Some people may not stoop to contemplate how gross food handling facilities can be. Farmers should care for their grain bins as food handling facilities. By planting time each year I like to have almost all of my grain sold and cleared out of my grain bins, which, in a good year can be 250,000 bushels. I have only 3,000 bushels left now, which is three truck loads. Eighteen grain bins now need a thorough cleaning before this fall when a new crop will need to be stored until the market is ready to receive it.
Having those bins cleaned out thoroughly soon after they are empty will help ensure the new crop is free from contamination like molded kernels with mold toxins, mouse and bird debris, and dust. A clean bin is less likely to attract rodents and is less likely to rust. We try to look inside bins when unloading to be sure that any spoiled grain arising from possible leaks in the roof is removed before it mixes with the good grain. Right after emptying bins is also a great time to fix those leaks, cracks, holes, or misalignments, and to service all moving parts. I’m on it.
To clean a bin after unloading all the good grain we usually start by knocking the walls to cause the dust, clinging grain, and any debris to fall to the floor. This job, like the job of unloading the last of the grain from a bin from inside, requires a dust mask and sometimes ear plugs which I am sure to make available to everyone working as a safety concern. Rarely do we have to sweep the walls, but it has been done. It is usually sufficient to sweep most of the bin floor with a wide broom, leaving no kernels behind, then scoop the pile into a bucket to remove it from the bin. However, sweeping cannot remove all the dust and grain around the edge of the bin, the center well of the bin, and where the pile was scooped up, so then we bring in a shop vac. This is usually a sufficient cleaning job until fall, when the bins are checked one last time for cleanliness, leaks, damage, service, and sealed up to be loaded from the top.
All this attention to clean storage facilities leads to higher quality grain, which we are careful to remember is food.