room in the shop to park machinery and let it sit until we have time to work on it," Gary says. In the hay business, that usually means a rainy day.

Big doors. Access to the shop is through two 30'x16' insulated overhead doors. There are three 30'x16' overhead doors in the truck-storage area. "Hangar-type doors are nice, but they require more maintenance," Gary says.

The shop's floor is made of 6" of concrete, laid over a moisture barrier and reinforced with rebar and Fibermesh synthetic fibers ( to prevent cracking. Both the shop bay and the truck-storage area have floor drains to handle snow melting off semis.

An infrared radiant heat tube surrounds three sides of the shop bay. "We considered floor heat," Gary says, "but we didn't want to take a chance on buried tubing because of our heavy equipment. Except for that, it would have been a toss-up against aboveground radiant heat. But we like our system. Our floors are warm and so is the equipment stored in the shop. We keep the shop at 52°F to 55°F, and it's perfect working conditions. We keep the office at 58°F to 60°F."

In the truck-storage part of the building, Gary installed two forced-air furnaces. Radiant heating could have posed a fire hazard with loaded hay trucks.
"We keep the truck side at 45°F," Gary says. "With a warm tank of fuel, trucks start easily, and we never need No. 1 diesel fuel [to prevent jelling]."

The building's ceiling is insulated to R30 and the walls to R25. "In this country, you can't have too much insulation," Gary says. Cost to heat the building has been running from $1,200 to $1,500 per winter, he adds.

Bright lights. Light in the shop bay comes from sixteen 200-watt mercury vapor bulbs, plus four banks of two 8' fluorescent bulbs. Two banks of the fluorescent bulbs turn on automatically by a sensor each evening at dusk. The farmers clean the lights every two years, using a scissors lift.

Light reflects from white steel paneling on the walls. "We left the ceiling unpaneled to make it easier to work on the air and electrical lines that run across it," Gary says.

The family keeps the floor tidy with an industrial-size, self-propelled sweeper/washer. "We love that machine," Gary says. "The first time we swept with brooms, we said we'd never do that again."

The shop features a 5-hp air compressor, often used to change blades on hay harvesting equipment. Electrical and air outlets are installed on all sides of the shop.

There are two workbenches and one mobile bench. Storage cabinets for parts and supplies are scattered around the walls, so nothing is stored on the floor. Used oil is collected in bulk waste containers for recycling by an auto dealer.

Adding a soft-water rinse device, like those used by car washes, to the wash bay makes it easy to keep vehicles looking neat. "No wiping required," Gary says.

The family saw no need for an oil-change pit. "There's nothing we need to crawl under to service," Gary says. Nor is there a hoist. A crane-equipped service truck outfitted by Tom Dreesen serves that function when needed.

A comfy office. The 20'x30' office, which is used by the farmers for keeping shop records and meeting with customers, includes a full bathroom.

"I'm an old trucker; so I made it trucker-oriented—a place where drivers can clean up," Gary explains. The office area is also furnished with wood paneling, artwork on the walls and custom-built cabinets.

"It's very valuable for all of us to have a comfortable place where we can sit down at the end of a day to talk and have a few laughs," Gary adds. "The office is one of the best things about the shop."

A 90'x80' concrete apron running across the front of the shop includes a covered carport for visitors and customers to use. "The carport lets visitors know where to park, away from the shop doors," Gary says.

The shop building sits in the middle of nine barns that can store a total of 16,000 tons of hay. The 10½-acre location is covered with 6" of asphalt, which contains galvanizing oil for
increased longevity.

"Without asphalt under the barns, 70 semi-loads of hay (1,750 tons) would sit on dirt, where it could wick up moisture and mold," Gary says. "We had gravel around the shop for a while, but the semis ground up the rock and it was like a big dust bowl."

The asphalt is edged with 2,200-lb. blocks of concrete, purchased from a cement plant, to prevent drivers from chipping the edges of the pavement.

The cost of a shop makes building one sort of a necessary evil, Gary says. "But I enjoyed building it," he adds, "because I remember what it was like, for 30 years, to lie on my back on the cold dirt to work on equipment. I pinch myself every day when I realize the shop is here."

You can e-mail Darrell Smith at

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