Farm Shop Plays Vital Role for Generations of Family Members

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After our wedding ceremony, we partied in the farm shop.

It was an easy reception site to book, but a near nightmare to prepare. We packed the place with more than 400 relatives and friends before the wrenches and arc welder moved back in. Guests enjoyed pulled pork barbecue sandwiches. They drank Pepsi from classic glass bottles chilled on ice in a livestock water tank. Kerosene lamps illuminated the tables.

My family remodeled the shop in the weeks (and days) before the wedding. Minutes after my Dad and a neighbor prepared the electrical outlets, we plugged in white lights. But the most exciting part was that Dad’s shop earned a concrete floor that summer – a big deal on the farm, where soil, gravel and grass dominate.

Fond memories flow from my family’s farm shops, such as fluid from a broken hydraulic line.

Certainly our wedding marked a major milestone in farm shop history. As a kid, I fetched tools for Dad and Grandpa in a farm shop. Learned to wind an unruly air hose. Developed a preference for country music from the ever-playing radio. Faced the startling air compressor. And solidified my inclination for self-sufficiency.

Yet the space provides more than memories and experiences. The farm shop remains one of our farm’s nerve centers, just as it was for earlier generations in my family.

In that shop, planters prepare for planting. Equipment receives general maintenance. Tractors undergo overhauls. To-do lists form. And farm partners and employees communicate. The parcel driver often drops packages at the shop door. Even the barn cats want to hang out there.

Well-equipped farm shops reduce costly downtime. Farm magazines highlight must-have shop tools like home magazines offer decorating ideas. So shop items surface on the Christmas lists of 80 percent of the men in my farming family.

wrenches photo by Neal Horstmeyer

Photo by Neal Horstmeyer

A lifetime’s accumulation of wrenches and chains hang small to large. Nuts and bolts await use, sorted by size. Cordless drills and air impact wrenches make Grandpa’s collection of antique tools appear even more antiquated. So do battery-powered grease guns.

My family’s farm shop contains a wish list of more modern conveniences. But the shop can fit a headless combine with the grain tank extension folded down. (The head of a combine is the apparatus at the front of a combine that gathers the grain.) That’s opposite of my childhood, when most equipment outgrew the shop’s ceiling clearance and door widths at Grandpa’s farm. As a kid, I watched tractors and planters take their turns for maintenance in the barnyard space just outside his south shop door. My kids grab long-handled magnets and still find rusty nuts and bolts in that gravel.

Our farm’s other nerve center is the farmhouse office. Today, I know farmers who put their offices in their shops. They may add bathrooms and kitchenettes. In some, heated floors warm energy-efficient buildings. Taller ceilings and larger doors can make modern, high-horsepower tractors look small. Advancements improve metal fabrication and lubricant storage. And some put that deafening air compressor in a room of its own.

Sounds like a good place for a party.

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