grain bins

Samantha Kummerer/KBIA

John Sam Williamson has been a farmer for more than 50 years. He knows his five grain bins stocked with corn and soybeans very well, but he also knows the risks.

“There’s a lot of danger to grain bins, but if you use them safely its like other things, gasoline is dangerous, sharp knives are dangerous but if you’re careful and do things safely you should be fine,” Williamson said.

One such danger is known as grain entrapment where a worker inside a grain bin is crushed, sometimes to death, by the grain.

Courtesy Todd Feeback/Kansas City Star

When the Bartlett Grain Co. elevator exploded in Atchison, Kan., in October 2011, the town’s 11,000 residents knew it immediately. People who live miles away from the elevator still talk about pictures jumping off walls.

Chad Roberts, 20, was among six people killed in the explosion, one of the deadliest workplace accidents in the last decade. The victims also included elevator employees John Burke, Ryan Federinko and Curtis Field, as well as grain inspectors Travis Keihl and Darrek Klahr. Two others were injured.

Zoe Bock, Roberts’ mother, is still grieving.

Coming up we’ll delve into a small school district trying to get a bond passed for the third time.

But first, grain elevators across the country store billions of bushels of farm products like corn and wheat. They’re a staple of rural communities. But the dust that piles up in grain storage facilities is highly combustible – it can be six times more explosive than gun powder. Just one spark can send a blast that will shake the ground for miles.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Across the corn belt, more farmers are putting up their own grain bins —giant, metal cylindrical storage silos.  In the past year alone, farmers nationwide have added some 300 million bushels of on-farm storage, up 2 percent from the previous year.

Business Beat: February 8, 2012

Feb 8, 2012
Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

This week: Farmers buying up grain bins to help play the market. Plus, how refineries in Kansas and Iowa could help find another source of bio fuel.