Ohio State Extension Grain C.A.R.T. Assists with Grain Bin Safety

As we enter harvest season, grain bins throughout the state are beginning to fill up. Now, is the ideal time to revisit grain-bin safety and highlight an innovative training and education program from the Ohio State Extension.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, grain bin entrapment is when a worker enters a bin and is either suffocated by grain or the bin develops hazardous atmospheres.

Entrapment can happen under several scenarios, which includes standing on moving grain causing it to act like quick sand, grain collapsing and engulfing a worker or trying to move grain while in the bin.

In 2010, grain bin entrapments hit an all-time high with 51 workers being engulfed and 26 dying. Younger males are the largest group of victims.

According to an NPR investigation, about 180 people have died since 1984 from grain-related entrapments on federally regulated sites.  However, most deaths occur on small family farms that are not regulated by the government.

Ohio State students from the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering decided to address this hazard by designing a trailer, The Grain C.A.R.T., to assist with grain bin entrapment training.

The Grain C.A.R.T. (Comprehensive Agricultural Rescue Trailer) is a 40-foot flatbed trailer equipped with a fully functional grain bin, grain leg and gravity flow grain wagon.

The C.A.R.T. is part of a training program designed to assist the Ohio Fire Academy with real world scenarios for grain bin entrapments and help OSU Extension with education and outreach.

“To have a mobile training unit is much better than what we’ve had in the past,” said Dee Jepsen, OSU Extension state agricultural and safety health specialist, in a Marietta Times article. “We can just pull it in, conduct training for a weekend or even a day, then move it out and be done. It’s quite a project and we are so excited about it.”

The training program has set up at county fairs across the state where people can witness live demonstrations of people being rescued from grain bins. Communities interested in using the Grain C.A.R.T. for training purposes can work directly with the Ohio Fire Academy to receive access.

To learn more about the Grain C.A.R.T. training program, click here.

What do you think of this new training program? How will programs like this enhance farming safety? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of OSU Extension and the Marietta Times.

Record Forecast for 2014 Corn and Soybean Harvest

Despite concerns about crop yields earlier this summer for Ohio corn and soybean farmers, the USDA’s August Crop Production Report forecast for 2014 predicted nothing but good things for the industry. In fact, production numbers for corn crops are expected to be the largest ever, while soybean crops are expected to be the third largest ever. 

According to the USDA, an estimated 14.03 billion bushels of corn are predicted during harvest this year, up from 3.925 in 2013. Soybean crops are expected to produce 3.816 billion bushels during harvest, up from 3.3 billion last year. Due to such a large influx in production, U.S. soybean stockpiles are expected to more than triple in the 2014-15 year, with soybean prices expected to lower by nearly 3 percent.

Six other states are expected to experience high crop yields for corn and soybeans this year due to higher-than-normal levels of rain seen throughout the Farm Belt. These high-producers of corn and soybeans have experienced almost perfect conditions this year, many citing the best soil moisture in a decade. Other farmers are attributing the predicted higher crop yields to technology, such as genetically modified seeds, large equipment and GPS programs that have helped them to determine optimum planting conditions.

Ohio farmers are not as happy about the report as some may expect, with profits expected to reach an all-time low since the recession. At the lowest they have been in four years, corn prices are down by 13 percent this year, with soybeans also lower than usual, meaning that farmers are not bringing in profits. Pair this with the decrease in livestock herds, resulting in a decreased demand in feed, and you will understand why farmers are so worried. The demand is not where it should be for the volume of corn and soybeans that is being produced, with the possibility that farmers may not even break even for the first time since 2006.

With harvest season approaching quickly, I am interested to see how actual yield numbers will match up with those predicted by the USDA. It will also be interesting to see how these numbers impact the U.S. economy for both farmers and consumers. Do you think numbers will be as high as expected?

CSA: The Farm to Kitchen Table Trend That is Taking Off Everywhere

Have you ever heard of Community Supported Agriculture (also known as CSA)? If you haven’t, it is definitely worth some Googling. This new trend in farming has hit, and it is positioned to change the bottom line for farms all over the country.

Here’s how it works. Producers offer a certain number of “shares” to the public each season, meaning locals have the opportunity to buy in on a portion of their crop based on a set price. Once crops are harvested, these “share-holders” will typically receive a box containing a small part of the harvest every week until the season ends (the length of season depends on the farm and types of crops being grown.)

Though it has recently become popular, the concept of CSA is not new, having blossomed approximately thirty years ago. With a growing public focus on supporting local and organic foods, farmers came up with the idea to include the locals in the yearly crop process, not only to educate the community about the benefits of eating local, but also to guarantee revenue for farmers to supplement harvesting season, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. But what are the benefits?

Benefits for the community:

o   Guaranteed freshness
o   Farm visits
o   Personal relationship with food producer
o   Diverse food experience
o   Educational opportunities

Benefits for farmers:

o   Early season payment to fund crops/ease cash flow
o   Easy marketing of farm products
o   Pre-season publicity
o   Established relationships in the community

There are multiple types of CSAs that you can choose from to fit your needs.  Prefer a more flexible program where you can pick and choose your produce? Want fruits or flowers instead of vegetables? Do you prefer fresh meat over produce? Chances are you will be able to find a CSA that fits your needs. One farm in South Carolina even partnered with a supermarket to create a CSA program where shoppers could conveniently purchase a box of fresh produce for just $26 during their daily grocery trip. The possibilities seem endless and are only continuing to grow as the concept becomes more popular. 

The CSA industry has an estimated total of 4,000 farm participants all over the country, making the program easily accessible to most people. While there are many pros for CSA, there can also be some cons, so I suggest you do some research before investing in the process.

Interested in joining a CSA program in Ohio? There are plenty to choose from and plenty of people out there willing to help you navigate the process. Visiting the farm, testing the produce and talking to the farmer are all things that are encouraged and welcomed by most CSA participants. Why not take an afternoon and see how you can support local agriculture?