By Caitlyn Lamm @ISUCaitLamm
We all have fears. For some like my mother-in-law, it’s spiders. For many, it’s public speaking or a general fear of the unknown. Since becoming a farm wife, I’ve developed a new fear—grain entrapment. For many used to working on a farm, like my husband, climbing up and in a bin is old hat. The first time I attempted it, my heart was pounding. I hoped my sweaty palms wouldn’t give out as I climbed the straight ladder with nothing below me but the hard ground. Upon crawling in, I felt panic as I sunk in mid-calf into the corn because every year, I hear stories of farmers who don’t make it out of a grain bin alive when the grain suddenly flows like quicksand.
One year while volunteering at our county fair, I oversaw the “grain entrapment” activity. A small grain bin is placed on the floor with a rope coming out of the top. Through a weighted system, it can tell the participant pulling up on the rope how many pounds of force they are exerting. According to Iowa State University, the strength required to lift a 165-pound person out of shoulder-deep grain is 625 pounds of force. Let’s just say, a lot of strapping men who thought that sounded easy walked away with the knowledge they’d need a different plan to pull someone out of danger.
Many county Farm Bureaus have fundraised for and donated rescue grain tubes to their local fire departments. These tubes are placed around the person who is trapped to stop the flow of grain from sucking them down farther into the bin. Then the grain around them can be shoveled out until it is feasible to pull the person to safety.
Some best safety practices to keep in mind include locking access to grain storage, securing ladders, turning off power to unloading augers, wearing a body harness and not working alone or notifying others where you are. Even on days when Craig’s doing a quick check, I stand outside the bin in case he calls for help. And of course, we keep safety top-of-mind when our children are on the farm. It’s a great place to grow up, but also one that has risks.
If you work with grain, please take precautions. But also take time to pause. Because when you’re safe, you get to enjoy the little things—like the view of the sun setting on an Iowa farm. Who knew conquering fears could be so beautiful?
Caitlyn Lamm is Iowa Farm Bureau's public relations specialist. This column is republished with permission.