Dairy Star interviews ag professionals for an inside look at their careers.

One-on-one with Mark Schwieters


Melrose, Minnesota
co-owner/sales at Kraemer Lumber Co. Inc.
38 years of experience

How did you get started in this career? I was asked to apply when a key draftsman, estimator, sales person left the company.

Tell us what a typical week looks like for you. Usually, Mondays are a bit more hectic with contractors wanting materials for the week. I order materials from vendors for ongoing and new projects in the mornings. I fill the rest of my time meeting customers, estimating or drawing.

What are the simplest and most challenging jobs you have ever done? Pole sheds are typically the easiest, but there has been a lot of change in that market. There are a lot of different end uses for the sheds other than cattle or machinery. Man caves, heated shops or even living spaces are some examples. Remodels are more of a challenge. For some cases, you are using old foundations and structures that need to match new, but the new needs to be up to code. It’s rewarding when the plan comes together.

Take us through the process of drafting a barn or parlor for a customer. The first meeting is learning what the customer’s needs are. I ask questions about the type of structure design they want. I have to consider how many cows the structure is planned for and the type of ventilation. I also have to consider if the structure will be insulated or not and the grade elevation. Taking all that into consideration, I do a preliminary drawing, and we may have a second visit, or I e-mail the plans to them. After some back and forth, when they are happy with the plans, we do a materials list based on the drawings and specifications. I always keep in mind that this is their building and may make suggestions based on prior building experience or what other farmers have said about their building experience.

What do you enjoy about your role? I don’t think I have ever done the same building twice. There is always something new to learn. I like helping the customer.

How has technology related to your job changed since you embarked on your career? There have been a lot of changes since I started. I used to draw by hand, and any changes were either eraser or I started over. The same is true with estimating. Now with computer-aided design drawing, it is just a few keystrokes and in five minutes or less, changes can be made. The same is said for estimating. This is not only a time saver but I can make changes right with the customer so they can see the impact of the changes immediately.

What do you find fulfilling about your job? I enjoy the people I work with and the customers we have. It is rewarding when you build relationships with customers and they keep coming back. In my case, I have even seen the next generation come in because their parents recommend us.

Tell us something about your career that most people don’t know. I have an electronics degree but never worked in that field.

When starting a design, what are the main factors you consider? The end use of the building is one consideration. I consider if the doors are wide enough or tall enough for the equipment that will be going in the building. Also, I consider if there are options for future expansion.

What is your busiest time of year? Spring and fall. In spring, we are doing a lot of quoting and drawing. There is always a fall rush. Farmers typically want to see how the crops survive the summer and then decide if they want to build or buy feed. The first sign of cold weather also can add to the rush. People who have been putting off a project get a reminder to try to get it done before winter.

Describe your most memorable day on the job. I don’t really have one that sticks out, but when you have customers who thank you for your work, that’s a good day.

Tell us more about yourself and your family. I enjoy playing music in a couple of local bands. I relax by going fishing and doing woodworking. My wife, Karla, and I have four children, and we stay busy with the grandkids. We just welcomed our eighth grandchild.


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