If you have loved ones working in the agriculture industry, and you are like me, you probably worry everyday about their safety. While working in agriculture is one of the most productive, fulfilling and prosperous occupations, it comes with great dangers too.

Recognizing the growing need for agriculture safety nationally and the need to promote it locally, our Knox County Farm Bureau Young Leader committee decided to take action with the hope of making a difference.

We needed look no further than in our own backyard for guidance.  Our members volunteer to help run Farm Safety Camp 4 Just Kids, a successful outreach event to children in all our communities.  Last year a grain entrapment demonstration was performed by a guest speaker.  Since that time, there has been an infusion of information regarding grain bin safety and the dangers associated with grain bins. With a bit of research, the committee learned that Illinois leads the nation in grain bin fatalities. With 58-grain bin related deaths in the U.S. in 2010, 10 were in Illinois.

To address these growing concerns and bring farm safety to the forefront in Knox County, the Young Leader committee decided to take charge. We decided to try and raise money to purchase grain entrapment rescue tubes, which we would then donate to local fire departments and first responders throughout Knox County and also host a training day.  The rescue tubes would allow first responders to isolate and entrapped victim from additional shifting grain and safely dig them out.  The tubes are lightweight and designed to fit through small man-holes in pieces before being pieced together inside a grain bin.  They are simple and require little maintenance, meaning we could make a dramatic difference with this donation and yet not overburden smaller fire departments with additional maintenance costs of specialized equipment.    

At first our goal to raise funds for the five rescue tubes seemed daunting. But five tubes would be the number necessary to make an impact—Knox County has 14 fire department districts and covers approximately 720 square miles.  An entrapment can happen in a matter of seconds—so the tubes needed to be evenly distributed across the county so that precious time would not be lost.  Moreover, we knew 14 rescue tubes was not prudent or realistic—so it was imperative to pay for a training session, which was valued at the price of another rescue tube.  We knew we needed to raise at least $16,800 to purchase the rescue tubes and provide the training. This seemed a very large number.

Our group of dedicated young leaders went to work contacting local organizations, agri-businesses and individuals to help support our cause. We knew our mission was critical and that promoting agriculture safety is important to so many throughout the county.  Young Leaders identified vendors, businesses, and groups that had similar constituency bases and mission statements and solicited their support.  The results were tremendous.

To date, our committee has raised over $20,000 through the support of our local agri-businesses, individuals and an initial gift from the Galesburg Community Foundation. As we now have more funds than needed for this activity, we are seeding Knox County’s first Farm Safety Fund, which will be used to provide means to promote further farm safety initiatives.

With the funds raised, we are providing five rescue units to local fire departments, including, Galesburg, Oneida-Wataga, Abingdon, Knoxville and Williamsfield- all located here in Knox County.

We are hosting a training day for 60 local Knox County fire fighters, some volunteer and some full-time, this Saturday, March 19, at the Hawthorne Gymnasium and Galesburg Fire Training Center in Galesburg. We begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. 

Andrew Bowman, a member of our committee and local farmer and insurance agent said, “Agriculture is the main industry in our area and no industry can survive unless it’s safe. In the blink of an eye, someone working in a grain bin can be engulfed. While responders can’t always be there right away, with the right equipment they can recover precious time.”

At the training, the 60 fire fighters will learn how to use the tubes to aid in rescue during a grain engulfment.  The tube stops the flow of grain toward the victim and blocks additional pressure that may block rescuers from getting to the entrapped victim.

Without the support of the Galesburg Community Foundation, generous individuals and the several local agri-businesses, purchasing the five rescue units and sponsoring the training would not be possible.

Bowman said, “The community support for this measure was amazing and as a result we had excess funds. Following the spirit of those donations, we are starting an Agriculture Safety Fund for Knox County. We hope to use this fund to pursue like focused projects promoting safety in our local agriculture communities.”

Grant Strom, another member of our organization said, “As an owner of a grain storage facility, I find a lot of comfort in knowing that our county fire departments will now have the equipment and training needed to help save a life during a grain entrapment situation.”

If you would like more information about our effort or would like donate to the Agriculture Safety Fund for Knox County contact Andrew Bowman ( or myself (

Contributing organizations include:
Bowman Insurance
Dyna-Gro Seed
Knox County Corn Growers
Winship Farm Management
Woodhull Co-op
Birkey’s Farm Equipment
Jeff Link, Via Monsanto Charitable Grant
Strom Farms
VandeVoorde Sales Inc. (GSI Dealer)
Knox County Farm Bureau Foundation
Galesburg Community Foundation
Pioneer Hi-Bred
Kelly Compton

Karlie Elliott Bowman
Knox County Farm Bureau Young Leader

Andrew Bowman
Knox County Farm Bureau Young Farmer

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