By Kim Baldwin, McPherson County farmer and rancher
Throughout our farm you can see large, metal grain storage bins scattered about. While many farmers haul their grain to the local elevator while their crop is being harvested to either sell or to pay to have the grain stored for later sales, many also store grain in their own bins.
These “big bins” as the kids call them can hold an impressive amount of grain. It allows our family the ability to store grain to sell throughout the year as the market changes.
A few years ago, we had a large grain bin built near our house. This new metal “giant” has held some of our corn since last fall. The year before, it was filled with grain sorghum.
Just like the stages observed during an annual life cycle of a crop, our newest bin also experiences stages. August generally sees a bin with just a few remnants of the previous crop. It’s swept and cleaned and prepared for fall harvest.
September ushers in a cleaned, empty bin, which encourages the family to go for evening walks to the structure and utilize the large chamber to hold impromptu mini-concerts. My daughter prefers singing songs associated with Disney princesses at the top of her lungs, while my son likes showcasing his novice beatboxing skills.
While the echoes allowed by the tall, metal walls make it feel like one is singing within a stadium, I’m sure that from outside any observer would question the cacophony of sounds produced from both kids combining their preferred vocal performances.
Later in the fall, the concerts end, and we again review our safety rules with the kids before and while we monitor the trucks unloading grain. During this time, the bin ultimately will fill plum to the top. From late fall until early spring will welcome semi-trailers ready to be filled with golden streams of grain and then hauled to local feed yards, ethanol plants or elsewhere.
The stairs which curve around the outside of the bin allow the perfect opportunity to take in scenic views and look for wildlife during these storage months. While we take in the views, no one is allowed into the bin until it’s time to start shoveling and sweeping the remains of the grain.
Currently there’s only a thin layer of corn covering the floor of the bin. It’s the perfect time for the family to take evening walks over to the silver structure, allowing the kids the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of the kernels between their bare toes. I’ll sometimes do the same.
Later in the evenings following a visit to the bin and after bath times, I’ll come upon a small collection of grain on the floor somewhere — usually making the discovery only after stepping on the kernels. It’s better than stepping on a Lego brick.
Soon the bin will be swept and cleaned completely and then sit empty for a few months. During that time, its purpose will change from holding grain to holding mini-concerts.
The annual stages of the large structure will reset, and soon more grain will gather within the walls. The levels of the stored crop will slowly lower until a thin layer remains, and the kids will once again relish the feel of grain between their toes. And throughout the year, we will continue to safely enjoy the magic of a grain bin.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.