Spring is in the air, and – like any farm kid – my thoughts turn to fertile soil, rolling hills and planting crops. I grew up right here in Inver Grove Heights … right in this neighborhood. In fact, where our offices are today was our family raspberry patch. My family operated a truck farm, and we would grow produce to sell in grocery stores and at farmers markets. It was hard work, but it was fun work. I sometimes miss it, to be honest.

Fortunately, I’ve had the chance to stay involved in ag-related work here at Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates. Over the years, I’ve worked on hog barns, fertilizer storage buildings, feed mills and grain handling systems across the upper Midwest. We’re currently helping with a fertilizer bagging facility for a coop in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and recently completed an assessment of equipment and buildings for the fertilizer division of a multi-national company with plants across the United States and Canada.

Hog barns and fertilizer facilities have stringent requirements that create unique engineering challenges. A 30,000-gallon liquid fertilizer tank requires a concrete containment dike that prevents any seepage into the groundwater. Similarly, the foundation of a hog-feeding barn must be able to hold waste without leaking. Factor in the stress of Minnesota’s seasonal climate changes, and the task becomes more difficult.

Ag-related work is interesting but it can sometimes be fast-paced because of strict timelines. For instance, we know that construction on a fertilizer containment dike can’t begin until after the spring application, but needs to be completed in time for fall work … a pretty quick turnaround. And we can sketch out what we believe is a workable schedule, but Mother Nature has the ultimate control. If she says, “spring will be late and summer will be wet,” there’s nothing we can do but try to squeeze the work in somehow.

It gives you a whole lot of respect for what our farming friends go through. They have a lot of money at risk, invest in expensive equipment and put in long hours. They’re bright multi-talented people, and I really enjoy talking with them.

I hope you enjoy our wonderful Minnesota spring. As you drive around the countryside, enjoy the beauty and give thanks to the farmers who work so hard to produce the food we need.