NORSELAND, Minn. — The pain on her face is palpable. So too is the anguish in her voice. But Michele Gran’s resolve remains strong and steadfast. Gran is in the midst of unbearable grief. Her son, Landon, passed away on Aug.14 at the age of 18. Gran’s emotions are raw when talking about what a kind and generous person Landon was. From standing up for a classmate being bullied to checking in on elderly neighbors, Landon gave of himself to better the world around him.
Landon passed away due to a grain bin accident while working on a neighbor’s farm. The loss of Landon is devastating to all that knew and loved him. For Gran, it’s heartbreaking beyond words because she always stressed farm safety to Landon and her other son, James.
Gran and her husband David farm near St. Peter and are diligent in following safety precautions on the farm. “We use the buddy system,” Gran said. “Always had it in the back of your mind to watch the PTO shaft.” While safety precautions are vital, so too is making farm equipment safer. “I can’t understand why something hasn’t been done,” Gran said.
Gran is working tirelessly on creating Landon’s Law. The details of what would be included in the legislation are still being worked out. Gran would like to see safety requirements — including an automatic auger shutoff that a person can wear on their wrist. If they got caught in an auger they could press the button and the auger would immediately shut off. She would also like to see safety harnesses utilized in grain bins; along with covers on the sweep augers that would allow the grain to go in, but stop anything bigger from getting caught up in it.
Gran would like to have insurance companies be part of this safety narrative as well. She proposes raising insurance rates for farms that do not utilize safety measures.
The amount of support for Landon’s Law has been a source of comfort and strength for Gran. People from all over the area have told her that they would help in her effort to bring Landon’s Law to fruition and even march at the capitol if necessary. The need for legislation to keep farms safe isn’t just vital in Minnesota, it’s crucial across the country. “It’s nationwide, not just in Minnesota,” Gran said.
“Why is farming the number-one most dangerous career to get into?” Gran points out that rollovers in tractors were an issue that received quite a bit of attention. The state now helps fund rollover bars which can be retrofitted on older tractors to prevent injury in case of a rollover.
Gran said she hasn’t heard of any other legislative push for grain bin safety. She knows that this time of year is hectic on the farm. Long hours are when accidents are going to happen, “People are trying to hurry. If I can eliminate one family from having to go through this… I don’t want another mother to have sleepless nights.”
Gran would ideally like to see the Minnesota legislature take up the bill now; but she’s realistic in knowing this may take some time. Gran is in it for the long haul. She’s made calls to everyone from Minnesota legislators to the White House in her effort to get safety measures in place for grain bins as soon as possible.
Gran contacted Minnesota State Senator Rich Draheim and he’s working with Gran on legislation. Draheim said unfortunately it’s not a budget year, so it would be hard to find the funding this year. However, Draheim would like to lay the ground work now so that the bill can be created for next year. “We got to approach it like seat belts and start with younger farmers.”
The sheer number of grain bin deaths in the area this summer is concerning for Draheim. “Four deaths within an hour of Mankato,” Draheim said.
Draheim’s staff is researching what other states have done in terms of any farm safety legislations. Draheim is happy dialogue is beginning on this. “The more conversations we have on this topic is a win. If we can actually implement some safety features that would be better.”
Draheim is proud to serve on the ag committee which he calls the most bi-partisan committee in the Minnesota legislature. Coming together to support a safety bill shouldn’t be a problem. “I would love to see the schools work on this too.” He would also like the University of Minnesota to be involved in the conversation as well.
The push for safety legislation started with Gran but there are so many that are willing to be part of this movement to ensure that farm equipment is safer and put an end to these tragedies.
Minnesota State Senator Nick Frentz was contacted by Minnesota Ag Commissioner Thom Peterson regarding the loss of Landon and the work Gran is doing in trying to get safety legislation passed. In learning of what Gran is trying to accomplish, Frentz was ready to find out more and help in whatever way he can.
Farm safety has been important to Frentz from the beginning of his career as state senator. In Frentz’s first year in senate, he authored a bill on tractor rollover safety. That bill provides funding from the state to help defray some of the cost of retrofitting eligible tractors with a rollover bar. “I think a path to get something done would be similar to the tractor rollover legislation.”
“We want to prevent farm families from going through this.” Frentz, like Gran, would like to see the insurance companies get on board with this as well. “We want to promote safety on the farm. Introducing some legislation will be the start. We will be advocates for action on this,” Frentz said.
As for what Landon would think of what his mother is trying to accomplish? “He’d say, ‘Go for it, Mom,’” Gran said. “This is for Landon. This is for all the mothers that have a Landon.”
Sleep doesn’t come easy for Gran these days. Mourning the loss of Landon, while continually working on ways to get policymakers involved in her efforts, has been exhausting. But that won’t stop Gran. “I have to keep going. I have to get my voice heard.”