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CCFB News» October 2021

At The Farm GateGrain bins a harvest sweet spot

10/04/2021 @ 8:00 am | By Joanie Stiers

At nearly 4 years old, our son’s Christmas wish list included grain storage bins and a “wiggle tractor.” (His description for a tractor that articulates in the middle). He found toy versions of both under the tree.


For most of the 60 days leading up to forming this list, our toddler watched my family hard at harvest. We transferred crops from combine to a wiggle tractor pulling a grain cart. That tractor with cart then unloaded onto a truck, which hauled the crop to corrugated steel storage bins. The cycle repeated field by field until we completed the corn and soybean harvest. In the process, he identified two primary hubs of activity: the field at harvest and the grain storage bins where we haul the crop. He wanted part of each for Christmas.


Generally, grain bins garner less attention than combines and tractors, but he knew this necessary component holds the harvest. Farmers either own the steel storage structures themselves or pay for space at a nearby elevator in the grain storage business. Many store in a combination of both. Our toddler saw the value in owning his own bins without understanding anything about shrink or carry in the market. My husband screwed those toy bins to a piece of plywood.

Our son quickly filled them with handfuls of corn to later sell and deliver to ethanol plants and river terminals with 1/64th-scale trucks.


In the full-size world, those bins come with the responsibility to keep grain in quality condition, a task aided by observation and modern technology. Sensors measure the moisture content of a crop to determine the amount of mechanical drying needed before storage. Temperature cables alert of hot spots in stored grain to prevent spoilage.

Smartphones and tablets can monitor and even control these activities remotely.


This fall, our daughter will keep FFA records on her time and experiences weighing trucks, taking grain moisture samples and creating delivery tickets to track inventory at our farm’s grain storage facility. Between loads, she manages homework from inside the scale house, a building with the scale’s digital display. Occasionally, the truckers step inside for drinks and snacks, which may include her home-baked cupcakes or cookies from her cottage food business The Bakery Bin, another of her FFA projects. Her bakery logo depicts three grain bins topped with frosting, denoting a harvest-time sweet spot in more ways than one.


About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family in West-Central Illinois, where they grow corn, soybeans, wheat and hay and raise beef cattle and backyard chickens.

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